National Eating Disorders Association

NIMH Director, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, on the DSM-5

Maggi Flaherty

Later this month, the American Psychiatric Association will release its new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In an article on May 6, 2013, the New York Times  reported that Dr. Thomas R. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), stated that "his goal was to reshape the direction of psychiatric research to focus on biology, genetics and neuroscience so that scientists can define disorders by their causes, rather than their symptoms." Speaking about this approach to psychiatric research, Dr. Insel wrote on the NIMH Director's Blog that, "NIMH has launched the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science, and other levels of information to lay the foundation for a new classification system."

Discussion of the new DSM-5 and its relation to this approach to research by the NIMH has sparked a lot of conversation within the mental health and eating disorders fields. Lynn Grefe, NEDA’s President and CEO reached out to Dr. Insel for clarification, to which he responded and provided permission for us to share the following:

"Thanks for checking with the source. We are not ditching or dissing the DSM.  DSM and ICD are still essential tools for providers. My blog was about research where yes, we are asking our grantees to go beyond DSM to create a new classification based on biology and not just clinical symptoms. Our approach, called RDoC, is not ready for clinical use. In fact, it's barely being used by researchers, which is why I posted this blog. Perhaps this will inform DSM6 in 2023. In any case, RDoC is not competition for DSM and NIMH is not telling clinicians to abandon DSM."

Dr. Insel is the keynote speaker at this year's Annual NEDA Conference in Washington D.C., on October 10-12. His presentation is titled:  "What Research Can Tell Us About Eating Disorders." The conference, themed Of Monumental Importance: Directing the National Spotlight on Prevention, Treatment, Research & Policy, brings together professionals, researchers, educators, people in recovery and their families to connect and learn from one another. Visit the Annual NEDA Conference website to learn more about the conference.