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The Life and Times of the DSM-5

Donna Rockwell, PsyD


The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is due to be published in May 2013, closing its review process during the spring or summer of 2012. The American Psychiatric Association, and it’s DSM-5 Task Force, is charged with writing the manual. While the DSM has had a long history of controversy since its first edition was published in 1952, with various factions within the scientific community disagreeing over particular diagnostic criteria or psychiatric assumptions, the current conflict over the latest incarnation of the DSM is rife with disagreement and acrimony.

The main complaint lodged by members of the psychological community, including clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, social workers, conscience-minded psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals, is that the DSM-5 inflates diagnostic criteria to such an extent that it pathologizes normal behavior and natural human functioning. Through what is being termed the medicalization of mental health care, and an expansive misuse of the diagnostic enterprise by casting a net far too wide, practitioners are voicing alarm over the probable outcome of diagnostic inflation: over-diagnosis, mis-diagnosis, and the over prescription of medications, sometimes both unnecessary, and oftentimes dangerous.

The clinical populations of children and the elderly, in particular, are vulnerable to this diagnosis-medication overkill, and recent history shows that powerful antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed more and more to these groups who have little voice or lobbying power. TV News, national newspapers, bloggers, twitter, and Facebook has ignited with writers and journalists chronicling the international uproar over the DSM-5.

In July 2011, the British Psychological Society was the first to speak out with concerns in a letter to the American Psychiatric Association over the direction the DSM-5 seemed to be moving psychiatry and the treatment of people suffering from psychological distress. In October, The Society for Humanistic Psychology, Division 32 of the APA, wrote an Open Letter to the DSM-5 Task Force outlining specific areas of scientific concern that mental health professionals found questionable, asking for greater transparency and outside scrutiny of the most controversial DSM-5 proposals. Later posted as an online petition, within months more than 12,000 mental health professionals, and others, had signed the Open Letter petition.

In an attempt to keep readers abreast of DSM-5 developments, The New Existentialists will post blogs, articles, and other media of interest from various philosophical and psychological perspectives to offer a comprehensive view of this important and historic time in the evolution of clinical psychology.


Blogs dedicated to following the DSM-5:


-- DSM-V in Distress:  the Psychology Today blog of Dr. Allen Francis, the chair of the DSM-IV task force

-- DX Revision Watch: Suzy Chapman's exceptional watchdog site for issues around the DSM-V, ICD-11, and ICD-10-CM.  

-- Dx Summit: The Global Summit on Diagnostic Alternatives

The latest headlines from around the world:


