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Special Communication
July 2016

Unintended Consequences of Changing the Definition of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in DSM-5: Critique 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

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

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