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Volume 29 • Number 1

January 2015



The DSM-5 Definition of Mental Disorder

by Devin Singh and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Different people mean different things when they call a certain condition a "mental disorder." A psychiatrist might mean that a patient with that condition could or should have access to treatment. A pharmaceutical company might think of a new area of research for medications. An insurance company might worry about having to cover that condition under its policies. A criminal lawyer might think about reduced responsibility or even eligibility for the insanity defense. And people in the general public might just mean that the condition is abnormal and needs correction or that it should be the object of care rather than moral condemnation. A problem arises because all of these audiences read DSM-5, and yet the authors of DSM-5 need to construct a single definition of "mental disorder" in order to indicate what is common and distinctive about the various conditions for which they provide diagnostic criteria in the manual.

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ISSN: 2152-0542