DSM-5: A brief introduction [#Blog4MH]

When you get to reading about mental disorders and diagnoses, it is very likely you will run into acronyms such as DSM-5, DSM-V, DSM-IV, and DSM-IV-TR.

This is a short post that, hopefully, will give you a rough idea of what those acronyms are.




Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is one of the two most commonly used diagnostic systems for mental illness, the other being the International Classification of Diseases, 10th ed. (ICD-10). In Singapore, mental health professionals generally follow the DSM1.

DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.
– American Psychiatric Association2

The DSM provides certain criteria that have to be present in order for someone to be diagnosed with a disorder. People tend to self-diagnose themselves upon reading the DSM without realising that it was written, and is meant to be, for trained mental health professionals2 . While reading it can give you an idea of what someone may be suffering from, it is not something you should use to diagnose anyone if you are not trained.


DSM-IV: The fourth edition of the manual was published in 1994.
DSM-IV-TR: In 2000, it was updated and titled Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)3 .


The fifth edition of the manual (DSM-V or DSM-5) was published in 20134 and is the latest one thus far. Apart from diagnostic criteria, the DSM-V also includes text that goes into further detail regarding a disorder, such as looking at specifiers, prevalence rates, and risk factors 5. Specifiers are used at the end of a diagnosis, such as major depressive disorder with psychotic features.

The disorders in the DSM are categorised into different groups (e.g. Depressive Disorders, Schizophrenia Spectrum and Related Disorders, and Anxiety Disorders) 4. You can view the full content page here. Several changes, with regards to diagnosis criteria and classification of disorders, were made in the DSM-5.

Additional reading

  1. About DSM-5 and Development: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/about-dsm
  2. DSM-5 Fact Sheets: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/educational-resources/dsm-5-fact-sheets
  3. DSM History: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/history-of-the-dsm


  1. Ministry of Health. (2011). Bipolar disorder: Clinical practice guidelines. Retrieved from https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/dam/moh_web/HPP/Doctors/cpg_medical/current/2011/MOHcpg_Bipolar%20Disorder_Booklet.pdf
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2017). DSM-5: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/feedback-and-questions/frequently-asked-questions
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.
  5. Beccaria, G. (2013). A student’s guide to DSM-5.  Milton, QLD: John Wiley & Sons.

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