The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses.The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the manual used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for clinicians to communicate about their patients and establishes consistent and reliable diagnoses that can be used in the research of mental disorders. It also provides a common language for researchers to study the criteria for potential future revisions and to aid in the development of medications and other interventions.
The initial impetus for developing a classification of mental disorders in the United States was the need to collect statistical information. The first official attempt was the 1840 census, which used a single category, idiocy or insanity. Three years later, the American Statistical Association made an official protest to the U.S. House of Representatives, stating that “the most glaring and remarkable errors are found in the statements respecting nosology, prevalence of insanity, blindness, deafness, and dumbness, among the people of this nation”, pointing out that in many towns African-Americans were all marked as insane, and calling the statistics essentially useless.