Diagnostic categories or dimensions? A question for the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders--fifth edition

J Abnorm Psychol. 2005 Nov;114(4):494-504. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.114.4.494.


The question of whether mental disorders are discrete clinical conditions or arbitrary distinctions along dimensions of functioning is a long-standing issue, but its importance is escalating with the growing recognition of the frustrations and limitations engendered by the categorical model. The authors provide an overview of some of the dilemmas of the categorical model, followed by a discussion of research that addresses whether mental disorders are accurately or optimally classified categorically or dimensionally. The authors' intention is to document the importance of this issue and to suggest that future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders give more recognition to dimensional models of classification. They conclude with a dimensional mental disorder classification that they suggest provides a useful model.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / classification*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results