Psychology Today: Allen Frances MD on DSM-5 and comment

Psychology Today: Allen Frances MD on DSM-5 draft proposals and comment

Post #32 Shortlink:

Over the past 12 months, Allen Francis, MD, has published a series of often controversial commentaries on the DSM revision process in the media, via Psychiatric Times website and yesterday, on the site of Psychology Today.

Dr Frances had been chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and of the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC. He is currently professor emeritus at Duke.

I have had a comment published, this morning, in response to his latest piece on Psychology Today.

DSM5 in Distress

The DSM’s impact on mental health practice and research.
by Allen Frances, MD

DSM5: An Open Process Or Bust
The next steps need help from the field and public.
Published on April 12, 2010

“The first drafts of DSM5 were posted two months ago, allowing the field and the public a first glimpse into what had previously been an inexplicably secretive process. Today is the last day for public comment on these drafts…”

Read full text here


Public review process

Submitted by Suzy Chapman on April 13, 2010 – 3:24am.

I would like to thank Dr Frances for his commentaries around the DSM revision process. I hope he won’t mind my highlighting that draft proposals are out for review until Tuesday, 20 April – so there is another week during which health professionals, researchers, patient organisations and the lay public can input into the review process.

For some time now, professionals in the field, interest groups and the media have voiced concerns that the broadening of criteria for some DSM-5 categories would bring many more patients under a mental health diagnosis.

But if the draft proposals of the “Somatic Symptom Disorders” Work Group were to be approved there will be medical, social and economic implications to the detriment of all patient populations and especially those bundled by many within the field of liaison psychiatry and psychosomatics under the so-called “Functional Somatic Syndromes” (FSS) and “Medically Unexplained Syndromes” (MUS) umbrellas, under which they include Chronic fatigue syndrome, ME, Fibromyalgia, IBS, chemical injury, chemical sensitivity, chronic Lyme disease, GWS and others [1].

There is considerable concern amongst international patient organisations for the implications of the “Somatic Symptom Disorders” Work Group proposal for combining Somatoform Disorders, Psychological Factors Affecting Medical Condition (PFAMC), and Factitious Disorders under a common rubric called “Somatic Symptom Disorders” and for the creation of a new classification, “Complex Somatic Symptom Disorder” (CSSD).

They are particularly concerned for patients living with conditions characterised by so-called “medically unexplained symptoms” or with medical conditions for which diagnostic tests are currently lacking that provide evidence substantiating the medical seriousness of their symptoms and the need for provision of appropriate medical investigations, treatments, financial and social support, and in the case of children and young people, the putting in place of arrangements for the education of children too sick to attend mainstream school.

According to “Somatic Symptom Disorders” Work Group proposals:

“To meet criteria for CSSD, criteria A, B, and C are necessary.

A. Somatic symptoms:

Multiple somatic symptoms that are distressing, or one severe symptom

B. Misattributions, excessive concern or preoccupation with symptoms and illness: At least two of the following are required to meet this criterion:

(1) High level of health-related anxiety.

(2) Normal bodily symptoms are viewed as threatening and harmful

(3) A tendency to assume the worst about their health (catastrophizing).

(4) Belief in the medical seriousness of their symptoms despite evidence to
the contrary.

(5) Health concerns assume a central role in their lives

C. Chronicity: Although any one symptom may not be continuously present, the state of being symptomatic is chronic and persistent (at least six months).”

The CFIDS Association of America has submitted: “As drafted, the criteria for CSSD establish a “Catch 22” paradox in which six months or more of a single or multiple somatic symptoms – surely a distressing situation for a previously active individual – is classified as a mental disorder if the individual becomes “excessively” concerned about his or her health. Without establishing what “normal” behavior in response to the sustained loss of physical health and function would be and in the absence of an objective measure of what would constitute excessiveness, the creation of this category poses almost certain risk to patients without providing any offsetting improvement in diagnostic clarity or targeted treatment.” [2]

To date, there has been little public discussion by professionals or the media of the medical, social and economic implications for patients of the application of an additional diagnosis of “Complex Somatic Symptom Disorder”.

With a week to go before this initial public review period closes there is still time and I urge professionals and stakeholders to scrutinise the proposals of the “Somatic Symptom Disorder” Work Group and to submit their concerns to the Task Force.

Suzy Chapman, UK patient advocate

[1] Marin H, Escobar JI: Unexplained Physical Symptoms What’s a Psychiatrist to Do? Psychiatric Times. Aug 2008, Vol. 25 No. 9

[2] CFIDS Association of America submission to DSM-5 public review:


Related material:


Managing medically unexplained symptoms, 07 Apr 10


The DSM-5 public review period runs from 10 February to 20 April. Members of the public, patient representation organisations, professionals and other end users can submit responses, online.

Please take this opportunity to register comment and to alert and encourage professionals and international patient organisations to participate.

Proposed Draft Revisions to DSM Disorders and Criteria are published here on the APA’s relaunched website:

Somatoform Disorders:

Proposed new DSM-5 category: Complex Somatic Symptom Disorder

Two Key PDF documents are associated with proposals:

      PDF Somatic Symptom Disorders Introduction DRAFT 1/29/10

      PDF Justification of Criteria – Somatic Symptoms DRAFT 1/29/10

The Alpha Draft for ICD-11 is scheduled for May 2010. I shall be posting again shortly around the ICD-11 revision process.


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