This article was written by Diana Holmes, the Caregiver Homes Branch Manager for the Attleboro/Taunton area in Mass.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been used as a guide by professionals in the mental health profession in understanding disorders. The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) with the support and guidance of task force members and work groups, and it establishes a criteria and common language for the industry. With the release of the DSM-5 planned for May of 2013, industry professionals look forward to learning about changes in developmental disorders, substance related disorders, neurocognitive disorders and updates in depressive, anxiety and OCD criteria. The release is one of the most anticipated in the mental health field, so it is valuable to understand the history and process of developing this manual.

The DSM-I was first published in 1952 and has evolved over time. According to the APA, "particularly over the past two decades, there has been a wealth of new information in neurology, genetics and the behavioral sciences that dramatically expands our understanding of mental illness." With new knowledge gained in the field, the manual is updated to reflect changes in how mental health professionals recognize symptoms and diagnosis disorders. The manual does not state treatment options, but it is a foundation and framework for understanding disorders.

The new DSM-5 was guided by four principles, according to the APA:
1) The highest priority is clinical utility – that is, making sure the manual is useful to those who diagnose and treat patients with mental illness, and to the patients being treated.
2) All recommendations should be guided by research evidence.
3) Whenever possible, DSM-5 should maintain continuity with previous editions.
4) No a priori restraints should be placed on the level of change permitted between DSM-IV and DSM-5.

Using the most recent research as a guide to improve the manual was a priority. Both the task force and work groups consisted of 162 members as well as over 300 advisors to lead the process. There were also over 12,000 emails from health professionals, advocates, patients and family members providing feedback from the draft. The process of writing the DSM-5 has certainly been a daunting task which has been inclusive of all with an interest in the field.

As we anticipate the DSM-5 at Caregiver Homes, we will stay current with the developments and updates that are recognized in the field.

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