Diagnosing and Classifying Psychological Disorders

Critical Thinking Questions

Describe the DSM-5. What is it, what kind of information does it contain, and why is it important to the study and treatment of psychological disorders?


The DSM-5 is the classification system of psychological disorders preferred by most U.S. mental health professionals, and it is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It consists of broad categories of disorders and specific disorders that fall within each category. Each disorder has an explicit description of its symptoms, as well as information concerning prevalence, risk factors, and comorbidity. The DSM-5 provides a common language that enables mental health professionals to communicate effectively about sets of symptoms.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the DSM differ in various ways. What are some of the differences in these two classification systems?


The ICD is used primarily for making clinical diagnoses and more broadly for examining the general health of populations and monitoring the international prevalence of diseases and other health problems. While the DSM is also used for diagnostic purposes, it is also highly valued as a research tool. For example, much of the data regarding the etiology and treatment of psychological disorders are based on diagnostic criteria set forth in the DSM.