If you’re working in the mental healthcare profession, including addiction rehabilitation – or if you’re in recovery and treatment for addiction – chances are good that you’ve heard of the DSM-V (often referred to as the DSM-5).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been around since the 1950s, helping guide healthcare decision-making by doctors and other mental health professionals in North America and worldwide.

It’s not the only tool doctors use to help diagnose mental disorders like addictions, but it is a commonly used resource. And despite the criticism against it, and some of the challenges of using it in everyday practice, the DSM is a valuable tool healthcare professionals need to know about.

What is the DSM-V?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook used by healthcare professionals to guide diagnosis of mental disorders. The DSM-5 (or DSM-V) is the latest edition of this handbook, published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association

The DSM is constantly under review and revision by the Association as research and understanding of mental health increases and improves; further editions are expected if and when updates need to be made.

What makes the DSM so useful is its comprehensive catalogue of descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for doctors to use when talking to each other, and to patients and their families, helping ensure consistent and reliable diagnoses as well as usable data for research. 

Addiction in the latest DSM

The DSM is commonly used in addiction and rehabilitation to help diagnose and treat people’s addictions and other mental health issues.

Importantly, the DSM-5 defines addictions to alcohol and drugs as psychiatric disorders. By including addiction in the DSM as an aspect of mental health, the psychiatric profession has reinforced what we know from research and rehabilitation: that addiction is a brain disease.

The major change regarding addiction in the DSM-5 edition is that it combines together the categories of substance dependence (addiction marked by a pattern of compulsive use or loss of control) and substance abuse disorders (using in a manner that causes problems but does not have a pattern of compulsive use) under one broad category called “substance-related disorders”.

Substance-Related Disorders and the DSM

Specifically, the DSM-5 recognizes substance-related disorders resulting from the use of 10 separate classes of drugs:

Plus, the DSM-5 lists two distinct groups of substance-related disorders: substance use disorders and substance-induced disorders. Both groups are important in the diagnosis, treatment, and research of drug and alcohol use and addiction.

Challenges to Using the DSM

The DSM is not the only reference out there to diagnose addiction or any other mental health condition. The World Health Organization publishes the International Classification of Disease, which is often used side-by-side with the DSM as a compatible tool for diagnosis and monitoring.

Some, like the National Institutes of Health, have criticized the DSM for focusing too much on superficial symptoms and a lack of measurable, scientific signs of mental health disorders. Others, like Alcoholics Anonymous, prefer to use models outside such clinical classification systems.

However, here at Renascent we recognize that the DSM does contain the most up-to-date criteria currently used for diagnosing mental disorders like addiction, and that despite its challenges, it is routinely and widely used. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Even with tools and handbooks like the DSM, it can be difficult on your own to recognize and admit that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol

There is unfortunately no single question that will definitively determine if you are an addict, but if you are here asking that very question, you can likely use help and someone to talk to.

Addiction is a serious disorder and real help is available. We’ve helped almost 50,000 people recover from addiction. We can help you too.

For a free and confidential consultation with one of our counsellors, or to get information on how to refer a patient to us, contact us today.