National Institute of Mental Health Drops DSM Use

For many in the mental health industry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is an important tool. The fifth revision of the DSM is out, but not every entity will be giving it the same weight of importance it has had for many years.The National Institute of Mental Health, which provides millions of dollars in federal grants to study mental health issues, is making a departure from the DSM. The Institute said it is “re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.” An official with the institute said the DSM is simply a dictionary that creates labels but lacks validity.

The DSM amasses a variety of information regarding clinical symptoms to come to a consensus on its definitions. The institute would prefer more objective definitions that come from laboratories. The institute has decided to replace the DSM with the Research Domain Criteria, or RDoC. This document defines mental disorders based on genetic and cognitive data.

The decision to use more quantitative data has caused a flurry of activity on various mental health websites across the U.S. But officials from the institute say that they are committed to new and more efficient treatments and feel that the only way to move in that direction is to have a more precise system for diagnosing and defining mental disorders and diseases.

The move is expected to affect researchers more than others in the industry. Researchers, who rely heavily on funding from the institute to do their work, will have to operate under a new set of rules in writing their grants. The upside of this move is that years from now, patients might be seeing more precise diagnoses and receive better treatment for their mental issues.

Posted on August 19th, 2013

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