Understanding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health

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Last Updated on June 5, 2021 by

The statistical manual is a popular handbook published by the APA and is commonly used in the U.S. by both psychiatrists and clinicians for discovering the condition and the possible treatment of psychiatric disorders. This manual covers every category of mental health disorders in both kids and adults.

In the diagnostic and statistical manual, you’ll find descriptions, signs, symptoms, and other vital criteria for diagnosing mental health disorders. The statistical manual also has statistics about the gender that’s mostly affected by mental illness, the most prone age group, the medication effects, and popular treatment methods.

Mental health patients might be able to describe how they feel. They explain the feeling they get by using stories, examples, or metaphors; they might also explain their body reactions before the disorders started and the way it has affected their lives. However, it might be difficult for them to name any hardship they might be encountering, particularly if they experience various symptoms at once. This is where the diagnostic and statistical manual comes in.

Generally, clinicians don’t administer treatment until they know the conditions of a client including the way other medical professionals have previously handled that similar issue. In the same way, insurance companies will not offer payments for a treatment that’s not linked to a particular diagnostic type found in the diagnostic and statistical manual. The DSM is created to assist health practitioners to determine what is wrong with a patient according to the symptoms they are showing.

Brief History of DSM

Previously, the origin of the diagnostic and statistical manual began after doctors in America felt that they had to gather statistical data. They first tried in 1840 that applied one category, which is idiocy/insanity. This census was distinguished into seven categories.

Over the years, the APA revised the diagnostic and statistical manual several times. The APA provides the psychiatric nomenclature subsection of the US medical guide.

The diagnostic and statistical manual was originally put out for public use in 1952 to serve as a standardized process of psychiatric diagnoses. Currently, it is passing through its fifth revision, which began way back in 1999. This process led to a global debate which grew as the publication date got closer. 

Revision of the DSM

Since its first publication in 1952, the diagnostic and statistical manual has been periodically reviewed and revised. The first version of DSM was published almost twenty years ago. Since then, research on mental health disorders has been going on. There’s a wealth of knowledge about this area to benefit from.

Revision Process of The New Manual

The preparation for the revision of the diagnostic and statistical manual started almost ten years ago, with various research work and evaluations that contained a series of white papers and scientific conferences supported by the National Institutes of Health. Due to this preparation, almost 400 international scientists came together and published various monographs and peer-reviewed journals about the statistical manual.

The most recent version of the diagnostic and statistical manual was brought together by a task force and workgroup of over 160 professional researchers and clinicians. They went through scientific literature and got input from various advisors forming the basis for the draft.

A scientific review committee of mental health experts was appointed by the Board of Trustees, which approved the final criteria for the diagnostic and statistical manual. They had the responsibility of reviewing and giving guidance on the strength of evidence of proposed changes.

The committee went through the evidence before them based on a particular template provided by validators. Additionally, a Clinical and Public Health Committee was set to review all proposed revisions of the diagnostic and statistical manual. They also had to address obstacles experienced by the committee. 

Those Involved in the Creation Process

For this important job, APA recruited more than 160 of the world’s top researchers and clinicians to serve on the Task Force, Work Groups, and Study Groups of the 5th version of the diagnostic and statistical manual. These were professionals in biology, neuroscience, genetics, statistics, epidemiology, social and behavioral sciences, and public health. The volunteers came from various medical and mental health disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, pediatrics, nursing, and social work.

Specifics of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

A committee created and maintains the diagnostic and statistical manual, which is used by physicians and other drug rehabilitation therapists in various programs and facilities, such as public and private health facilities. This resource is used by clinicians when they have to diagnose a condition such as mental disorders.

Because studies on mental disorders are continuous and recent data emerges regularly, the DSM is updated regularly. Due to this, when discussing the diagnostic and statistical manual, clinicians frequently apply a numeric approach to demonstrate that their claims are based on the most recent research they can lay their hands on. For instance, the diagnostic and statistical manual was reviewed and edited in 2013, and because it had been revised in the past on five different occasions.

