July 29th, 2013

As you may have heard, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychological Association’s primary mental health handbook, has recently published a new edition.  It’s been a long time in coming – the DSM-IV came out in 1994 (it was revised in 2000).  This reference work is the primary tool for diagnosing and recommending treatment for mental disorders across the spectrum, and has been since the first edition came out in 1952.  It is the single most important reference book for anyone in a psychology profession.


The classification system has been completely retooled, eliminating the infamous five axes of the previous edition – personality disorders are no longer separated as rigidly from other types of psychiatric disorders.  Numerous diagnoses have been changed; some old ones like Asperger syndrome have been discarded or folded into other diagnoses, and new ones like Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder have been added.  It still has its eccentricities, of course – you’ll find Bulimia Nervosa right next to Binge-Eating Disorder, seemingly for no reason other than they both involve food.  But it’s one of the most readable and clear editions yet published, and easy to use.

The fifth edition has attracted a great deal of controversy, both before and after publication.  And it’s easy to see why.  In a way, it was the most secretive version of the DSM, as the authors – 70% of whom have direct ties with pharmaceutical companies – were required to sign nondisclosure agreements before starting.  In other ways, it was the most open – this is the only edition ever built with public feedback.  But it’s a critically significant issue – the willingness of a health care insurance provider to pay for treatment or medication usually hinges on treatment recommendations a psychiatrist makes using the DSM guidelines.  If it’s outside the guidelines, it won’t be insured.  So if the manual is wrong, psychiatrists can be forced to make distinctions and diagnoses that don’t quite fit the case, just to ensure that the patient gets something usable.

Regardless, the importance of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a reference tool is unmistakable.  And if you have any interest in any psychology-related field, you’ll be using it sometime in your college career.  Take a look at it in the Reference section at RC455.2.C4 D536 2013.  And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at iueref@iue.edu!