Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook for mental health professionals that lists different categories of mental disorder and the criteria for diagnosing them, according to the publishing organization the American Psychiatric Association. It is used worldwide by clinicians and researchers as well as insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers. It has attracted controversy and criticism as well as praise.
The DSM has gone through five revisions since it was first published in 1952. The last major revision was the DSM-IV published in 1994, although a "text revision" was produced in 2000. The DSM-V is currently in consultation, planning and preparation, due for publication in approximately 2011. The mental disorders section of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) is another commonly-used guide, and the two classifications use the same diagnostic codes.
The initial impetus for developing a classification of mental disorders in the United States was the need to collect statistical information. The first official attempt was the 1840 census which used a single category, "idiocy/insanity". In 1917, a "Committee on Statistics" from what is now known as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), together with the National Commission on Mental Hygiene, developed a new guide for mental hospitals called the "Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane", which included 22 diagnoses. This was subsequently revised several times by APA over the years. APA, along with the New York Academy of Medicine, also provided the psychiatric nomenclature subsection of the US medical guide, the "Standard Classified Nomenclature of Disease", referred to as the "Standard".
World War II saw the large-scale involvement of US psychiatrists in the selection, processing, assessment and treatment of soldiers. This moved the focus away from mental institutions and traditional clinical perspectives. A committee that was headed by psychiatrist Brigadier General William C. Menninger developed a new classification scheme called Medical 203 that was issued in 1943 as a "War Department Technical Bulletin" under the auspices of the Office of the Surgeon General. The foreword to the DSM-I states the US Navy had itself made some minor revisions but "the Army established a much more sweeping revision, abandoning the basic outline of the Standard and attempting to express present day concepts of mental disturbance. This nomenclature eventually was adopted by all Armed Forces", and "assorted modifications of the Armed Forces nomenclature [were] introduced into many clinics and hospitals by psychiatrists returning from military duty." The Veterans Administration also adopted a slightly modified version of Medical 203.
In 1949, the World Health Organization published the sixth revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) which included a section on mental disorders for the first time. The foreword to DSM-1 states this "categorized mental disorders in rubrics similar to those of the Armed Forces nomenclature." An APA Committee on Nomenclature and Statistics was empowered to develop a version specifically for use in the United States, to standardize the diverse and confused usage of different documents. In 1950 the APA committee undertook a review and consultation. It circulated an adaptation of Medical 203, the VA system and the Standard's Nomenclature, to approximately 10% of APA members. 46% replied, of which 93% approved, and after some further revisions (resulting in it being called DSM-I), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was approved in 1951 and published in 1952. The structure and conceptual framework were the same as in Medical 203, and many passages of text identical.
Although the APA was closely involved in the next significant revision of the mental disorder section of the ICD (version 8 in 1968), it decided to also go ahead with a revision of the DSM. It was also published in 1968, listed 182 disorders, and was 134 pages long. It was quite similar to the DSM-I. The term “reaction” was dropped but the term “neurosis” was retained. Both the DSM-I and the DSM-II reflected the predominant psychodynamic psychiatry, although they also included biological perspectives and concepts from Kraepelin's system of classification. Symptoms were not specified in detail for specific disorders. Many were seen as reflections of broad underlying conflicts or maladaptive reactions to life problems, rooted in a distinction between neurosis and psychosis (roughly, anxiety/depression broadly in touch with reality, or hallucinations/delusions appearing disconnected from reality). Sociological and biological knowledge was also incorporated, in a model that did not emphasize a clear boundary between normality and abnormality.
A forced hand
Dr. Ronald Bayer, a pro-homosexual psychiatrist has described the events of 1971-3 in his book, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. (1981)
Bayer explains that the first attack by homosexual activists against the APA began in 1970 when this organization held its convention in San Francisco. Homosexual activists decided to disrupt the conference by interrupting speakers and shouting down and ridiculing psychiatrists who viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, homosexual activist Frank Kameny worked with the Gay Liberation Front collective to demonstrate against the APA's convention. At the 1971 conference, Kameny grabbed the microphone and yelled, "Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged a relentless war of extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you."
Homosexuals forged APA credentials and gained access to exhibit areas in the conference. They threatened anyone who claimed that homosexuals needed to be cured.
Both under threat and presented with questionable new data from researchers such as the bisexual Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker, the seventh printing of the DSM-II, in 1974, no longer listed homosexuality as a category of disorder. But through the efforts of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, who had led the DSM-II development committee, a vote by the APA trustees in 1973, and confirmed by the wider APA membership in 1974, the diagnosis was replaced with the category of "sexual orientation disturbance".
