Mental health professionals, such as counselors and psychologists, use a standard manual to diagnose patients with mental health disorders. This manual is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM). The most recently published version in 2000 is called the DSM-IV-TR, which stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. The DSM-V, or fifth edition, is scheduled for publication in 2012. Using this manual for diagnosis has many benefits.
All types of professionals, including physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists collaborate to create the DSMs. The criteria for diagnosing patients with disorders is based on current and widely accepted research. By using a manual such as this to make a diagnosis, healthcare professionals are able to maintain some form of consistency in developing a treatment plan. As pointed out by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, medical professionals accept a patient's diagnosis as valid and proceed accordingly with treatment, including medications.
While it is possible for one professional to make a different diagnosis than another, the DSM-IV reduces the risk of extremely opposing diagnosis. Patients can find comfort in knowing that a DSM-IV diagnosis is accurate and not based on subjective opinions of a healthcare professional. Treatment for DSM-IV disorders does vary but the medications, forms of therapy and other treatment options are often recommended based on the manual and research showing the efficacy for the specific diagnosis.
Health insurance plans can stipulate whether certain treatments are covered. Many insurance carriers consider treatment of mental health disorders to be medically necessary and will provide coverage. Without a DSM-IV diagnosis, counseling and medication may not be considered by insurance companies for payment, as it can be considered an elective service.
The legal system protects individuals who commit crimes and have a mental health disorder. When a diagnosis is made based on the DSM-IV the system can have confidence that it was made accurately. Without such guidelines, it could be easy for criminals to feign mental illness to receive lighter sentences. Other legal benefits can be extended to individuals who require care but are considered to be adults. Individuals who have diminished mental capacity due to a disorder may not receive the care and assistance they require without a proper diagnosis.