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DSM cautionary statement
A DSM cautionary statement is required to create balance and perspective for the various diagnoses and criteria used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM provides diagnostic categories and criteria for their diagnoses. The proper use of these requires clinical training, knowledge and skills to apply them. Their use by people without this background is likely to lead to an inappropriate application of diagnoses.
The various criteria and diagnostic discussions based on the DSM are provided for information. Any reader who believes that they or someone close to them could be diagnosed with one of the conditions mentioned is advised to consult with a specialist in the field (a psychiatrist or psychologist) for further clarification. The criteria that are described in the DSM are meant to be used by clinicians and investigators. They should not be used in a legal setting without considering other aspects which are not specifically mentioned.
The criteria and classification system of the DSM are based on the majority opinion of people who represent American mental health specialists. Therefore, the content of the DSM does not reflect all opinions on the subject of psychopathology. The criteria, and the way they are applied by individual clinicians are at least to some extent influenced by cultural variables. What is and what is not considered a mental disorder changes over time. For example, several decades ago homosexuality was commonly considered a mental disorder, and it was listed in the DSM as such. Today, homosexuality is seen by most psychologists and psychiatrists as a normal sexual orientation. It is also known that diagnosis of some mental disorders is influenced by gender role expectations. That is, while diagnostic criteria do not mention gender, clinicians diagnose women's and men's behaviour in different ways.1
The categories do not represent a complete list of all psychiatric disorders or research topics. For instance, the DSM does not categorize mental disorders that are specific to other (i.e. non-American) cultures, such as koro, susto, or taijin kyofusho. The DSM categories do not include many uncommon or rare syndromes although at times they are mentioned in the text.
1 Ford, M. R. & Widiger, T. A. (1989) Sex bias in the diagnosis of histrionic and antisocial personality disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 301-305.
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