In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Fundamental Opposition to the DSM
  • Theory-Based Opposition to the DSM
  • Shifting to a Neurobiological Model
  • Dimensional versus Categorical Model of Classification
  • Importance of Careful and Reliable Diagnosis

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Psychology Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
Thomas Widiger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 April 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0022


Mental health professionals and scientists must have a common language to communicate with their colleagues, with professional agencies, and with patients and the general public. The primary purpose of an official, authoritative diagnostic nomenclature is to provide this common language that minimizes the use of idiosyncratic and invalid concepts. The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides this common language for the description of psychopathology. DSM-5 is the current edition of the APA’s diagnostic manual.

General Overviews

David Kupfer was the chair of DSM-5, and Darrel Regier was the vice chair. Regier, et al. 2013 provides a summary of the process and the final decisions made for DSM-5. Frances, et al. 1995 provides a guide for the major decisions that were made for DSM-IV, the previous edition. First and Pincus 2002 provides the rationale for the development of DSM-IV-TR (the “TR” indicates this is a “text revision” of DSM-IV; no new diagnoses were added). Norman Sartorius directed the mental disorders section of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. The importance of having clinicians, researchers, and countries from around the world all using the same diagnostic system is discussed in Sartorius, et al. 1993.

  • American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5). 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

    This text provides the American Psychiatric Association’s list of officially recognized mental disorders. The text includes the diagnostic criterion sets for each disorder, along with a description of course, associated features, laboratory and physical exam findings, and other information that might be useful for diagnosis.

  • First, M. B., and H. A. Pincus. 2002. The DSM-IV text revision: Rationale and potential impact on clinical practice. Psychiatric Services 53:588–592.

    DOI: 10.1176/

    Provides the rationale for the development of DSM-IV-TR. Harold Pincus was the chair of DSM-IV-TR; Michael First was the vice chair.

  • Frances, A. J., M. B. First, and H. A. Pincus. 1995. DSM-IV guidebook. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

    A straightforward guide for the construction and application of the DSM-IV, the lead author of which was the chair of DSM-IV.

  • Regier, D. A., E. A. Kuhl, and D. J. Kupfer. 2013. The DSM-5: Classification and criteria changes. World Psychiatry 12:92–98.

    DOI: 10.1002/wps.20050

    Provides the rationale for the development and final decisions made for DSM-5, the first and third authors being the vice chair and chair, respectively, of DSM-5.

  • Sartorius, N., C. T. Kaelber, J. E. Cooper, et al. 1993. Progress toward achieving a common language in psychiatry. Archives of General Psychiatry 50:115–124.

    DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820140037004

    This is an excellent historical and current argument for the importance of developing an authoritative diagnostic system.

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