In 1974, the decision to create a new revision of the DSM was made, and Robert Spitzer was selected as chairman of the task force. The initial impetus was to make the DSM nomenclature consistent with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), published by the World Health Organization. The revision took on a far wider mandate under the influence and control of Spitzer and his chosen committee members. One goal was to improve the uniformity and validity of psychiatric diagnosis in the wake of a number of critiques, including the famous Rosenhan experiment. There was also a need to standardize diagnostic practices within the US and with other countries after research showed that psychiatric diagnoses differed markedly between Europe and the USA. The establishment of these criteria was also an attempt to facilitate the pharmaceutical regulatory process.
The criteria adopted for many of the mental disorders were taken from the Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) and Feighner Criteria, which had just been developed by a group of research-orientated psychiatrists based primarily at Washington University in St. Louis and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Other criteria, and potential new categories of disorder, were established by consensus during meetings of the committee, as chaired by Spitzer. A key aim was to base categorization on colloquial English descriptive language (which would be easier to use by Federal administrative offices), rather than assumptions of etiology, although its categorical approach assumed each particular pattern of symptoms in a category reflected a particular underlying pathology (an approach described as "neo-Kraepelinian”). The psychodynamic or physiologic view was abandoned, in favor of a regulatory or legislative model. A new "multiaxial" system attempted to yield a picture more amenable to a statistical population census, rather than just a simple diagnosis. Spitzer argued, “mental disorders are a subset of medical disorders” but the task force decided on the DSM statement: “Each of the mental disorders is conceptualized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome.”
The first draft of the DSM-III was prepared within a year. Many new categories of disorder were introduced; a number of the unpublished documents that aim to justify them have recently come to light. Field trials sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) were conducted between 1977 and 1979 to test the reliability of the new diagnoses. A controversy emerged regarding deletion of the concept of neurosis, a mainstream of psychoanalytic theory and therapy but seen as vague and unscientific by the DSM task force. Faced with enormous political opposition, so the DSM-III was in serious danger of not being approved by the APA Board of Trustees unless “neurosis” was included in some capacity, a political compromise reinserted the term in parentheses after the word “disorder” in some cases. Additionally, the diagnosis of ego-dystonic homosexuality replaced the DSM-II category of "sexual orientation disturbance".
Finally published in 1980, the DSM-III was 494 pages long and listed 265 diagnostic categories. It rapidly came into widespread international use by multiple stakeholders and has been termed a revolution or transformation in psychiatry. However Robert Spitzer later criticized his own work on it in an interview with Adam Curtis saying it led to the medicalization of 20-30 percent of the population who may not have had any serious mental problems.
In 1987 the DSM-III-R was published as a revision of DSM-III, under the direction of Spitzer. Categories were renamed, reorganized, and significant changes in criteria were made. Six categories were deleted while others were added. Controversial diagnoses such as pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder and Masochistic Personality Disorder were considered and discarded. "Sexual orientation disturbance" was also removed, but was largely subsumed under "sexual disorder not otherwise specified" which can include "persistent and marked distress about one’s sexual orientation." Altogether, DSM-III-R contained 292 diagnoses and was 567 pages long.
In 1994, DSM-IV was published, listing 297 disorders in 886 pages. The task force was chaired by Allen Frances. A steering committee of 27 people was introduced, including four psychologists. The steering committee created 13 work groups of 5–16 members. Each work group had approximately 20 advisers. The work groups conducted a three step process. First, each group conducted an extensive literature review of their diagnoses. Then they requested data from researchers, conducting analyses to determine which criteria required change, with instructions to be conservative. Finally, they conducted multicenter field trials relating diagnoses to clinical practice. A major change from previous versions was the inclusion of a clinical significance criterion to almost half of all the categories, which required symptoms cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”.
A "Text Revision" of the DSM-IV, known as the DSM-IV-TR, was published in 2000. The diagnostic categories and the vast majority of the specific criteria for diagnosis were unchanged. The text sections giving extra information on each diagnosis were updated, as were some of the diagnostic codes in order to maintain consistency with the ICD.
Validity and reliability
The most fundamental scientific criticism of the DSM concerns the validity and reliability of its diagnoses. This refers, roughly, to whether the disorders it defines are actually real conditions in people in the real world, that can be consistently identified by its criteria. These are long-standing criticisms of the DSM, originally highlighted by the Rosenhan experiment in the 1970s, and continuing despite some improved reliability since the introduction of more specific rule-based criteria for each condition.
Proponents argue that the inter-rater reliability of DSM diagnoses (via a specialized Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) rather than usual psychiatric assessment) is reasonable, and that there is good evidence of distinct patterns of mental, behavioral or neurological dysfunction to which the DSM disorders correspond well. It is accepted, however, that there is an "enormous" range of reliability findings in studies, and that validity is unclear because, given the lack of diagnostic laboratory or neuroimaging tests, standard clinical interviews are "inherently limited" and only a ("flawed") "best estimate diagnosis" is possible even with full assessment of all data over time.
