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Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Nature and purposes

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a reference work consulted by psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians in clinical practice, social workers , medical and nursing students, pastoral counselors, and other professionals in health care and social service fields. The book's title is often shortened to DSM , or an abbreviation that also indicates edition, such as DSM-IV-TR, which indicates fourth edition, text revision of the manual, published in 2000. The DSM-IV-TR provides a classification of mental disorders, criteria sets to guide the process of differentialdiagnosis , and numerical codes for each disorder to facilitate medical record keeping. The stated purpose of the DSM is threefold: to provide "a helpful guide to clinical practice"; "to facilitate research and improve communication among clinicians and researchers"; and to serve as "an educational tool for teaching psychopathology."

The multi-axial system

The third edition of DSM , or DSM-III , which was published in 1980, introduced a system of five axes or dimensions for assessing all aspects of a patient's mental and emotional health. The multi-axial system is designed to provide a more comprehensive picture of complex or concurrent mental disorders. According to the DSM-IVTR, the system is also intended to "promote the application of the biopsychosocial model in clinical, educational and research settings." The reference to the biopsychosocial model is significant, because it indicates that the DSM-IV-TR does not reflect the view of any specific "school" or tradition within psychiatry regarding the cause or origin (also known as "etiology") of mental disorders. In other words, the DSM-IV-TR is atheoretical in its approach to diagnosis and classification— the axes and categories...

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