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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: rethinking mental illness.

For the first time in 16 years, the American Psychiatric Association is revising its essential dictionary, formally titled “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” The book is used widely by mental health professionals to classify and diagnose illnesses. The proposed revisions have been a decade in the making, among them: a single category called autism spectrum disorders that would incorporate Asperger’s syndrome; a category called behavioral addictions, in which gambling would be the sole disorder; a risk syndromes category to help identify earlier stages of disorders like dementia and psychosis; and a recognition of binge eating disorder.

The draft has been posted online and will be reviewed and refined over the next two years.

For some perspective on the proposals and their implications, I’m joined by Dr. Alan Schatzberg. He’s president of the American Psychiatric Association. He is also chair of psychiatry at Stanford University. And Dr. Allen Frances, he’s former chief of psychiatry at the Duke University Medical Center. He led the last effort to revise the manual.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us.

And, Dr. Schatzberg, to you first. Why is this manual so important?

DR. ALAN SCHATZBERG, president, American Psychiatric Association: Well, it is used by — as you pointed out, Judy, by practitioners around the world to diagnose potential patients, people who come in for treatment with specific complaints, and to classify them as having one or another disorder.

It becomes the common language that mental health practitioners use to describe patients, so that we can agree on a diagnosis, very similar to cardiologists talking to an internist, saying the patient has had a myocardial infarction, or what we call a heart attack. We need to have agreed-upon diagnoses and criteria for making those diagnoses if we’re going to be able to take care of patients.

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