DSM-5 Information

It is difficult for the layman to understand the diagnostic and statistical manual because it was previously created by medical practitioners; however, its purpose of creation was to also give clinicians a lot of data and information regarding the signs and symptoms experienced by a mental health patient. This book is quite bulky; describing the various signs and symptoms a medical professional will use in detection and treatment a particular mental disorder.

The diagnostic and statistical manual not only provides data about signs of mental disorders, but also has other information that can be beneficial to professionals in understanding the way mental disorder could affect the life of a patient.

Per the American Psychiatric Association, Disorder-Specific Information May Be Included in The Summary Text:

  • How prevalent the disorder is
  • The origin and progress of the disorder 
  • Risk factors of the disorder
  • Male and female differences in the disease
  • Cultural concerns that might affect diagnosis

Is there Information about Treatments for Mental Health Illnesses in this Manual?

The diagnostic and statistical manual–5 is used to assess and diagnosis mental health conditions; it lacks information or guidelines regarding any mental disorder. The first step towards being able to treat mental health issues is deciding the proper diagnosis. This guideline will also help clinicians to measure how effective the treatment is; regular assessments will help medical professionals in tracking changes in different stages of the program.

Importance of a Diagnostic Manual

It is impossible to diagnose psychiatric disorders with objective tests, even at this age of brain scans and genetic analysis without the statistical manual. Psychiatrists, therefore, depend on how the detected signs were felt and reported and their observations. The patent symptoms can be compared with standardized symptom listing and criteria contained in the diagnostic and statistical manual by clinicians.

Expert commissions formulated symptom-based criteria for diagnostic and statistical manual and tested them in studies to determine how well different patient groups define themselves. But obviously, the foundation of evidence for the criteria will change over time for any particular disorder. This requires a continuous review and revision of the composition of the DSM.

For psychiatric research and treatments, the diagnostic and statistical manual offers an important standardization of diagnostic categories. In the past, there were significant variations in the application of certain diagnoses. This prevented the incoherence of clinical diagnosis and significant progress in psychiatric research.

However, the DSM was used more widely by others, not just by medical professionals and investigators. For example, insurance companies can ask for diagnoses that match reimbursement categories by using particular criteria, such as those of the DSM.

Controversies Surrounding the DSM

The diagnostic criteria of this manual need wide clinical training and judgment for the diagnosis to be used. However, many clinicians argue that it can’t be properly summarized with these restricted diagnostic codes for the complexity of patient presentations.

The fact that the categories do not reflect the limits of natural diseases is another common concern. There is a large overlap between, say, depression, and anxiety disorders in many patients with symptoms that meet the criteria for more than one disorder. This could be a significant undermine for research: if a new medicine is tested in a mixed group of diseases, all of which fall within a single diagnostic and statistical manual diagnosis, it cannot seem to work in drug tests. The diagnostic and statistical manual has been widely used for many years despite these concerns.

Application of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

Loved ones may not want to go through the diagnostic and statistical manual to know more about mental health and how their loved ones can be affected. However, the diagnostic and statistical manual is a necessary part of the steps a patient takes to receive medical assistance. The New Yorker states that before insurers permit money to be transferred to a third party, they require a DSM-based diagnostic code. The family may not receive coverage for the services their loved one needs.

Additionally, updating the DSM could influence the course of treatment it provides for people who currently have a diagnosis of mental illness Statistical Manual. For example, a study in Health Canal looked at the DSM revisions made to the criteria for people who drink alcohol. Diagnostic details involving people who drink a bit too much, but who don’t quite qualify for alcoholism, have been strengthened and lengthened, and as a result, these researchers found that people who might have been given a clean bill of health a few years ago might now qualify for therapies for alcoholism. As an example, the Statistical Manual may flex and sway based on the assumptions made at the time in the treatment of those currently living in the mental health system.

The manual could assist clinicians in explaining how the condition has progressed; it could also reveal the ways it could affect the life of a patient in the future. People that are interested in learning how treatment might be beneficial are advised to read additional information contained in the manual. For people finding it difficult coming to terms with ways of taking care of a patient suffering from a mental disorder, we’d love to be of assistance. Reach out to us today by calling 615-490-9376, and our professionals will assist those that need extra help and enable them to locate the right therapy using the statistical manual.