What is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders (DSM)?
In the United States, the DSM, now in its 5th edition (DSM-5), is the most widely used clinical diagnostic schemata for psychiatric disorders.
While the earliest form of the DSM was intended solely as a research tool, it has since undergone revisions to improve the validity of its diagnostic constructs and, by incorporating developmental, medical, psychological, and psychosocial factors, expand in clinical utility and is used to inform treatment selection, patient education, and prognosis and to facilitate clinical communication.
Does the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders describe specific diseases?
Diagnoses in the DSM are based on sign and symptom clusters (phenomenology) involving cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral dysfunction and are more akin to syndromes than diseases; the clinical presentation and course, rather than a specific etiopathology, defines the diagnosis.
As such, there is often overlap among diagnostic criteria, and many disorders are considered to exist on a spectrum (and/or dimensions) ranging from normal experience/response to persistent and pervasive pathology (i.e., personality disorders).
At what point do symptoms (e.g., sad feelings) become a disorder (e.g., major depressive disorder) as defined in the DSM?
Generally, to meet diagnostic criteria of a disorder the symptoms must result in distress and disruption of functional ability of the individual (e.g., interference with work).
Allowances are made for culturally/religiously normative behaviors or sociopolitical deviance