The Five Axes of the DSM IV


DSM IV is an acronym that stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition. It is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that includes all currently recognised mental health disorders. The codes used in DSM IV are designed to correspond with the codes from the International Classification of Diseases, commonly referred to as ICD.

The DSM IV contains codes for every mental disease known to man, from mental retardation, delirium to substance-related disorders, schizophrenia, mood disorder, sleep and eating disorders. The DSM IV covers all mental health disorders for both children and adults. The DSM IV also includes the known causes of these disorders, statistics in terms of gender, age at onset, and prognosis as well as some research concerning the optimal treatment approaches.

The DSM IV has a specific multiaxial or multidimensional approach to diagnosing because rarely do other factors in the life of a person not impact their mental health. Regardless of the intensity of an event, it has serious consequences on the mental health of a person. There are five axes of mental health issues described in DSM IV.  The first axis of the DSM IV deals with clinical syndromes that refer to depression, schizophrenia and social phobia. The second axis refers to developmental disorders and personality disorders such as autism and mental retardation, as well as symptoms of paranoid, antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

The third axis of the DSM IV deals with physical conditions that play a role in the development or exacerbation of the first two axis disorders. The physical conditions that pertain to the Axis III such as brain injury, HIV/Aids can result in symptoms of severe mental illness. Axis IV of DSM IV deals with the high degree of psychosocial stressors. This means that the person suffers from the consequences of some events, such as death of a loved one, starting a new job, unemployment or even marriage. The fifth Axis of the DSM IV helps the specialist to better understand the effects and consequences of the previous four axes. More specifically, the way the four axes are affecting the person and what type of changes could be expected.


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