I just received my copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-5 yesterday. It arrived about a week after my copy of Dr. Allen Frances’ book, “Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis”. The DSM-5 shipping weight was 4 pounds, and I can’t promise that will be the last remark about its size.
I would never dream of offering up a critique comparing the two books. I can say that The Guilford Press gave me permission to create a Dirty Dozen presentation for my blog site about Dr. Frances’ section “A Dozen General Tips” about making psychiatric diagnoses, which appears in the first chapter. I think even I would have trouble making only a dozen PowerPoint slides about the DSM-5.
The first chapter of “Essentials…” is an easy read, which I can’t say about the first chapter of DSM-5. The DSM-5 contains a rich treatment of the cultural formulation, which I can’t say I saw in “Essentials…” But I’ll be darned if I’ll ever say who’s the best. I’m a consulting psychiatrist in a big hospital, and I don’t have time to riffle through a book that makes my hand cramp just carrying it. I’ll probably use “Essentials…” more than DSM-5.
I’m a big fan of the concept of the “little book”, made famous by Will Strunk in the writing of “The Elements of Style”. I even mentioned that in the preface to the book my colleague, Dr. Robert G. Robinson, and I co-edited, “Psychosomatic Medicine: An Introduction to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry”: “And we informally gave it the name ‘The Little book of Psychosomatic Psychiatry.’ The name comes from Will Strunk’s book ‘The Elements of Style,’ in which Strunk, in the words of E.B. White, ‘…attempted to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin. He hung the title ‘little’ on his book and referred to it sardonically and with secret pride as ‘the little book,’ always giving the word ‘little’ a special twist, as though he were putting a spin on a ball’.”
While “Essentials…” is not really such a little book…it’s a far sight littler than DSM-5. But I’m not going to get boxed into saying which is the best. No doubt both of these books will be used in different ways by different clinicians. Which one is the best will be determined by the context in which it’s used. Congratulations to both creators.