Thursday, 23 April 2009

DSM V researchers still hard at work...

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (or DSM) is the primary clinical tool used by psychiatrists around the world. The current edition, which is a revised version of the fourth edition, is therefore called DSM IV TR.

Inevitably, the DSM has often figured large in family law cases, where it is often unfortunately necessary for one or both parties to be assessed psychiatrically. Any psychiatrist undertaking that assessment relies on the Bible of that profession, the DSM.

The significance of the DSM cannot be overstated- through its prism psychiatrists are able to diagnose conditions, for example schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder, so its statement of conditions as well as their symptoms can be critically important.

With this importance in mind, efforts to update the DSM to a fifth edition, or to use the jargon, DSM V, are of utmost importance, not only to psychiatrists but those affected by their assessments, including family law litigants. In a process that is taking years, and involves high powered committees, those who believe that they might gain from the new edition have been lobbying for inclusion or changes.

For example, some groups in favour of Parental Alienation Syndrome have lobbied to have it included in the DSM V and have it recognised as a syndrome. Others are equally keen to ensure that PAS remains where it is now, not recognised by the scientific community as a syndrome.

Currently, according to Psychiatric News, work is powering under way with a conference in New York, where vital questions have been asked such as:

First, what is a mental disorder? Is it symptoms? disease? functional disability? Should variants in behavior be considered disorders, and if so, how much variation?

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