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Updating DSM-5: An Ongoing Process


The American Psychiatric Association (APA), the professional organization that oversees the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), better known as the DSM-5, is taking a new approach to updating the manual. DSM is used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders.

Historically, DSM was revised approximately once every 10-15 years following an exhaustive review of the scientific literature by workgroups of experts in psychiatric assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. The APA has adopted a new process that will incorporate scientific evidence in a more timely, cost-effective, and transparent manner. This will help health care professionals better diagnose and treat individuals living with mental illnesses.


The new revision process recognizes that advances in our understanding of mental disorders are ongoing and establishes the DSM as a “living document” that allows for timely changes. Changes will be made on a rolling basis and will be quickly available to health care providers and the public using the DSM electronic format (available by subscription at

Revisions to the DSM are overseen by the DSM Steering Committee, which consists of experts in psychiatric nosology from across the country. Proposals for changes to DSM can be made through an online portal and are organized according to the type of revision:

  • Changes to an existing diagnostic criteria set
  • Addition of a new diagnostic category or specifier
  • Deletion of an existing diagnostic category or specifier
  • Corrections or clarifications aimed at improving the understanding and application of a diagnostic criterion, specifier, or text

Five review committees will consider updates that involve substantive changes in five diagnostic categories:

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Serious mental disorders
  • Internalizing disorders
  • Externalizing disorders and personality disorders
  • Body systems disorders

A separate subcommittee will consider minor editorial changes to the text. Individuals submitting proposals for changes to the DSM must include contact information and institutional affiliation; summary evidence regarding the validity, reliability, clinical utility, and potential deleterious consequences of making the proposed change; and a disclosure form. (See more on requirements and expectations for proposals.) Below is the review process for proposed changes:

  1. APA staff conduct an initial review to ensure proposals are complete.
  2. Complete proposals are reviewed by the Steering Committee.
  3. Proposals that receive approval from the Steering Committee are forwarded to the appropriate Review Committee.
  4. The Review committee formulates a draft of the proposed changes that must receive approval by the Steering Committee to be released for a 30-day public comment period.
  5. Public comments received and considered by the Review Committee will be utilized in development of a final draft of the proposed change.
  6. A second review for approval will be completed by the Steering Committee and sent to the APA Board of Trustees.
  7. The APA Board of Trustees will conduct a review for final approval.

Submit your proposal for consideration here!



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