This week the new DSM 5 was released. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, is the latest incarnation of the manual used to diagnose psychological conditions. Over 100 new diagnostic disorders have been identified. For the first time, practicing law is classified as an “intellectual disorder.”

Classified as disorder found in coexistence with Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Substance Abuse Disorders, Attorney Deficit Disorder has been given its own diagnostic designation. It is the only disorder that is tied to an advanced educational degree. It is also the only disorder that is uniformly rejected for all insurance coverage. On the upside, the only known treatment is massive quantities of alcohol.

OK, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kidding. However, the new DSM 5 is of importance in many fields of law and many types of law firms will probably need to obtain a copy. The information in the DSM is used by attorneys in fields as varied as personal injury, social security disability, workers’ compensation, educational lawyers and family law specialists.

The DSM 5 is an update to, surprise, the DSM 4 which came out in 2000. The DSM 5 has, however, generated a lot of controversy.   The new manual adds nearly a hundred new diagnoses.  Many terms have been reworked, such as autism and mental retardation. Additionally, some very unusual designations have been adopted. For example, grief is now a diagnosable disorder if mild depressive symptoms continue only two weeks after experiencing the death of family or close friend. These and other controversial designations are going to make working with the DSM 5 problematic for many attorneys.

Attorneys who deal with psychological conditions or disorders on even a peripheral basis will need to familiarize themselves with the new manual. However, be prepared for conflicts among clinicians. We won’t know whether the DSM 5 will replace the DSM 4 as the “bible” for psychological condition diagnosis. And we probably won’t now until we see whether insurance companies readily adopt the new diagnostic criteria.


1 Comment

  1. As a family lawyer with zero mental health training, I am constantly amazed at the range of “illnesses” that I hear about, either from other lawyers or clients. I may get the digital version.

    These all-encompassing definitions do a real disservice to those who really have an illness.

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