Evolution of DSM Bipolar Classification

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DSM bipolar classification has changed over the years as professionals have learned more about the mood disorder. The criteria for making a valid diagnosis of bipolar disorder have been through changes as well. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been revised several times in order to stay current with new information.

Purpose of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

The DSM serves a very important purpose; it creates a standard that professionals use in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Some conditions are quite complex, making them difficult to diagnose. The publication creates an understandable definition of mental disorders that are used to help identify conditions. The document is also effective in helping clinicians create viable treatment plans.


The initial Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was published in 1952, when psychodynamic approaches were all the rage. The publication was slanted towards the prevalent theories of the early 1950’s. The focus of disorders was behaviour and disorders were thought to stem out of the way the person reacted to various factors including biological disposition and experiences.


In 1968, the DSM II was published, reflecting the psychodynamic point of view inherit in the original publication. This document offered few changes from the original published in 1952. However, dramatic changes in the manual were on the horizon.


The third publication of the manual was released in 1980. The new edition offers a very new point of view that included a biomedical perspective. The focus shifted from concepts to empirical data. This helped professionals recognize a clear distinction between normal behaviours and the specific behaviours exhibited by those who have disorders.

Introduction of Bipolar Disorder

The DSM III replaced the term ‘manic depression’ with bipolar disorder in 1980. The shift in language is a direct result of the shift in perspective from concepts to empirical data. Instead of focusing on the mania and depression, the document recognises the polarity of emotional states.

This document also introduced difference between childhood bipolar disorder and adult bipolar conditions. The distinction is an important step in the proper diagnosis of this mood disorder in children.

The current understanding of bipolar disorder is relatively new in the scheme of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The condition is better understood and the criteria outlined in the DSM bipolar section is quite involved. The new understanding helps professionals and patients develop improved approaches to treating the condition.

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