DSM 5 Appendix Updates – It’s a Start

The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders hits shelves on May 22, and with it, a boatload of new mental-disorder diagnoses.  Unfortunately, FASD will not be among the newly “approved” diagnoses.  As most people know who have been involved with the struggle for respect for individuals with an FASD, often the most debilitating part of the disability is the mental health challenges that seem to be a part of just about everyone’s experience.  So many years ago, several leaders in the FASD field identified that to get the services and supports needed, FASD in some shape or form needed to appear not only as a medical diagnosis but also as a diagnosis in the psychiatrist’s “bible”, also known as the DSM 5.  Despite a lot of incredibly hard work from many people across the country, FASD, as we know it, isn’t in the main part of the newly revised manual.

However, there is some very good and hopeful news:  Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE) will appear in the DSM 5 Appendix.

Mary J. O’Connor, PhD, ABPP, from the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine writes:

All should know that Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE) will appear in the DSM 5 Appendix. Criteria established are based upon over 35 years of research. Our goal now is to see if these criteria discriminate between individuals with PAE and those without PAE but with other psychiatric disorders. We will be using not only behavioral and clinical information but also information based upon imaging studies. Please encourage health professionals to consider this diagnosis of their patients. To get ND-PAE into the DSM 5 was a long and significant battle but we will continue to fight for recognition and treatment of all with the disorder.

It is progress.  Certainly not fast enough for those who have been fighting this fight, often for their love ones, to get the services they so desperately need to lead a life that is healthy and productive.  I know it often seems like we have to always go the extra mile with this disability to prove it is real.  It is impacting people in profound ways, and people living with an FASD deserve all the appropriate supports and services needed from the medical and mental health communities.  And yet skepticism continues to exist.

And so we will keep working and advocating and researching and educating and explaining until this happens– We live in a world where people living with an FASD are valued and have access to the care they need so they can live happy and productive lives.  They deserve no less.

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