The DSM5 vs Medical Literature

Something that I have found coming up in conversation is the role of the DSM5. Many people use it as a reference when trying to better understand a diagnosis. Not a bad place to start. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is a diagnostic manual. This means that it doesn’t cover/explain a diagnosis in its entirety rather looks solely at what the criteria are for diagnosis.

This is important to keep in mind because there are often common traits or features in a diagnosis that are not mentioned in the manual because they are not part of the diagnostic process. I’ll use ADHD as an example of this. The DSM5 doesn’t discuss mood instability which is a common feature of the diagnosis. But it’s not a part of the diagnostic process since it isn’t the core of the diagnosis nor is it always seen. Because of this, the DSM5 doesn’t fully represent what a diagnosis encompasses. Rather it represents the essential features.

Using the DSM5 as a reference to understanding a diagnosis, will leaad to an incomplete picture of that diagnosis. The better place to go is directly to the medical literature on the diagnosis. This is were the experts int he field are discussing what they think about a diagnosis. This is also where current research is presented and thus will be the place to get the most up to date information.

Most of the medical literature data bases cost money to use, however there are some that are free and available to anyone. It can be difficult to know where to go to find these data bases and to know which data base is right for what you are currently researching. The University of Illinois has created a wonderful web page that helps you choose the right data base.

Public Health Data Bases

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