The Distortion of Grief (Mareeg, May 14, 2013)
Mental Health Problems Should Not Be Labeled As Illness, Psychologists Claim (HNGN, May 13, 2013)
Media Debate Over Psychiatric Diagnosis (BPS, May 13, 2013)
Years in the making, controversial new psychiatry 'bible' about to launch (Calgary Herald, May 13, 2013)
Why the Fuss Over the D.S.M.-5? (The New York Times, May 12, 2013)
Shortcomings of a Psychiatric Bible (The New York Times, May 12, 2013)
Medicine's big new battleground: does mental illness really exist? (The Guardian, May 12, 2013)
Psychiatrists under fire in mental health battle (The Guardian, May 11, 2013)
Books blast new version of psychiatry's bible, the DSM (USA Today, May 10, 2013)
DSM, NIMH on mental illness: both miss relational, historical context of being human (, May 8, 2013)
Psychiatry’s Guide Is Out of Touch With Science, Experts Say (The New York Times, May 6, 2013)
The NIMH Withdraws Support for DSM-5 (Psychology Today, May 4, 2013)
How a Scientific Field Can Collapse: The Case of Psychiatry (Evolution News, May 8, 2013
No One Is Abandoning the DSM, but It Is Almost Time to Transform It (Scientific American, May 7, 2013)
*  American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual faces mounting criticism (, May 7, 2013)
One manual shouldn't dictate US mental health research (NewScientist, May 8, 2013)
After the DSM, What? (Psychology Today, May 6, 2013)
NIMH Won't Follow Psychiatry 'Bible' Anymore (Science, May 6, 2013)
Canada AM: Backlash over psychiatry's 'bible' (CTV, May 5, 2013)
Psychiatry in Crisis! Mental Health Director Rejects Psychiatric “Bible” and Replaces with… Nothing (Scientific American, May 4, 2013)
Paradigms lost: NIMH, McGorry & DSM-5’s failure (Left Flank, May 4, 2013)
Psychiatry divided as mental health 'bible' denounced (NewScientist, May 3, 2013)
DSM-5 and psychiatric progress (OUPblog, May 3, 2013)
The Real Problems With Psychiatry (The Atlantic, May 2, 2013)
Transforming Diagnosis (National Institute of Mental Health, April 29, 2013)
When did life itself become a treatable mental disorder? (The Globe and Mail, April 27, 2013)
Examine Social Factors to Explain Rise in Diagnoses of Mental Disorders, Researchers Say (HealthCanal, April 25, 2013)
Examine Social Factors to Explain Rise in Diagnoses of Mental Disorders (ScienceDaily, April 25, 2013)
The International Reaction to DSM-5 (The Huffington Post, April 25, 2013)
Does Psychiatry Need Science? (The New Yorker, April 23, 2013)
New guidebook could label more than half of Americans with mental disorders (MSN News, April 18, 2013)
Diagnositis: The over-diagnosing of America (The Washington Times, April 15, 2013)
*  Abnormal Is the New Normal: Why will half of the U.S. population have a diagnosable mental disorder? (Slate, April 12, 2013)
Does DSM-5 Have a Captive Audience? (Huffington Post, April, 14, 2013)

Grief, Tantrums and a Bad Memory Could Equal ‘Crazy’ Soon (TakePart, April 11, 2013)

The D.S.M. and the Nature of Disease (The New Yorker, April 9, 2013)

Medicalising Grief (MISS Foundation, April 2013)
*  New psychiatric diagnostic guidlelines lead to fear of over-diagnosis (, March 31, 2013)

DSM-5 Somatic Symptom Disorder Debate Rages On (Medscape Today News, Mar. 21, 2013)

Psychologists to fight new list of mental illnesses (The Times UK, Mar. 21, 2013)

International Mental Health Experts Call for Boycott of DSM5 (Scoop Independent News, Mar. 21, 2013)

Psychiatry 'Bible' DSM-5 Will Add PTSD for Preschoolers (ABC News, Mar. 20, 2013)

The Petition Against DSM-5 (Mad in America, Mar. 20, 2013)

Concerns raised about new psychiatric guidelines (University of Liverpool News, Mar. 20, 2013)

The new somatic symptom disorder in DSM-5 risks mislabeling many people as mentally ill (BMJ, Mar. 19, 2013)

Normal behaviour, or mental illness? A look at the new psychiatric guidelines that are pitting doctors against doctors (, Mar. 19, 2013)

Why DSM-5 Concerns European Psychiatrists (Psychology Today, Mar. 18, 2013)
*  Are we over-diagnosing mental illness? (22News, March 17, 2013)

Are we over-diagnosing mental illness? (CNN, Mar. 16, 2013)

Statement of Concern Calls for Boycott of DSM-V (, Mar. 1, 2013)

‘The sickening of society’: New psychiatric disorder could label people who worry about their physical health as mentally ill (National Post, Feb. 18, 2013)
Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry (The New York Times, Feb. 6, 2013)

Why Will DSM-5 Cost $199 a Copy? (Huffington Post, Jan. 24, 2013)

Grief Over New Depression Diagnosis (The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2013)

Grief and Anxiety Are Not Mental Illnesses (BBC UK, Jan. 17, 2013)

Bad News: DSM 5 Refuses to Correct Somatic Symptom Disorder (Psychology Today, Jan. 16, 2013)

When the Diagnostic Thresholds Are Lowered, Being 'Normal' Becomes Unachievable (Medical Express, Jan. 13, 2013)

