The lead up to today's formal approval by the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association of the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, DSM-5 for short, has been long and loud. Two books by critics, Saving Normal and The Book of Woe, beat it to publication and have been widely flogged. The National Institutes of Mental Health has said it won't use DSM-5 to make funding decisions. And a scholarly legal paper published in March, Could the American Psychiatric Association Cause You Headaches? The Dangerous Interaction between the DSM-5 and Employment Law, warned that "the legal community’s relationship with the DSM may be forced to change, given the implications that changes in the DSM-5 may have for claims under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (regarding claims of “disability” and requests for reasonable accommodations), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (regarding definitions of a “serious illness”), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and even state statutes and workers compensation laws (regarding whether an illness is work related)."
The Economist blog explains why it matters so much:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a 947-page guide to ailments of the mind. Published on May 22nd by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), it lists specific symptoms to be attributed to this disorder or that. The DSM is hugely influential. Its categories guide research and treatment for millions of patients in America and elsewhere. Crucially, it also propels the psychiatry industry—if a disorder is included in the DSM, insurers are more likely to pay for it.