An Overview of the DSM-5

Mental health disorders are one of the most common types of medical conditions seen in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50% of people will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, to provide a resource to help healthcare providers diagnose these mental health disorders. Learn more from this overview of the DSM-5.

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What Is the DSM-5?

The DSM-5 is organized into sections. Section one contains information about how to use the manual. Section two includes common signs and symptoms—called "diagnostic criteria"—for specific mental disorders.

The third section of the manual includes assessment measures, a guide to cultural formulation, and alternative ways to conceptualize personality disorders to help mental health professionals in the decision-making process. This section also talks about conditions that need to be researched more in the future.

DSM-5 Diagnoses

The DSM-5 covers a range of diagnoses, including depressive disorders, eating and feeding disorders, personality disorders, and trauma- and stressor-related disorders.

Who Developed the DSM-5 and What Is Its Purpose?

According to the APA, information about mental health disorders has been collected since the mid-1800s to track the number of people with these conditions. After World War II, the U.S. Army came up with a new system to better describe mental health conditions in veterans.

Around the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) also included a section on mental health disorders in its International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD)—a resource that collects information about diseases and health conditions across the globe—for the first time.

The first edition of the DSM was published in 1952 by the APA Committee on Nomenclature and Statistics. This was the first official manual of mental disorders designed for use by healthcare professionals.

Since 1952, updates have been made to the DSM, leading up to its most recent publication in 2013 as the 5th edition. A supplement to the DSM-5 was published in 2018. On its website, the American Psychiatric Association also provides updates to the DSM-5 as they occur.

Who Uses the DSM-5?

The DSM-5 is a resource that can be used by many different health professionals to assist in the diagnosis of mental disorders. A variety of people use the DSM-5; psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, and licensed professional counselors most commonly use this resource. Medical doctors and nurses also use the DSM-5, as they often meet with patients who have mental disorders.

However, the DSM-5 can be a resource for anyone who wants to learn more about mental health conditions. The text includes a “glossary of technical terms” that can help make the information easier to understand.

Although the DSM-5 contains a lot of information about diagnosing mental disorders, it does not tell the reader how to treat these conditions.

The Types of Mental Disorders the DSM-5 Covers

Hundreds of mental disorders are included in the DSM-5. Each one includes a code that matches the International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition, Clinical Modification.

Mental Disorder Diagnoses

Mental disorder diagnoses are classified under 20 headings, which are organized into chapters of the DSM-5. These include:

  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders
  • Bipolar and Related Disorders
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
  • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders
  • Elimination Disorders
  • Sleep-Wake Disorders
  • Sexual Dysfunctions
  • Gender Dysphoria
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders
  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders
  • Neurocognitive Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Paraphilic Disorders
  • Other Disorders

Each heading is then broken down into categories on mental health conditions that fall underneath it. For example, there are seven conditions that fall under the heading "Neurodevelopmental Disorders":

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Communication disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Specific learning disorder
  • Motor disorders
  • Other neurodevelopmental disorders

Each of these seven categories contains a list of specific mental conditions. These conditions are listed in the order they are most likely to appear during a person's life. Disorders that commonly affect children are described first.

For example, the "Intellectual disabilities" category lists the following conditions:

  • Intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder)
  • Global developmental delay
  • Unspecified intellectual disability

How Is the DSM-5 Used to Help Diagnose a Mental Disorder?

The DSM-5 helps healthcare providers diagnose a patient with a mental disorder by providing a list of common signs and symptoms that occur. For example, a diagnosis of "major depressive disorder" can be made if the following conditions are met:

Five or more of the following symptoms during the same two-week period, with at least one of the symptoms being depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure:

  • Depressed mood most of the day
  • Significantly decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Major change in weight
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Restlessness or significant decrease in normal activity levels
  • Feeling exhausted or having a loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death

The DSM-5 also provides information about things that can increase a person's risk of having a mental disorder. These include temperamental, environmental, genetic, and physiological factors.

Culture and gender also play a role in mental health disorders.

Looking Toward the Future

The DSM-5 also contains a section called "Conditions for Further Study." It talks about mental health disorders that need more research. However, this section of the book is not meant to be used to diagnose patients. Examples include:

  • Persistent complex bereavement disorder
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Nonsuicidal self-injury

A Word From Verywell

While the DSM-5 is a helpful resource, it is not meant to be used for diagnosing yourself or a loved one with a mental health disorder.

If you think you might have a mental health condition, see your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many mental health disorders are in the DSM-5?

    The DSM-5 presents information on hundreds of mental health disorders.

  • When was the DSM-5 published?

    The DSM-5 was published in 2013.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control. What is mental health? Updated June 28, 2021.

  2. American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, DSM-5. New Delhi, India: CBS Publishers & Distributors.

  3. American Psychiatric Association. DSM history. 2021.

  4. American Psychiatric Association. DSM Library. 2021.