Critics, such as psychiatrist Niall McLaren, argue that the DSM lacks validity because it has no relation to an agreed scientific model of mental disorder and therefore the decisions taken about its categories (or even the question of categories versus dimensions) were not scientific ones; and that it lacks reliability partly because different diagnoses share many criteria, and what appear to be different criteria are often just rewordings of the same idea, meaning that the decision to allocate one diagnosis or another to a patient is to some extent a matter of personal prejudice.
By design, the DSM is primarily concerned with the signs and symptoms of mental disorders, rather than the underlying causes. It claims to collect them together based on statistical or clinical patterns. As such, it has been compared to a naturalist’s field guide to birds, with similar advantages and disadvantages. The lack of a causative or explanatory basis, however, is not specific to the DSM, but rather reflects a general lack of pathophysiological understanding of psychiatric disorders. As DSM-III chief architect Robert Spitzer and DSM-IV editor Michael First outlined in 2005, "little progress has been made toward understanding the pathophysiological processes and etiology of mental disorders. If anything, the research has shown the situation is even more complex than initially imagined, and we believe not enough is known to structure the classification of psychiatric disorders according to etiology." However, the DSM is based on an underlying structure that assumes discrete medical disorders that can be separated from each other by symptom patterns. Its claim to be “atheoretical” is held to be unconvincing because it makes sense if and only if all mental disorder is categorical by nature, which only a biological model of mental disorder can satisfy. However, the Manual recognizes psychological causes of mental disorder, for example, PTSD, so that it negates its only possible justification.
The DSM's focus on superficial symptoms is claimed to be largely a result of necessity (assuming such a manual is nevertheless produced), since there is no agreement on a more explanatory classification system. Reviewers note, however, that this approach is undermining research, including in genetics, because it results in the grouping of individuals who have very little in common except superficial criteria as per DSM or ICD diagnosis.
Despite the lack of consensus on underlying causation, advocates for specific psychopathological paradigms have nonetheless faulted the current diagnostic scheme for not incorporating evidence-based models or findings from other areas of science. A recent example is evolutionary psychologists' criticism that the DSM does not differentiate between genuine cognitive malfunctions and those induced by psychological adaptations, a key distinction within evolutionary psychology, but one widely challenged within general psychology. ref> Another example is a strong operationalist viewpoint, which contends that reliance on operational definitions, as purported by the DSM, necessitates that intuitive concepts such as depression be replaced by specific measurable concepts before they are scientifically meaningful. One critic states of psychologists that "Instead of replacing 'metaphysical' terms such as 'desire' and 'purpose', they used it to legitimize them by giving them operational definitions...the initial, quite radical operationalist ideas eventually came to serve as little more than a 'reassurance fetish' (Koch 1992) for mainstream methodological practice."
Despite caveats in the introduction to the DSM, it has long been argued that its system of classification makes unjustified categorical distinctions between disorders, and uses arbitrary cut-offs between normal and abnormal. A 2009 psychiatric review noted that attempts to demonstrate natural boundaries between related DSM syndromes, or between a common DSM syndrome and normality, have failed. Some argue that rather than a categorical approach, a fully dimensional, spectrum or complaint-oriented approach would better reflect the evidence.
In addition, it is argued that the current approach based on exceeding a threshold of symptoms does not adequately take into account the context in which a person is living, and to what extent there is internal disorder of an individual versus a psychological response to adverse situations. The DSM does include a step ("Axis IV") for outlining "Psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder" once someone is diagnosed with that particular disorder.
Because an individual's degree of impairment is often not correlated with symptom counts, and can stem from various individual and social factors, the DSM's standard of distress or disability can often produce false positives. On the other hand, individuals who don't meet symptom counts may nevertheless experience comparable distress or disability in their life.
Despite doubts about arbitrary cut-offs, yes/no decisions often need to be made (e.g. whether a person will be provided a treatment) and the rest of medicine is committed to categories, so it is thought unlikely that any formal national or international classification will adopt a fully dimensional format.
