Applied Social Psychology

How do you define mental illness? In the early twentieth century, there was no clear method of describing a mental illness. Often, it depended on the medical practitioner treating the patient. This situation changed after the American Psychiatric Association developed the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) in the early 1950s, with the latest edition (5th ed.) published in 2013. The DSM-V is built on the use of a common set of symptoms to describe each mental disorder. Mental health service providers, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, use the diagnoses found in the DSM-5 to describe an established set of symptoms for that diagnosis.

According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of mental illness is not just based on observed symptoms; it is also based on how an individual interacts with the environment, or more specifically, how an individual is able to function in the environment.

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