n African Journal of Psychiatry - Will forensic psychiatry survive DSM-5? : forensic forum

Volume 15, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1994-8220



The fifth edition of the (DSM-5) will be released in 2013, and if, as anticipated, introduces wide ranging changes, may not only wipe out large swathes of accepted research but will reinforce the already prevalent view that psychiatric diagnoses are mostly arbitrary and have questionable validity. No other medical speciality suffers this indignity. The President of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently pointed out that the original purpose of DSM was to improve interrater reliability in psychiatric diagnosis, and although the original intention was to stimulate research into establishing their validity DSM diagnoses have actually become reified (as if they were real entities). In the bad old days psychiatric diagnoses were often idiosyncratic and localised either to a country, or theorist. Even nowadays some of those curious entities still bubble up into our courts, such as the quaint 'catathymic crisis' that is often produced to explain that a defendant lost his temper, because he simply couldn't take it (whatever 'it' was) anymore.

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