History of the DSM

DSM History

The need for a classification of mental disorders has been clear throughout the history of medicine, but until recently there was little agreement on which disorders should be included and the optimal method for their organization.

The many different classification systems that were developed over the past 2,000 years have differed in their relative emphasis on phenomenology, etiology, and course as defining features. Some systems included only a handful of diagnostic categories; others included thousands. Moreover, the various systems for categorizing mental disorders have differed with respect to whether their principal objective was for use in clinical, research, or administrative settings.

Because the history of classification is too extensive to be summarized here, this summary focuses only on those aspects that have led directly to the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and to the mental–disorders sections in the various editions of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).


Beginning in 2000, work groups were formed to create a research agenda for the fifth major revision of DSM (DSM–5). These work groups generated hundreds of white papers, monographs, and journal articles, providing the field with a summary of the state of the science relevant to psychiatric diagnosis and letting it know where gaps existed in the current research, with hopes that more emphasis would be placed on research within those areas. In 2007, APA formed the DSM–5 Task Force to begin revising the manual as well as 13 work groups focusing on various disorder areas. DSM–5 was published in 2013. DSM–5 website.––>


Development of DSM–III

Post–World War II

Pre–World War II