DSM-V, a Prenatal Health Check

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticMar 23, 2010 8:00 PM


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Last month the proposed draft of the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) came out.

In my post at the time I was pretty critical of several aspects of the new DSM. Manymanyotherblogshave discussed DSM-V, as have oldermedia. As you'd expect with such a complex and controversial issue as psychiatric diagnosis, opinions have varied widely, but one thing stands out: people are debating this. Everyone's got something to say about it, professionals and laypeople.

Debate is usually thought to be healthy, but I think in this case, it's a very bad sign for DSM-V. The previous editions, like DSM-IV, were presented to the world as a big list of mental disorders carrying the authority of the American Psychiatric Association. That's why people called the DSM the Bible of psychiatry - it was supposedly revealed truth as handed down by a consensus group of experts. If not infallible, it was at least something to take note of. There have always been critics of the DSM, but until recently, they were the underdogs, chipping away at an imposing edifice.

But DSM-V won't be imposing. People are criticizing it before it's been finalized, and even bystanders can see that there's really no consensus on many important issues. The very fact that everyone's discussing the proposed changes to the Manual is also telling: if the DSM is a Bible, why does it need to be revised so often?

My prediction is that when DSM-V does arrive (May 2013 is the current expected birth date) , it will be a non-event. By then the debates will have happened. I suspect that few researchers are going to end up deciding to invest their time, money and reputation in the new disorders added in DSM-V. Why study "temper regulation disorder with dysphoria" (TDDD) when it was controversial before it even officially existed? Despite the shiny new edition, we may be using DSM-IV for all intents and purposes for a long time to come.

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