Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Experts Recommend Overhaul Of Psychiatry’s Diagnostic Manual

From the 18 May 2012 article at Medical News Today

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), long the master reference work in psychiatry, is seriously flawed and needs radical change from its current “field guide” form, according to an essay by two Johns Hopkins psychiatrists published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“A generation ago it served useful purposes, but now it needs clear alterations,” says Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the paper with Phillip R. Slavney, M.D., a professor emeritus in the same department. “They say they can’t do any better. We disagree and can show how.”

The original DSM, published in the 1950s, was intended as a public health service documenting the incidence and prevalence of mental illnesses. By its third edition in 1980 (DSM-III), however, it had evolved into a reference book prescribing how clinicians should identify and classify psychiatric disorders.

Today, the Johns Hopkins psychiatrists say, DSM provides checklists of symptoms, offering few clues to the underlying causes of mental disease and making it difficult to direct treatment or investigate the disorders it details. A new edition, DSM-5, is due out in 2013.

The manual, put together by the American Psychiatric Association, currently identifies hundreds of conditions via lists of diagnostic criteria and symptoms, functioning exactly as does a naturalist’s field guide but for mental illness. It offers no way to make sense of mental disorders and no way to distinguish illnesses that appear to be similar but actually are quite different and require different treatments, the psychiatrists argue.

“If you just name things and don’t explain what the causes are, you do not know how to rationally treat or study the diseases,” says McHugh, former director of Hopkins’ psychiatry department. “The DSM gives everything a name but not a nature.”….

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May 18, 2012 - Posted by | health care | , , ,

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