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Paradigm shifts and the development of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: past experiences and future aspirations


, : Paradigm shifts and the development of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: past experiences and future aspirations. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 55(11): 692-700

Work is currently under way on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Fifth Edition, due to be published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. Dissatisfaction with the current categorical descriptive approach has led to aspirations for a paradigm shift for DSM-5. A historical review of past revisions of the DSM was performed. Efforts undertaken before the start of the DSM-5 development process to conduct a state-of-the science review and set a research agenda were examined to determine if results supported a paradigm shift for DSM-5. Proposals to supplement DSM-5 categorical diagnosis with dimensional assessments are reviewed and critiqued. DSM revisions have alternated between paradigm shifts (the first edition of the DSM in 1952 and DSM-III in 1980) and incremental improvements (DSM-II in 1968, DSM-III-R in 1987, and DSM-IV in 1994). The results of the review of the DSM-5 research planning initiatives suggest that despite the scientific advances that have occurred since the descriptive approach was first introduced in 1980, the field lacks a sufficiently deep understanding of mental disorders to justify abandoning the descriptive approach in favour of a more etiologically based alternative. Proposals to add severity and cross-cutting dimensions throughout DSM-5 are neither paradigm shifting, given that simpler versions of such dimensions are already a component of DSM-IV, nor likely to be used by busy clinicians without evidence that they improve clinical outcomes. Despite initial aspirations that DSM would undergo a paradigm shift with this revision, DSM-5 will continue to adopt a descriptive categorical approach, albeit with a greatly expanded dimensional component.

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PMID: 21070696


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