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What Are Specifiers?

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Updated June 20, 2014

Question: What Are Specifiers?
Answer: Specifiers are extensions to a diagnosis that further clarify the course, severity, or special features of a disorder or illness. The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) uses these extensively in the diagnosis of mood disorders. For bipolar disorder, there are two categories - those for defining the current or most recent episode and those concerning the course of recurrent (repeating) episodes.

The specifiers from the DSM-IV include:

  1. Current or Most Recent Episode - manic, mixed, or major depressive

  2. Course of Recurrent Episodes
    • Longitudinal (over a long period of time)
    • Seasonal Pattern
    • Rapid Cycling
Note: In the proposed changes for the next edition of the DSM, specifiers are planned to be used much more extensively.

References:
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR™).

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