Can You Change the Definition of Mental Disorders?

For the first time in more than a decade, the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," used by psychiatrists, health-insurance companies and others, is being revised. Read how your input can influence the upcoming edition.

For the first time since 1994, the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," used by psychiatrists, health-insurance companies and others, is being revised, reports The Los Angeles Times. Medical professionals use the manual to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. It is also used as a source in courtrooms and schools.


DSM-5, the task force of psychiatrists responsible for the new edition, has made a draft of the upcoming manual available for public reading and comments on its web site. The input will be considered in the revision of the manual. Individuals and organizations are encouraged to provide feedback until April 20.

The new edition, which will be the fifth, will be published in 2013. DSM-5, which included 13 subcommittees in different areas of psychiatry, began work on the project nearly 10 years ago.

The draft, released by the American Psychiatric Association, includes many new diagnoses and changes to old diagnoses that are being criticized by patient groups and medical professionals. Many older diagnoses will be grouped into single categories based on similar origins and symptoms.

Autism, for example, used to include autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. In the new manual's format, they will be grouped and referred to as autism spectrum disorders. Some professionals feel that taking away the sub-labels is insensitive to those who identify with them.

One patient group, The Treatment and Research Advancements Association for Personality Disorders, which has placed emphasis on focused research of borderline personality disorder, is also taking issue with the grouping of personality disorders. Valerie Porr, founder and president of the New York–based organization, said: "This will be a disaster. It kind of trivializes the personality disorders."

Suggestions for additions to the list of disorders in the manual include gambling and binge-eating. Recognition and inclusion of "new" disorders would allow for health-insurance companies to consider covering treatment.

 

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