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Disability Guide DSM Undergoes First Major Update in Almost 20 Years

Posted on Dec 29, 2012

After almost 20 years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is undergoing a rewrite. The DSM is a diagnostic manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that lists the groupings of symptoms used to diagnose and define mental disorders. It is important because the guide helps determine both the diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for a given mental disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association said the goal of these changes is to make sure that mental illness is more accurately diagnosed, so that individuals with mental disabilities can get the treatment and services they need. It is estimated that the changes will affect millions of people worldwide. It’s likely that the changes also will have an impact on the criteria used to determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

Among the changes:

  • Asperger's disorder will now be grouped along with pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified), autism, and other related disabilities under the term “autism spectrum disorder.” This will allow children and adults with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS to receive services previously reserved for those with an autistic diagnosis.
  • Hoarding disorder has been added.
  • Dyslexia will be part of a broader category of learning disorders.
  • The diagnosis disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a new diagnosis for unusually severe tantrums that occur at least three times a week for more than a year.
  • The term “gender identity disorder” is replaced with “gender dysphoria.”
  • There is no longer a bereavement exclusion for depression.

It is unclear if the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, Disability Evaluations Under Social Security, will be updated to include the changes to the DSM. Our Massachusetts disability attorneys will keep you posted of any changes.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law