The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is widely known as the bible of psychiatry and psychology.
But not many people know how this powerful and influential book came to be. Here’s a brief look at the DSM’s evolution and where we are today.
The Need for Classification
The origins of the DSM date back to 1840 — when the government wanted to collect data on mental illness. The term “idiocy/insanity” appeared in that year’s census.
Forty years later, the census expanded to feature these seven categories: “mania, melancholia, monomania, paresis, dementia, dipsomania and epilepsy.”
But there was still a need to gather uniform stats across mental hospitals. In 1917, the Bureau of the Census embraced a publication called the Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane. It was created by the Committee on Statistics of the American Medico-Psychological Association (now the American Psychiatric Association) and the National Commission on Mental Hygiene. The committees separated mental illness into 22 groups. The manual went through 10 editions until 1942.
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