Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)

dsm-5The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly abbreviated as the DSM, is a book published by the American Psychiatric Association providing standardized criteria to the diagnosis of mental health conditions. The DSM is used widely by mental health practitioners in the United States to aid in diagnosing clients. For many decades, there was immense concern that psychiatric diagnoses were based upon the whims of psychiatric professionals and were not scientifically valid. Different practitioners might give the same client completely different diagnoses, which in turn would result in different standards and courses of treatment. The DSM is an attempt to correct for this potential problem.

Revisions to the DSM

Originally published in 1952 based upon data from psychiatric hospitals and practicing mental health clinicians, the DSM has undergone several revisions. The current incarnation of the DSM is the DSM-5, which was finalized December 1, 2012 and released in May 2013. It replaced the DSM-IV, which was published in 1994 and revised in 2000. You can find the latest in DSM news at www.dsm5.org.

How Is the DSM Organized?

The DSM-5 is organized into three sections, with 20 chapters that address specific disorders. The chapters are arranged based on common features among disorders. The DSM-5 dispensed with the multi-axial system used in the DSM-IV.

  • Section I provides an introduction and information regarding organizational features of the text, revisions, field trials, and public, professional, and expert review.
  • Section II includes diagnostic criteria and codes. Disorders are coded based on the International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) and the DSM-5 includes coding to reflect the changes that will take effect on October 1st, 2014 with the adoption of the ICD-10-CM in the United States.
  • Section III addresses assessment measures, cultural formulations, a glossary, and conditions that warrant further study, such as Internet gaming disorder, suicidal behavior disorder, and neurobehavioral disorder due to prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE). 

Criticism of the DSM

The DSM has been heavily criticized since its inception for incorporating social norms into diagnoses and turning unusual behavior that may not necessarily indicate mental problems into mental problems. For example, “gender identity disorder” was listed in the DSM-IV. Transgender activists argued that this should not be treated as a stigmatizing disorder, and they appear to have been heard: The term “gender identity disorder” was changed to “gender dysphoria,” defined as emotional distress over one’s gender, in the DSM-5. The DSM-5 was criticized for the secrecy surrounding its creation and for the American Psychiatric Association’s decision to hire a public relations firm to promote it. Many people feel that the DSM names too many disorders and grants too much power to psychiatrists to stigmatize human behavior. Others argue that the DSM is influenced by pharmaceutical companies to label conditions that can in turn necessitate a need for psychotropic medication.

GoodTherapy.org supported Division 32’s Plea to the DSM-5 Task Force, encouraging further review and consideration in the creation of DSM-5.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA Concise Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
  2. Carey, B. (2008, December 18). Psychiatry’s struggle to revise the book of human troubles. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/18/health/18psych.html?_r=1
  3. DSM-5 draft promises big changes in some psychiatric diagnoses. (n.d.). MedPage Today. Retrieved from http.www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/GeneralPsychiatry/18399
  4. DSM-5 approves new fad diagnoses for child psychiatry: Antipsychotic use likely to rise. (n.d.). Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/1912195
  5. Psychiatrists propose revisions to diagnosis manual. (n.d.). PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june10/mentalillness_02-10.html

Last Updated: 12-18-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • MellissaS

    January 30th, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    I accept

  • Lisbet

    May 26th, 2017 at 8:52 AM

    I accept

  • Lilly

    July 8th, 2017 at 9:55 PM

    I accept

  • Leah

    July 13th, 2017 at 3:45 PM

    Despite evidence to suggest interpersonal trauma results in complex posttraumatic stress and has both short- and long-term adverse health outcomes, the mental health community is still struggling to develop a diagnosis to capture this exposure and condition. Several task forces have been created to address the need for a consensus on how to diagnose and treat people affected by interpersonal trauma. Until then, complex posttraumatic stress will remain a notable omission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

