The Assessment and Classification of Mental Disorders Through the Use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) System

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Classification and Assessment of Mental Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) system is a classification tool that is highly used in North America. This manual covers many different disorders such as: learning, developmental, anxiety, and substance disorders. The DSM uses a specific diagnosis criteria to group patterns of abnormal behaviors that share common features. The DSM also uses a multiaxial system of evaluation, which consists of the following: clinical syndromes, personality disorders and mental retardation, general medical conditions, psychosocial and environmental problems, and global assessment of functioning. The DSM system uses specified diagnostic criteria and a multiaxial system to provide an understanding of the person’s functioning. The DSM contains more than two hundred specific diagnostic categories that are arranged under eighteen primary headings.

For example, the category of anxiety disorders contains subtypes i.e. panic disorders, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorders. The DSM outlines the specific criteria for each mental disorder. Disorders are also classified in terms of exclusion criteria. With the help of these criteria the diagnoses are understood and misdiagnosis are avoided.

There are three weaknesses in the DSM. These weaknesses include, the questions about reliability (level of consistency of measurements), validity (extent to which the test measures what it is supposed to measure) and about the medical model framework.

There are some major changes between the DSM-IV and DSM-5. One of the changes include the DSM-5 replacing the multiaxial system with a nonaxial assessment system combining axes I, II, and III at the same diagnostic level, with special reference of psychosocial factors and disabilities. Another major change is the reorganization of disorders according to developmental lifespan progressions. The DSM-5 includes an official diagnostic criteria that appears in section II chapters compared to section III chapters. When comparing the two, section III chapters now contains optional dimensional, cultural, alternative personality disorder model and conditions for further study.

Some deletions were made to the the DSM-IV for example, the removal of the Global Assessment of Function (GAF) scale due to validity and reliability issues. The DSM-V replaced the DSM-IV designation with two options: other specified disorders and unspecified disorders. The DSM-V has a greater emphasis on dimensionality and has a Cultural Formation Interview presented in section III that assesses the impact of culture on clinical presentation.