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DSM Revisions and ADHD: Should You Care?

DSM IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersMy first post for 2012 takes me full circle to one of the inaugural posts I wrote for ADHD from A to Zoë back in 2010.

At the time, my ADHD diagnosis was a mere 2 years old, and I had a bag full of questions I needed answered, not least of which was: What The #$#%! Is ADHD?

It turned out that the answer was not that straight-forward. Nor, it would seem, is it any more so today.

As the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) approaches, I’ve been thinking about writing about the process, the outcome (DSM 5), and its impact on adults, adolescents, and kids with ADHD.

ADHD research relevant to the revision process

An example of new developments includes research that suggests a new, completely separate condition derived from what we now know as the Predominately Inattentive (PI) subtype of ADHD. With symptoms taken from the PI subtype, the new diagnosis would be called Slow Cognitive Tempo (SCT) (Barkley, et al).

Some suggest that a completely new approach to diagnosis should be considered. One of these approaches is Dr. Tim Bilkey’s Patient Presentation Screen, developed in 2009.

These are but two of the complicating factors that I’d hope would be considered when revising the DSM as it pertains to the diagnosis of ADHD.

It’s more than science complicating the process

It’s been 17 years since the DSM IV was published, in 1994. I’d planned to begin my series of DSM 5-related posts today. Surprisingly, my research took me on yet another full circle, right back to Psych Central Founder and Editor-in-Chief Dr. John Grohol’s recent post, Some of the Empty Arguments Against the DSM 5.

After reading Dr. Grohol’s post and the lengthy discussion that follows, I came to a grinding halt. It appears that current discussion amongst mental health professionals from various disciplines (and, it would seem, factions) has become somewhat adversarial. Instead of achieving clarity, I found myself becoming anxious when reading these comments and rebuttals.

The future of individuals suffering from ADHD rests in the balance of decisions made by mental health professionals. With the DSM 5 revision due to roll out in early 2013, maybe this is not the time for a public cat fight.

On the other hand, I would rather have valid disagreements out in the open than occurring behind closed doors. And I admit, it was illuminating to see this rift of opinion and how it played out amongst the mental health professionals who serve us. Still, I would have preferred a straight-forward accounting of the various points of view.

To read Dr. Gohol’s blog, and the comments that follow, click here. My comment calling (somewhat ironically) for focus – appears towards the end of the discussion.

I still have a few questions!

All this being said, I’m still committed to answering the following questions for myself, and for those of you whose lives the DSM 5 will impact:

  • Why should I know about the planned revisions to the ADHD diagnosis in DSM 5?
  • What are the main issues arising from this endeavor?
  • How will the new standards for ADHD diagnosis affect adults, adolescents and children with ADHD?
  • Is there any way I can offer input at this point? If so, how?
  • Will having a new version of the DSM have any positive effect on the practices of mental health professionals who will be using it to diagnose?  (e.g. – Will the publicity around DSM 5’s release help bring diagnosing practitioners up-to-date?  Will their diagnoses be more accurate? Will they more readily be able to “tease out” coexisting conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, etc.?)
  • What are the emerging diagnostic tools and approaches that are in competition with the DSM 5’s guidelines? Is there any chance that any of them will usurp the DSM 5 as a diagnostic tool?

Any questions from you?

What about you, dear readers?  Are you aware of the controversy and your stake in it?

Do you have any additional questions about the upcoming changes?

Please forward any questions you’d like me to pursue on this topic. I plan to interview as many professionals as I can to get a broad overview of opinions. I’ll report the results as they come in.

P.S. If you’re a woman, you can always take the excellent ADHD diagnostic tool developed by yours truly:

ADHD Diagnostic Quiz for Women

(Hey – why wasn’t I chosen for the task force to overhaul the DSM?  …I think I have another question!… )

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DSM Revisions and ADHD: Should You Care?

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2012). DSM Revisions and ADHD: Should You Care?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Jan 2012
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