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What Are Specifiers?


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.

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

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