Some psychiatrists also argue that current diagnostic standards rely on an exaggerated interpretation of neurophysiological findings and so understate the scientific importance of social-psychological variables. Advocating a more culturally sensitive approach to psychology, critics such as Carl Bell and Marcello Maviglia contend that the cultural and ethnic diversity of individuals is often discounted by researchers and service providers. In addition, current diagnostic guidelines have been criticized as having a fundamentally Euro-American outlook. Although these guidelines have been widely implemented, opponents argue that even when a diagnostic criteria set is accepted across different cultures, it does not necessarily indicate that the underlying constructs have any validity within those cultures; even reliable application can only demonstrate consistency, not legitimacy. Cross-cultural psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman contends that the Western bias is ironically illustrated in the introduction of cultural factors to the DSM-IV: the fact that disorders or concepts from non-Western or non-mainstream cultures are described as "culture-bound", whereas standard psychiatric diagnoses are given no cultural qualification whatsoever, is to Kleinman revelatory of an underlying assumption that Western cultural phenomena are universal. Kleinman's negative view towards the culture-bound syndrome is largely shared by other cross-cultural critics, common responses included both disappointment over the large number of documented non-Western mental disorders still left out, and frustration that even those included were often misinterpreted or misrepresented. Many mainstream psychiatrists have also been dissatisfied with these new culture-bound diagnoses, although not for the same reasons. Robert Spitzer, a lead architect of the DSM-III, has held the opinion that the addition of cultural formulations was an attempt to placate cultural critics, and that they lack any scientific motivation or support. Spitzer also posits that the new culture-bound diagnoses are rarely used in practice, maintaining that the standard diagnoses apply regardless of the culture involved. In general, the mainstream psychiatric opinion remains that if a diagnostic category is valid, cross-cultural factors are either irrelevant or are only significant to specific symptom presentations.
Drug companies and medicalization
It has also been alleged that the way the categories of the DSM are structured, as well as the substantial expansion of the number of categories, are representative of an increasing medicalization of human nature, which may be attributed to disease mongering by pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists, whose influence has dramatically grown in recent decades. Of the authors who selected and defined the DSM-IV psychiatric disorders, roughly half had had financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry at one time, raising the prospect of a direct conflict of interest. In 2005, then American Psychiatric Association President Steven Sharfstein released a statement in which he conceded that psychiatrists had "allowed the biopsychosocial model to become the bio-bio-bio model".
However, although the number of identified diagnoses has increased by more than 200% (from 106 in DSM-I to 365 in DSM-IV-TR), psychiatrists such as Zimmerman and Spitzer argue it almost entirely represents greater specification of the forms of pathology, thereby allowing better grouping of more similar patients.
There is scientific and political controversy regarding the continued inclusion of sex-related diagnoses such as the paraphilias (sexual fetishes) and hypoactive sexual desire disorder (low sex drive). Critics of these and other controversial diagnoses often cite the DSM's previous inclusion of homosexuality, and the APA's eventual decision to remove it, as a precedent for current disputes. A survey has suggested however that around the world a majority of psychiatrists view homosexuality as indicating a mental illness. Stanton Jones, Ph.D. and Mark Yarhouse, Psy.D challenge studies which have run tests on "a group of "healthy" homosexuals and compared those results with results from a group of heterosexuals." as being "the logical equivalent" to if a "sample of intellectually gifted women performed as well as a sample of men on a math test." Jones and Yarhouse agree however that such studies have proven "it is not the case that all homosexuals are manifestly disturbed." The consensus though from the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and other institutions in other countries, is that the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality. Leaders of the Hearing Voices Network such as psychiatrist Marius Romme have claimed that many people who hallucinate "are like homosexuals in the 1950s -- in need of liberation, not cure."
Disputes over inclusion or exclusion can underscore the fact that reevaluation of controversial disorders can be viewed as a political as well as scientific decision. Indeed, Robert Spitzer, a past editor and leading proponent of scientific impartiality in the DSM, conceded that a significant reason that certain diagnoses (the paraphilias) would not, in his opinion, be removed from the DSM is because "it would be a public relations disaster for psychiatry".
A similar line of criticism has appeared in non-specialist venues. In 1997, Harper's Magazine published an essay, ostensibly a book review of the DSM-IV, that criticized the lack of hard science and the proliferation of disorders. The language of the DSM was described as "simultaneously precise and vague" in order to provide an aura of scientific objectivity yet not limit psychiatrists in a semantic or financial sense, and the manual itself compared to "a militia's Web page, insofar as it constitutes an alternative reality under siege" by critics.
A Consumer is a person who has accessed psychiatric services and been given a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some consumers are relieved to find that they have a recognized condition to which they can give a name. Indeed, many people self-diagnose. Others, however, feel they have been given a "label" that invites social stigma and discrimination, or one that they simply do not feel is accurate. Diagnoses can become internalized and affect an individual's self-identity, and some psychotherapists find that this can worsen symptoms and inhibit the healing process. Some in the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Movement actively campaign against their diagnosis, or its assumed implications, and/or against the DSM system in general. It has been noted that the DSM often uses definitions and terminology that are inconsistent with a recovery model, and that can erroneously imply excess psychopathology (e.g. multiple "comorbid" diagnoses) or chronicity.
- Relational disorder (proposed DSM-5 new diagnosis)
- Classification of mental disorders
- Chinese Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Mental Disorders
- DSM-IV Codes
- GAF Scale
- Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual
- Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID)
- Diagnostic classification and rating scales used in psychiatry