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Special Communication
July 2016

Unintended Consequences of Changing the Definition of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in DSM-5Critique and Call for Action

Author Affiliations
  • 1Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, US Army Medical Research and Material Command, Silver Spring, Maryland
  • 2James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, New York
  • 3Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
  • 4School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • 5Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  • 6Military Mental Health Research Center, Ministry of Defense, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 7Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands
  • 8Arq Psychotrauma Expert Group, Diemen, the Netherlands
  • 9Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, Directorate of Mental Health, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 10Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 11Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 12The King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, London, England
  • 13Department of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New York
  • 14Hadassah and Hebrew University School of Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel
  • 15Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 16Mental Health Services, Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 17Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for Posttraumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, Department of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New York
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(7):750-752. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0647

Are changes to the definition of posttraumatic stress disorder in DSM-5 a step forward?—No.

The 2013 DSM-5, the first major revision of US psychiatric nomenclature since 1994’s DSM-IV, was coordinated by the American Psychiatric Association in a manner to ensure revisions were empirically supported and maintained continuity with previous editions.1,2 Although many important evidence-based changes resulted, core criteria and diagnostic language for most common conditions affecting adults remained unchanged, safeguarding continued use of treatments validated over decades.1,3

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