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What is the DSM-IV?


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A Clear and understandable explanation of the DSM-IV and it's purpose.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Fourth Edition

The DSM IV, was published in May 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM IV has been referred to as the "bible" of psychiatric diagnosis because it provides definitions, symptoms and characteristics for mental disorders that are recognized by clinicians from around the world.

The DSM IV calls for clinicians to evaluate individuals on five levels or axes. Axis I identifies mental disorders; Axis II identifies personality disorders and mental retardation. Axis III identifies relevant physical diseases and conditions. Axis IV identifies the individuals psychosocial and environmental issues; and Axis V is used by the clinician to assess an individual's overall functioning based on the 100-point scale called the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF).

"Getting the right treatment almost always depends on having the right diagnosis ... Catching symptoms early makes them easier to treat, less likely to come back, and less able to damage your life... One in five people has a psychiatric problem at any given moment, and half will have one in a lifetime. But most people who need it never get adequate treatment and there is usually a lag of many years before the right diagnosis is made. This exacts a great toll of personal and family misery and societal cost. The changes in health care delivery make it especially important for you to be an informed consumer. Because managed care has radically reduced the time doctors spend with patients, psychiatric disorders are more likely than ever to fall through the cracks... Knowledge is still power. You are more likely to get good care if you are educated about your problem, understand its usual course, and know what can be done about it... It is certainly no fun having a psychiatric disorder, but it is something you can learn to control and mange gracefully." (Your Mental Health: A Layman's Guide to the Psychiatrist's Bible by Allen Frances, MD and Michael B. First, MD, 1998, Scribner)



Axis I

Adjustment Disorders | Anxiety Disorders

Childhood Disorders | Cognitive Disorders

Dissociative Disorders | Eating Disorders

Factitious Disorders | Impulse Control Disorders

Mood Disorders | Psychotic Disorders

Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders

Sleep Disorders | Somotoform Disorders

Substance-Related Disorders


Axis II

Personality Disorders | Mental Retardation


Axis III

General Medical Conditions


Axis IV

Psychosocial and Environmental Stressors


Axis V

Global Assessment of Functioning

Information and or Criteria summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

This information is not intended to replace "traditional" mental health therapy. If you have questions or concerns about your physical and/or mental health ... contact your family physician and/or mental health professional in your area.