What Does Axis I, II, III, IV and V Mean on Hospital Discharge Papers?

The fourth edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" used Axis I, II, III, IV and V to help health professionals address their patients' psychological and physical needs, according to Dr. Brian Burke. This classification system was abandoned in the fifth edition of the manual.

Axis I disorders are principle disorders requiring immediate attention, states Dr. Burke. A major depressive episode is an example of an Axis I disorder. Axis II is used to classify personality disorders and developmental disorders related to the Axis I problem. Mental retardation is listed as an Axis II disorder using this system.

Axis III involves all of the physical disorders that may be affecting a person's psychological health, reports Jeff Ratliff-Crain of the University of Minnesota Morris. Metabolic disorders, infectious diseases, congenital defects and immune disorders all have the potential to play a role in mental disorders. Axis IV takes environmental and psychosocial problems into account. These problems may have an effect on a person's mental health. This axis includes educational problems, job-related problems, financial difficulties and housing problems, among other stressors.

Finally, Axis V is a global assessment of functioning for the patient. A person with a score of 91 to 100 has superior functioning in several areas of life or has no problems, says Dr. Burke. A very low score, ranging from 1 to 10, indicates a person has the potential to harm himself or others or an inability to maintain a satisfactory level of personal hygiene.