What is the DSM?

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is the handbook widely used by psychiatrists and clinicians in the United States to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and covers all categories of mental health disorders in adults and children.

Why Is the DSM Important?

As the DSM covers descriptions, symptoms, and essential criteria for diagnosing mental health disorders as well as crucial statistics, such as which sex is most affected by an illness, it is a crucial manual for psychiatric diagnoses and treatment options. It is also used by mental health professionals to classify patients for the purposes of billing.

The History of the DSM

The DSM came to light from the original publication of the Statistical Manual for Use of Institutions for the Insane by the American Medico-Psychological Association (now known as the APA) which did not catch on. After that, the APA issued another edition in 1928, which was criticized for being too narrowly focused as it only looked at psychoses and neuroses. When the World Health Organization (WHO) issued the International Classification of Diseases-6 (ICD-6), it contained a section on mental disorders but needed modification for use in the United States, which led to the DSM being published by the APA. 

Changes in the DSM

Since it was first published in May 1952, the DSM has been updated seven times, with the latest publication in 2013. Since its first version, the DSM-I, the number of diagnoses has changed. With 102 in its first Inception, it had risen considerably since each subsequent publication. By the time the DSM-IV-TR version was issued in the year 2000, it contained 365 diagnoses, but the 2013 version (the DSM-5) contained 157 and drew criticism for its expansion of diagnostic criteria.

What Are the Possible Downfalls of the DSM?

There are a number of advantages of the DSM but it has had a number of criticisms thrown at it. While it is a very useful tool in terms of research, it has drawn criticism in the following areas over the years:

Misdiagnoses or Overdiagnoses

This is one of the major risks. According to the DSM, groups of people can be labeled as having a certain disorder, but this can mean an individual’s behavior doesn’t line up with the current ideals in the latest DSM. 


This has been the latest criticism of the DSM because many view it as an oversimplification of human behavior. Because there can be a misrepresentation of mental health disorders within the DSM, the scientific community or anybody following the manual may greatly underestimate the human component

The Risk of Stigmatization

Mental health disorders are not viewed as negatively as they were, but there can be the risk of categorizing disorders under labels.

Reach out to Peaks Recovery

It’s important for any professional or support provider to understand that treating any mental health disorder is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you or someone you care about is experiencing issues with their mental health, it’s important to have a support system in place that is holistic while avoiding labeling or oversimplification and focusing on the human component. At Peaks Recovery, this is where we can help bring the human element to supporting any form of mental health disorder.