Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Psychiatry's new manual (DSM-5): ethical and conceptual dimensions
  1. J S Blumenthal-Barby
  1. Correspondence to Professor J S Blumenthal-Barby, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, MS 420, Houston, TX 77030, USA; jsswinde{at}


The introduction of the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) in May 2013 is being hailed as the biggest event in psychiatry in the last 10 years. In this paper I examine three important issues that arise from the new manual:(1) Expanding nosology: Psychiatry has again broadened its nosology to include human experiences not previously under its purview (eg, binge eating disorder, internet gaming disorder, caffeine use disorder, hoarding disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder). Consequence-based ethical concerns about this expansion are addressed, along with conceptual concerns about a confusion of “construct validity” and “conceptual validity” and a failure to distinguish between “disorder” and “non disordered conditions for which we help people.”(2) The role of claims about societal impact in changes in nosology: Several changes in the DSM-5 involved claims about societal impact in their rationales. This is due in part to a new online open comment period during DSM development. Examples include advancement of science, greater access to treatment, greater public awareness of condition, loss of identify or harm to those with removed disorders, stigmatization, offensiveness, etc. I identify and evaluate four importantly distinct ways in which claims about societal impact might operate in DSM development. (3) Categorisation nosology to spectrum nosology: The move to “degrees of severity” of mental disorders, a major change for DSM-5, raises concerns about conceptual clarity and uniformity concerning what it means to have a severe form of a disorder, and ethical concerns about communication.

  • Concept of Mental Health
  • Psychiatry

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you