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Rethinking the Classification of Mental Illness

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is scheduled to be released in May 2013. This recent Dana Foundation article points out the need of a fundamentally different approach based on the new ways researchers use to study and understand mental illness.

The problem with the DSM-IV, our current shared diagnostic language, is that a large and growing body of evidence demonstrates that it does a poor job of capturing either clinical and biological realities. In the clinic, the limitations of the current DSM-IV approach can be illustrated in three salient areas: (1) the problem of comorbidity, (2) the widespread need for “not otherwise specific (NOS)” diagnoses, and (3) the arbitrariness of diagnostic thresholds.

Whatever the ultimate approach to the DSM-5, it is critical that the scientific community escape the artificial diagnostic silos that control so much research, ultimately to our detriment.

Key questions: How can we give the research community not only permission but also encouragement to rethink the classification of psychopathology? How can we encourage scientific innovation while ensuring that clinicians can still communicate with patients and families—and also with insurance companies, schools, and courts?

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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