Asperger's dropped as psychiatric manual is revised
THE term 'Asperger's disorder' has been dropped from one of the world's most influential psychiatric manuals.
And abnormally bad and frequent temper tantrums will be given the scientific-sounding diagnosis 'DMDD'.
But 'dyslexia' and other learning disorders remain.
The revisions come in the first major rewrite in nearly 20 years of the American Psychiatric Association's 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual' (DSM), approved by the board on Saturday.
Full details of all the revisions will come next May when the new manual is published, but the impact will be huge, affecting millions of children and adults worldwide because the manual is one of the most influential reference points for mental health professionals.
This diagnostic guide "defines what constellations of symptoms" doctors recognise as mental disorders, said Dr Mark Olfson, a Columbia University psychiatry professor.
More important, he said, it "shapes who will receive what treatment. Even subtle changes to the criteria can have substantial effects on patterns of care."
The changes were approved in the US over the weekend by the psychiatric association's board of trustees.
One of the most hotly argued changes was how to define the various ranges of autism. Some advocates opposed the idea of dropping the specific diagnosis 'Asperger's disorder'.
People with that disorder often have high intelligence and vast knowledge on narrow subjects, but have poor social skills. Some who have the condition embrace their quirkiness and vow to continue to use the label.
And some families opposed any change, fearing their children with Asperger's would lose a diagnosis, and no longer be eligible for special services.
But the revision will not affect their education services, experts say.
The new manual adds the term "autism spectrum disorder," which is already used by many experts in the field. This new category will include kids with severe autism, who often don't talk or interact, as well as those with milder forms.
Asperger's disorder will now be incorporated under that umbrella diagnosis.