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DSM: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

Mental health professionals need a way of communicating about the disorders they treat. If a patient is referred from one doctor to another, there must be some common language with which to communicate about the nature of the disorder. This terminology is provided by a guidebook named DSM-IV. A version called DSM-IV-TR (text revision) was issued in 2000. It changed some of the text descriptions but did not alter diagnostic categories. DSM-V is scheduled to be published in 2012.

What is DSM-IV and how is it used?

DSM-IV is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Psychologists know the American Psychiatric Association as "the other APA." (When psychologists say APA, they mean the American Psychological Association).

What is an "exhaustive" listing of mental disorders?

DSM-IV provides an exhaustive classification system for mental disorders. In other words, nothing is left out. No matter how strange or uncommon the disorder, it can always be categorized using DSM-IV. However, this does not mean DSM-IV claims to be the last word on diagnostic categories or meaningful distinctions between various harmful dysfunctions. The American Psychiatric Association itself notes in DSM-IV-TR that the diagnostic labels are a "convenient shorthand."

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