Expert’s Corner: Benjamin explains changes in DSM 5

New edition of diagnostic manual for mental disorders is research-driven and evidence-based

By Bryan Goodchild and Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

July 12, 2013
  In this Expert’s Corner video, Sheldon Benjamin, MD, summarizes what’s new in DSM 5, and why changes were made.
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When diagnosing mental illness, psychiatrists have long referred to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, known as the psychiatry bible. The guide, published since 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has just released its fifth edition.


Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Sheldon Benjamin, MD, says the DSM 5, the first new edition in 19 years, reflects the most up-to-date understanding of psychiatric disorders and diseases.

“Psychiatry is beginning to enjoy the benefits of neuroscience research. We now have the ability to look at a much finer level of detail about the disorders,” said Dr. Benjamin, professor of psychiatry and neurology and vice chair for education of the Department of Psychiatry. “We have to teach students that this is an evolving field that is research-driven and evidence-based and, when there is a good reason to change, we should change.”

Recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and director of the UMass Psychiatry Residency Program since 1995, Benjamin was featured in coverage by Psychiatric News and Psychiatric Annals of the recent APA meeting where he was a panelist at the symposium “DSM 5 and Residency Training: Opportunities and Challenges.”

“The most significant difference between the new and the old DSM is the organization,” he noted. “We see patients as being on a spectrum between two different poles, as opposed to being in pigeonholes that are assigned at different places.”

He emphasized that the changes will be transparent for patients. “There’s not going to be a significant difference in the way patients seek psychiatric care, and the way they are diagnosed and treated,” Benjamin stated. “The difference is going to be in terms of the way psychiatry conceptualizes these diagnoses and develops treatments. Hopefully the patients will then see a more specific diagnosis and a more specific treatment.”