DSM-5: Proposed changes to depressive disorders

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is currently undergoing a revision that will lead to a fifth edition in 2013. Proposed changes for DSM-5 include the creation of several new categories of depressive disorder. Some nosologists have expressed concern that the proposed changes could yield many 'false-positive diagnoses' in which normal distress is mislabeled as a mental disorder. Such confusion of normal distress and mental disorder undermines the interpretability of clinical trials and etiological research, causes inefficient allocation of resources, and incurs risks of unnecessary treatment. To evaluate these concerns, I critically examine five proposed DSM-5 expansions in the scope of depressive and grief disorders: (1) a new mixed anxiety/depression category; (2) a new premenstrual dysphoric disorder category; (3) elimination of the major depression bereavement exclusion; (4) elimination of the adjustment disorder bereavement exclusion, thus allowing the diagnosis of subsyndromal depressive symptoms during bereavement as adjustment disorders; and (5) a new category of adjustment disorder related to bereavement for diagnosing pathological non-depressive grief. I examine each proposal's face validity and conceptual coherence as well as empirical support where relevant, with special attention to potential implications for false-positive diagnoses. I conclude that mixed anxiety/depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder are needed categories, but are too broadly drawn and will yield substantial false positives; that the elimination of the bereavement exclusion is not supported by the evidence; and that the proposed elimination of the adjustment-disorder bereavement exclusion, as well as the new category of grief-related adjustment disorder, are inconsistent with recent grief research, which suggests that these proposals would massively pathologize normal grief responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-343
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Adjustment disorder
  • Bereavement
  • DSM-5
  • Diagnosis
  • False positives
  • Grief
  • Harmful dysfunction
  • Major depression
  • Mixed anxiety/depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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