Psychology Study Material: Classification of Mental Disorders

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Classification of Mental Disorders

  • Kraepelin gave the first classification system of mental disorders.
  • A number of classification systems followed afterwards.
  • The purpose was to assist the clinicians diagnose mental disorders, as well as to determine the extent of the problem.

Classification Systems

  • DSM- IV- TR
  • ICD


  • Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders is the classification system compiled by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • This is the most widely used classification system all over the world.

ICD: International Classification

  • For decades, mental health professionals in Western Europe and a major part of the world used this classification system.
  • The World Health Organization developed ICD.
  • ICD is a comprehensive classification system of all kinds of diseases, including psychological or psychiatric illnesses.
  • For a number of years ICD9 remained a popular diagnostic system.
  • Research, in the last more than a decade, reflected that the revised and improved versions of DSM had an edge over ICD in many respects.
  • Besides, there were no major differences as such in the two systems.
  • Also, the need for a single universally accepted system was intensely felt.
  • Therefore, today DSM-IV-TR is recognized as a universally accepted diagnostic system.


  • The first DSM was published in 1917.
  • It originated from a project of the American Medico-Psychological Association, now known as American psychiatric Association and United States Bureau of the Census.
  • In order to collect uniform data on hospitalized mental patients, they developed a list of 59 mental illnesses.
  • The list was further expanded with the publication of the first DSM in 1952.
  • The first DSM included a list of 106 mental illnesses.
  • DSM-II was published in 1968.
  • DSM-III was published in 1980.
  • DSM-III-R was published in 1987.
  • DSM-IV was published in 1994.
  • DSM-IV was developed after a special 27-member task force of experts worked for five years.
  • More than 1000 psychiatrists contributed and advised in deciding about the diseases and other information to be included in DSM-IV.
  • DSM-IV-TR was published in 2000.
  • DSM-IV-TR contains definitions of more than 200 mental disorders.
  • These disorders are organized into 17 major categories.

Multi Axial System of DSM-IV-TR

DSM-IV-R also contains five axes, or five types of information, that have to be considered in the diagnosis of a patient.

Multi Axial System of DSM-IV-TR

Axes of DSM-IV-TR

  • Axis I: Clinical disorders
  • Axis II: Long standing problems that are frequently overlooked in the presence of disorders listed in axis mental retardation, personality disorder & I.
  • Axis III: General medical conditions that may be relevant to a psychological disorder.
  • Axis IV: Psychosocial or environmental problems that a person is facing.
  • These problems may affect the diagnosis, treatment, or the course of the mental disorder.
  • Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning.