The DSM-5: Hyperbole, Hope or Hypothesis?

BMC Med. 2013 May 14;11:128. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-128.


The furore preceding the release of the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is in contrast to the incremental changes to several diagnostic categories, which are derived from new research since its predecessor's birth in 1990. While many of these changes are indeed controversial, they do reflect the intrinsic ambiguity of the extant literature. Additionally, this may be a mirror of the frustration of the field's limited progress, especially given the false hopes at the dawn of the "decade of the brain". In the absence of a coherent pathophysiology, the DSM remains no more than a set of consensus based operationalized adjectives, albeit with some degree of reliability. It does not cleave nature at its joints, nor does it aim to, but neither does alternate systems. The largest problem with the DSM system is how it's used; sometimes too loosely by clinicians, and too rigidly by regulators, insurers, lawyers and at times researchers, who afford it reference and deference disproportionate to its overt acknowledged limitations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Medicine / methods
  • Clinical Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Manuals as Topic
  • Mental Disorders / classification*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Mental Disorders / pathology
  • Psychiatry / methods
  • Psychiatry / standards