Asperger's syndrome removed from new psychiatrists' diagnostic guide

New disorder for childhood tantrums added

The clinical diagnosis for Asperger’s syndrome will be removed in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association psychiatrists’ diagnostic guide.

The fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V, will come out in May and Asperger’s will be notably absent, replaced with the broader definition of “autism spectrum disorder.” Previously, Asperger’s was thought to be a milder form of autism.

The choice to remove the definition from the DSM, sometimes referred to as the psychiatric bible, has been much-debated and is opposed by some who think the change in definition will exclude some patients from diagnosis, and could mean they don’t get the treatment and services they need.

“Our fear is that we are going to take a big step backward,” Lori Shery, president of the Asperger Syndrome Education Network, told The New York Times in January. “If clinicians say, ‘These kids don’t fit the criteria for an autism spectrum diagnosis,’ they are not going to get the supports and services they need, and they’re going to experience failure.”

Not everyone who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome disagrees, however.

Joshua Muggleton, a psychology student who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, writes in The Guardian: “…after looking at the research I was forced to conclude that actually, the DSM-V is a big step in the right direction. For years, studies have been suggesting that autism and Asperger’s syndrome are the same condition, differentiated only by level of impairment.”

Another notable change in the forthcoming DSM is that the term gender identity disorder, which is used when someone’s sexual organs don’t match their mental gender, will be replaced with the more neutral term “gender dysphoria,” reports Slate.

“Approval of this revision has been years in the making and reflects a narrowing of psychiatrists’ focus to those who experience personal distress over their gender incongruity,” writes J. Bryan Lowder at Slate. “Those patients who feel like they need psychological help dealing with their feelings can still seek it out, while those who feel fine need not be marked as ill.”

Other additions include binge-eating disorder, hoarding disorder, and excoriation (skin-picking), and well as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), in which a child diagnosed must have at least three tantrums per week for a one-year period.

The process to create the newest DSM has been years in the making, reports Forbes, with the first version being released in 2010 for initial feedback. The final version was approved in a vote over the weekend.

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