Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written in everyday language.

Classification and Diagnosis of Mental Illness

by Caroline Carney Doebbeling, MD, MSc

In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association first published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I), marking the first attempt to approach the diagnosis of mental illness through standardized definitions and criteria. The latest edition, DSM-IV-TR, published in 2000, provides a classification system that attempts to separate mental illnesses into diagnostic categories based on descriptions of symptoms (that is, what people say and do as a reflection of how they think and feel) and on the course of the illness. The next revision, DSM-5, is expected to be published in mid-2013. This revision is expected to describe mental disorders along a continuous spectrum of symptoms, rather than classifying them by categories.

The International Classification of Disease, 10th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM), a book published by the World Health Organization, uses diagnostic categories similar to those in the DSM-IV-TR. This similarity suggests that diagnoses of specific mental illnesses are becoming more standard and consistent throughout the world.