Chapter 3. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) Classification of Mental Disorders: Strengths, Limitations and Future Perspectives

  1. Mario Maj4,
  2. Wolfgang Gaebel5,
  3. Juan José López-Ibor6 and
  4. Norman Sartorius7
  1. Darrel A. Regier1,
  2. Michael First2,
  3. Tina Marshall3 and
  4. William E. Narrow3

Published Online: 24 APR 2002

DOI: 10.1002/047084647X.ch3

Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification

Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification

How to Cite

Regier, D. A., First, M., Marshall, T. and Narrow, W. E. (2002) The American Psychiatric Association (APA) Classification of Mental Disorders: Strengths, Limitations and Future Perspectives, in Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification (eds M. Maj, W. Gaebel, J. J. López-Ibor and N. Sartorius), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/047084647X.ch3

Editor Information

  1. 4

    University of Naples, Italy

  2. 5

    University of Düsseldorf, Germany

  3. 6

    Complutense University of Madrid, Spain

  4. 7

    University of Geneva, Switzerland

Author Information

  1. 1

    American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education, 1400 K Street N.W., Washington, DC 20005, USA

  2. 2

    NYS Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032, USA

  3. 3

    Division of Research, American Psychiatric Association, 1400 K Street N.W., Washington, DC 20005, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 APR 2002
  2. Published Print: 15 APR 2002

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471496816

Online ISBN: 9780470846476



  • diagnosis;
  • diagnostic criteria;
  • diagnostic instrument;
  • classification;
  • mental disorders;
  • behavioural disorders;
  • addictive disorders;
  • DSM;
  • ICD;
  • World Health Organization;
  • structured interview schedules


The following discussion has been developed to facilitate an historical perspective for future work in defining the boundaries and characteristics of psychopathology. The chapter begins with an historical overview of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classification systems that started with efforts to collect statistics about the population at large (i.e. U.S. Census), which would be consistent with statistics on the diagnostic composition of patients in mental hospitals. Next, there is a review of the history of international collaboration that has allowed for the ongoing coordination efforts to develop classification systems by both the APA and the international scientific community. After a review of the strengths and limitations of the DSM-IV, the chapter concludes with a look ahead to future efforts to improve the validity and clinical utility of diagnostic criteria for psychopathology, and the arrangement of such diagnoses into a system of classification. The roots of the fifth-edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) developmental process are described as options for future efforts to ensure continued collaboration between U.S. and international developers of the DSM and ICD systems.