DSM-5: An Overview of Changes and Controversies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The DSM-5 offers many changes in the criteria and categories used in clinical diagnosis. The provocative and sometimes controversial nature of the changes has enlivened debate in the mental health field about how we should best understand our clients. I selectively survey what is new in DSM-5, why changes were made, and what about them is so controversial. First, I summarize the main metastructural and organizational changes, including elimination of the multiaxial system and changed chapter groupings. Second, I survey the most important new categories of disorder and the most important changes to the diagnostic criteria for existing categories of disorder. I focus on particularly controversial changes, such as those to substance use and addictive disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Pros and cons are provided for changes in criteria as well as for the addition of new disorder categories, such as hoarding disorder and binge eating disorder. Finally, I offer a more in-depth review and analysis of the changes to the depressive disorders chapter, which was subject to some of the most intense controversies and had some of the most extensive changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-154
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Social Work Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Clinical social work
  • DSM-5
  • Depressive disorders
  • Diagnosis
  • Harmful dysfunction
  • Mental disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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