In a rare step, doctors on a panel revising psychiatry’s influential diagnostic manual have backed away from two controversial proposals that would have expanded the number of people identified as having psychotic or depressive disorders.
The doctors dropped two diagnoses that they ultimately concluded were not supported by the evidence: “attenuated psychosis syndrome,” proposed to identify people at risk of developing psychosis, and “mixed anxiety depressive disorder,” a hybrid of the two mood problems.
They also tweaked their proposed definition of depression to allay fears that the normal sadness people experience after the loss of a loved one, a job or a marriage would be mistaken for a mental disorder.
But the panel, appointed by the American Psychiatric Association to complete the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or D.S.M., did not retreat from another widely criticized proposal, to streamline the definition of autism. Predictions by some experts that the new definition will sharply reduce the number of people given a diagnosis are off base, panel members said, citing evidence from a newly completed study.
Both the study and the newly announced reversals are being debated this week at the psychiatric association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia, where dozens of sessions were devoted to the D.S.M., the standard reference for mental disorders, which drives research, treatment and insurance decisions.
Dr. David J. Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and the chairman of the task force making revisions, said the changes came in response mainly to field trials — real-world studies testing whether newly proposed diagnoses are reliable from one psychiatrist to the next — and also public commentary. “Our intent for disorders that require more evidence is that they be studied further, and that people work with the criteria” and refine them, Dr. Kupfer said.
The psychiatric association has posted its proposals online, inviting public reaction. More than 10,500 comments have come through the site, many of them critical.