Emile Kraeplin did much of the work which served as a precursor to the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)(1882). He organized information on psychological disorders in a way which reflected the social atmosphere of the time. The main categories of psychological disturbance in Kraeplin’s Compendium of Psychiatry were manic-depressive insanity and dementia praecox: currently known as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (Malik & Beutler, 2002).


177 Eugen Bleuler 1911
The United States Census Bureau also made an early effort to recognize and make some distinction by offering the option to choose “idiocy”, “insanity”, or neither(1840s).

These efforts at classification make sense; at this time in the history of psychology, the main focus was on patients who were experiencing psychosis (Grinker, 2010). This is because much of the research in order to make these guides was conducted in mental hospitals, where the most severe cases would be found.

It should come as no surprise that the creation of the first DSM arose from a need to have a system of diagnosis and treatment for those with obvious, significant psychological impairment. This need arose from the notable increase in patients suffering from mental illness as a result of fighting in WWII. As more and more soldiers came back, the need for such a standardized diagnostic tool became vital.






  • relatively short
  • long list of diagnoses with short descriptions for each
  • low reliability and low validity
  • was not empirically based
  • determined by a small number of psychiatrists
  • psychoanalytic viewpoint




This section of the site was prepared by Michele Humphries.


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