The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the handbook used most often in diagnosing mental disorders in the United States.

While widely accepted among psychologists and psychiatrists, the manual has proved controversial in its listing of certain characteristics as mental disorders. The most notorious example is the listing in the DSM-II of homosexuality as a mental disorder; a classification that was removed by vote of the APA in 1973.

Brief history of DSM

Both of these editions were strongly influenced by the psychodynamic approach. There was no sharp distinction between normal and abnormal, and all disorders were considered reactions to environmental events. Mental disorders existed on a continuum of behavior. This way, everyone is more or less abnormal. The people with more severe abnormalities have more severe difficulties with functioning.

The early DSM's distinguished between a psychosis and a neurosis. A psychosis is a severe mental disorder characterized by a break with reality. Psychoses typically involve hallucinations, delusions, and illogical thinking. A neurosis is a milder mental disorder characterized by distortions of reality, but not a complete break with reality. Neuroses typically involve anxiety and depression.

  • In 1980 DSM III the psychodynamic view was abandoned and the medical model became the primary approach, introducing a clear distinction between normal and abnormal. The DSM became "atheoretical", since it had no preferred etiology for mental disorders.

  • In 1987 the DSM III-R appeared as a revision of DSM III.

  • In 1994, it evolved into DSM IV. This book is currently in its fourth edition.

  • The most recent version is the 'Text Revision' of the DSM-IV, also known as the "DSM-IV-TR", published in 2000.

  • DSM-V, is not scheduled for publication until 2010. The APA Division of Research does not expect to begin forming DSM development workgroups until 2005 or later.

See also: International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, personality disorder

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