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DSM? What DSM?

DSM-5 including diagnostics for adult ADHDWhat’s happening with the DSM? I haven’t heard a peep lately. Have you?

In case you hadn’t heard, the DSM-5, which is the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is scheduled to be released this May.

That’s like a month and a half away, people. Am I the only one getting nervous?

Lately, I’ve heard nothing.

It’s quiet.

It’s too quiet.

To recap

Last year, there was a massive brouhaha about the impending changes in the DSM-5. It was an all-out knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out fight there for a while between (some) psychiatrists and (some) psychologists, the occasional intrepid blogger and others who dared to weigh in.

Just to remind you, for those of us with ADHD, the changes will definitely have ramifications. The diagnostics for adult ADHD are supposed to be delineated for the first time in history in this version of the psychiatrist’s most-used go-to manual.

I’m wary of silence.

Maybe I’m just paranoid.

I can’t help but get nervous when the lives of countless adults with undiagnosed ADHD lie in the balance. As we learn more about ADHD in adults, will the new diagnostics be relevant?

Surely they will be relevant to the clinicians who diagnose and treat adults with ADHD.

Or maybe not…

While writing this piece, I reviewed the decisions and developments that have led up to the final version of the soon-to-be-published fifth revision.

Sure enough, our own esteemed Dr. John Grohol (Psych Central’s Founder), wrote a piece over a year ago that put my mind at ease:

Diagnosis of a DSM 5 News Cycle

It’s worth a read, but a couple sentences from the last paragraph were what put my mind at ease:

When the DSM-5 is published next year, the world will not end.  …And mental health professionals will adapt to the new changes with little effort on their part.

But with such a complex, controversial, and much-misunderstood phenomenon as adult ADHD (especially as it presents in women), will this one-size-fits-all approach really be effective?

What about all the conflicting approaches to diagnosing ADHD? I’ve written previously about a profile-based approach, one which seems to be gathering steam, and of course there is my own noteworthy diagnostic tool for women with ADHD (which, surprisingly, has not yet risen to the prominence I fully expect it will achieve.) (Some day soon I’m sure.)

But back to the future

So what’s a diagnostician to do?

Again, Dr.Grohol to the rescue:

Keep in mind, the use and adoption of the DSM is completely a market-driven, voluntary choice. Nobody is demanding professionals use the DSM to diagnose mental disorders in the U.S.

As new research emerges, new books are published, and clinicians gain experience in diagnosing and treating ADHD, perhaps the DSM-5 will no longer be the tool of choice but will take its place alongside other, perhaps more relevant, approaches in diagnosing ADHD. Only time will tell.

It’s going to be an interesting year.

As always, if you’re considering seeking a diagnosis, learn all you can to find what makes sense for you. Here are some articles to get you started:

THIS JUST IN! (I love my blog readers)

I just received a comment (for full comment, click on the “Comments” link below) that will get us all up to speed on the latest concerns with regard to the DSM-5 . Thanks to Dr. Robbins, Co-Chair, International DSM-5 Response Committee, for providing this update:

The American Psychological Association’s Division 32, the International DSM-5 Response Committee, has just introduced a new website critical of the DSM-5:

Stop the Insanity

A petition is available to sign there if individuals share the same concerns.
The story has been picked up by CNN, MacLean’s, and London’s The Times, etc.

Why Psychiatry Needs to Scrap the DSM System: An Immodest Proposal by Ronald Pies, M.D.

On Scrapping the DSM and Stories, Eh? by Zoë Kessler

New ADHD Diagnostic Test – The Quotient ADHD System® by Zoë Kessler

And, just for fun: New ADHD Subtypes Discovered! by Zoë Kessler


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DSM? What DSM?

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. (2019). DSM? What DSM?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Mar 2019
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