Updating mental illness diagnosis

The first edition was published in 1952 following research by the US military during the Second World War; since then there have been three more revised editions, the last 20 years ago: the fifth is due out on 31 May.

The DSM has grown substantially in size: from 130 pages and 106 mental disorders in 1952 to 492 pages and 265 disorders in 1980.

Now, just two weeks before the new edition appears, the National Institute of Mental Health, the world's largest mental health research institute, has announced that it is withdrawing support for the manual as "it lacks validity" due to the unscientific basis of its classifications.

The DSM classifies psychiatric disorders and provides a checklist of symptoms for each separate disorder.

Next month, the latest edition of a book will be published in America that, according to its critics, will give you a starring role in your own private performance of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – by turning aspects of your normal behaviour, such as checking Twitter a little too often, into a new mental disorder.

Many see its publication as part of a continuing attempt to create order out of the chaos of the human mind by updating a set of common criteria for mental disorders that encourages research as well as helping in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

These are experts in neuroscience, biology, genetics, statistics, epidemiology, social and behavioral sciences, nosology, and public health.

These members participate on a strictly voluntary basis and encompass several medical and mental health disciplines including psychiatry, psychology, pediatrics, nursing and social work.

Indeed, two of the DSM's fiercest critics, Dr Allen Frances and Dr Robert Spitzer, are former chairmen of the task forces that composed previous editions.These incremental updates will be identified with decimals, i.e.coding system now in use by insurance companies, the revised criteria for mental disorders can be used immediately for diagnosing mental disorders when it is released in May 2013.View fact sheets that cover the the changes in is a manual for assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders and does not include information or guidelines for treatment of any disorder.That said, determining an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward being able to appropriately treat any medical condition, and mental disorders are no exception.