A student of mine (thanks Andrew!) pointed out this essay about the future DSM in Wired magazine. Sometime in the next 2 years the American Psychiatric Association hopes to release version 5 to replace version IV-TR. Yes, they are doing away with roman numerals.
For those of you not in the counseling world, the DSM is what professionals use to diagnose mental health disorders. The original DSM was first published in 1952 and totaled 132 pages including appendices. Version IV-TR totals a whopping 942 pages. In it’s best form, the document enables professionals to communicate to each other about the symptoms of their clients. Further, individuals with a combination of symptoms may find that diagnostic criteria helps them understand that others have similar problems and can give some hope to finding effective treatments. From an economic standpoint, receiving an axis one diagnosis enables those with insurance benefits to receive some financial assistance in their treatment.
And while this document is founded upon scientific research and years of clinical expertise, the DSM is in no way free from politics. When the DSM moved from a psychodynamic view of illness (illnesses were couched in terms of their “reactions” from problems) to a supposed atheoretical, descriptive view of illness, certain diagnostic labels were kept. In the words of Theodore Millon (said at a seminar I attended), labels such as Borderline Personality Disorder were kept because, “We’d taken everything else from the analysts and so we kept that unfortunate label so they wouldn’t feel so bad.”
So, with the above in mind, take a read of the current political controversies surrounding new diagnoses and the problems with pediatric bipolar diagnoses. If you haven’t time to read the whole article, be sure to skip to the bottom and start reading after the photo of artistic renderings of heads. Read from there to the bottom. It gives you a view of the controversy.