Last Plea to DSM-5: Save Grief from Drug Companies (Huffington Post, Jan. 7, 2013)

Farewell to Aspies: Some families reluctant to let go of Asperger's diagnosis (Today Moms, Jan. 4, 2013)

*  How Many Billions a Year Will the DSM-5 Cost? (Bloomberg News, Dec. 20, 2012)

Firestorm Over New Psychiatry Bible (Discovery Magazine, Dec. 17, 2012)

Will New 'Psychiatric Bible" Change Diagnoses? (Minnesota Public Radio, Dec. 18, 2012)

The DSM-5: Anachronistic Before Its Time -- Boycott the DSM-5 (Mad in America, Dec. 10, 2012)

The DSM's Controversial Update (The Daily Beast, Dec. 10, 2012)

*  Changes to the psychiatrists' bible, DSM: Some reactions (LA Times, Dec. 9, 2012)

*  The New Temper Tantrum Disorder (Slate, Dec. 7, 2012)

Why Are People So Interested in the DSM-5? (Scientific American, Dec. 6, 2012)

*  DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible—Ignore Its Ten Worst Changes (Psychology Today, Dec. 2, 2012)

*  Redefining Addiction (, July 10, 2012)

* The bipolar explosion: Psychiatry is at last asking the right questions about a remarkable shift in mental health diagnosis (The Guardian, June 20, 2012)

*  Last Chance To Comment on Psychiatric Disorders in the DSM-5  (Mother Jones, June 15, 2012)

*  Follow the Money (Huffington Post, June 9, 2012)

*  Diagnosing the DSM (The New York Times, May 11, 2012)

*  Psychiatry Manual Drafters Back Down on Diagnoses (The New York Times, May 8, 2012)

*  Wonderful News: DSM 5 Finally Begins Its Belated and Necessary Retreat  (Huffington Post, May 4, 2012)

Psychiatry's Bible, the DSM, is doing more harm than good (Washington Post, April 27, 2012)

PMDD May Get More Validation in DSM-5 (Family Practice News, April 18, 2012)

Definitive Study Rejects the Diagnosis of 'Psychosis Risk' and Finds No Treatment Benefit (Huffington Post, April 16, 2012)

If Gambling, Games, and Sex are Addictive, What is Addiction? (Huffington Post, April 16, 2012)

Follow the Money: Why Relationships May Soon Be Psychiatric Diseases (Huffington Post, April 6, 2012)

Doctor: Why we're making changes to autism diagnosis (CNN Health, April 6, 2012)

Diagnostic disarray (Therapy Today 23(3), April 2012)

DSM-5 Proposals for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Oxford University Press Blog, March 29, 2012)

A Turning Point for DSM 5: Will the APA Trustees Finally Step Up to the Plate?  (Huffington Post, March 23, 2012)

What counts as crazy?  (Time Magazine, March 19, 2012)

Should APA Purge SDM Panels with Pharma Ties?  (, March 15, 2012)

DSM-5 Criticized for Financial Conflicts of Interest (ABC News, March 13, 2012)

A Comparison of DSM-IV and DSM-5 Panel Members' Financial Associations with Industry:  A Pernicious Problem Persists (PLoS Medicine, March 13, 2012)

*  Is grief a form of depression? (The Atlantic, March 3, 2012)

DSM-V Critics Pump Up the Volume (, Feb. 29, 2012)

DSM-V ignites a firestorm of controversy: but so far Saybrook remains the only University to take a stand (The New Existentialists, Feb. 22, 2012)
Individual difference suffers in the neverending explosion of mental illness (The Australian, Feb. 18, 2012)
American Psychiatric Association Under Fire for New Disorders (ABC News, Feb. 10, 2012)
Psychologists fear US manual will widen mental illness diagnosis (The Guardian of London, Feb. 9, 2012)

*  Proposed changes to autism definition may mean new diagnoses for people with Asperger's (CBS News, Jan 20, 2012)

*  Revision of psychiatric manual under fire (San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 26, 2011)

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