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What should you know about the DSM-IV classification?

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, categorizes mental health diagnoses into five axes: clinical and developmental disorders, personality disorders and mental retardation, physical disorders, lifestyle factors, and a global functioning assessment, notes About.com. Clinicians who use this multi-axial approach take each axis into consideration when formulating a treatment plan to address each patient's unique set of circumstances.

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Examples of conditions classified under axis one, clinical and developmental disorders, include general anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, states About.com. Axis two, personality disorders and mental retardation, encompasses diagnoses such as borderline personality disorder and dependent personality disorder. Axis three relates to any physical conditions the clinician feels have an impact on the client's mental health, such as a thyroid disorder, and axis four encompasses environmental factors that may impact mental health, such as work-related stressors or family problems. The final axis contains a numerical score on a 100-point scale that the clinician assigns to the patient's overall condition.

The DSM-V succeeded the DSM-IV in 2013, notes Psychology Today. This later edition does not include the multi-axial system, which many clinicians felt was a cumbersome and messy way to classify patients' conditions. It also lists a few new official diagnoses, such as binge-eating disorder, and includes updates to the diagnostic criteria for several disorders already listed in the fourth edition.

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