The development of DSM-III from a historical/conceptual perspective

Michael B. First

in Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry II

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199642205
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754777 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The development of DSM-III from a historical/conceptual perspective

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It is widely acknowledged that DSM-III represented a paradigm shift in psychiatric classification (Blashfield 1984; Decker 2007; Mayes and Horwitz 2005; Wilson 1993). Klerman (1984 p. 539) called the publication of DSM-III in 1980 “a fateful point in the history of the American psychiatric profession.” DSM-III marshaled the use of operationalized diagnostic criteria for the definitions of its mental disorders, removed the influence of untested etiological hypotheses from its organizational structure in favor of a descriptive “atheoretical approach,” and reframed the biopsychosocial model in terms of a multiaxial approach to diagnosis. As will be explicated in this paper, none of these innovative ideas arose de novo as a result of the DSM-III developmental process. Instead, the main innovation of DSM-III was its adoption of ideas which had previously been tested and found to be useful in research settings, into a manual of mental disorders designed primarily for clinical use.

Chapter.  6854 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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