    This is unbelievable! … C-PTSD must be added to the DSM .. it is MUCH more prevalent than PTSD .. and MUCH more serious … high suicide rates among teens … murders of family members, … high addiction to drugs and alcohol for self medication … the high rate of child and spousal abuse … as someone born into a home of domestic violence and reading articles about c-ptsd i feel i can finally put a name to my affliction and to each of my siblings … we are all broken in one degree or another … we are among the walking wounded … this disorder NEEDS to be recognized!! … it is a total shame to your organization to not do that … it is real … it is prevalent … it needs to have the education system provide mandatory classes in high school on how to have healthy relationships, and how to parent children properly in order to hopefully nip it in the bud … and laws need to change to address domestic violence and child abuse … too many times the police came to my home and disregarded my beaten mother and us traumatized children … if this disorder was officially recognized, perhaps better support systems would be put in place, doctors would look for it in their patients and prescribe appropriate treatment, and therapists would be educated on how to address the inflicted … all this is NEEDED to happen, beginning with it being accepted by the DSM … be part of the solution!! …

  • Feeling crazy

    February 15th, 2018 at 6:01 PM

    I agree.i have been trying to get help for myself 4months now.i work in health care feild& have tried to get help thru company insurance 4 month’s.still no help.its a joke it seems.we are a very broken system

  • Karen B.

    June 10th, 2018 at 11:16 AM

    Don’t give up.
    If you can’t find it there look at other places.
    However your work must have a number you can call.
    Good luck.

  • Candace

    May 1st, 2019 at 10:28 PM

    I’ve been in an interpersonal situation for a couple years that is causing me to have C ptsd symptoms. Combined with prior mental health problems, emotional problems from childhood, addiction, a sleeping disorder, and carpal tunnel. So, I 100% agree that this is an issue that needs addressed urgently! I am only 36 years old, so I don’t want to apply for disability, I would probably not have a severe enough condition to qualify, I just have multiple small trauma experiences that make my daily life difficult to handle. I have decided to seek help from a case worker because others see these weaknesses in me, So I have not only been controlled and manipulated in a relationship. This is also happening to me at my place of employment and with the public housing program I’m in. I spent 10 years in college, so I’m not ignorant. I’m standing up for my rights and am going to be an advocate for at risk populations for my future career path.

  • edwin

    April 12th, 2018 at 12:13 PM

    I agree

  • Carla

    April 10th, 2019 at 12:05 PM

    I agree I’m a victim of child abuse cold moderation , rape, went onto abusive relationships..diagnoisef with PTSD. Now ..i worked hard everyday..but it took until I was 50 yrs old.until they. Hey .somethingisreally wrong…

  • Q

    September 1st, 2019 at 10:44 PM

    I can’t seem to stop I’m 24 now my mom and my uncle dose it I want to stop I know it’s from stress I just need help

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    September 2nd, 2019 at 9:23 AM

    Hi, Q. Thank you for sharing your comment. If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, http://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your postal/zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area. If you’re looking for a counselor that practices a specific type of therapy, or who deals with specific concerns, you can make an advanced search by clicking here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list, you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. Please contact us if you have any questions.

    If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, in danger of hurting yourself or others, feeling suicidal, overwhelmed, or in crisis, it’s very important that you get immediate help! Information about what to do in a crisis is available here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

  • Betty

    September 6th, 2021 at 6:16 PM

    I came to this website to help myself and members of my family to readjust and move on from Grief. This is not a easy process, life must go on.

  • Alec

    September 25th, 2021 at 1:10 AM

    Who you guys marrying with all that “I accept”?

  • duane

    November 26th, 2022 at 3:37 PM

    i know i have issues i hear voices i think everyone i come across is talking bad about me i dont like people its hard to make friends and keepo a job when you constantly are thinking they are talking about you you tend to blow up on them and start talking crap to them.ill go from happy to sad or mad at the flip of a switch can be anything in my own head i think of and it just trhe end of the world all of a sudden.my girlfriend says what duane am i talking to right now like there is more then one of me because my metal stability is a damn rollercoaster but i dont have iinsurance and i dontr trust pharmasudical drugs any more then i trust the government its one of the same these days anyways thought i would share my thoughts as well i suppose not to sure why but if you really knew how bad my mental issues were u would be glad your not me.oh also does anyone else think about death everyday not that you want to die butr that u donbt want to die i mean some times i want to but when it comes down to it i dont but not as day gos by i dont think about death and how our lifes really work

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