DSM Reference

DSM Reference : Android (free)


I’ll have to admit – I haven’t seen my full-length DSM in years. I may have left it behind a couple of states ago.  When I need to review diagnostic criteria, I most often use the BehaveNet site (although they’ve recently redesigned their menus in a way that’s annoying to me). I have yet to find an error in over five years of using it regularly. I have always wanted something like that reference for my phone – I find that checking a reference on my phone during therapy is much less intrusive than turning around to the computer, and more convenient at many other times.

If you’ve ever wanted a pocket replacement for your “pocket” spiral-bound DSM, this is about as close as it gets; at least for free. This app looks like a good replacement for BehaveNet and/or your spiral-bound baby DSM.  It looks like a complete, searchable list of codes and titles as well as a mini-guide to the five axis model and a GAF reference. I discovered that it does include lists of criteria as well when I accidentally tapped on a particular diagnosis. I did not do an exhaustive comparison, so I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate.  It’s also searchable, although you need to use the specific name of a disorder (e.g., use “depressive” instead of “depression”). Note that I usually double-check things with a DSM the first time I use a particular diagnosis with a reference tool like this – it’s good policy to assume that it’s not always accurate.

There are no specific issues regarding personal data for this app, as it keeps none.

The UI is clean, intuitive, and easy to navigate. It’s much more intuitive and easier to use than other DSM references I’ve looked at (like this one). The user experience continues to be a problem with some Android apps, and it’s nice to not see that here. The search page has a bug – if you search for a term like “depression” which doesn’t technically exist as a proper name for a disorder, it will give you no results (which is right) and the keyboard will re-enter your term with every key press (which I assume is not the developer’s intention). The back button takes you out of the app instead of to your previous page. Having some in-app navigation buttons would be of help. Finally, the listings do not have any formatting, which makes them a little more difficult to read.

A side note: the developer’s page looks kind of abandoned and doesn’t mention the app at all. I don’t know when or if it will get updates, which means that it might never be updated to DSM-5 when it comes out.

Content – 5/5 – I’ve wanted a usable pocket DSM on my phone for ages.

UI – 3/5 – Pretty intuitive to use, with a couple of frustrating bugs as noted.

** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.


One comment on “DSM Reference

  1. Pingback: App Usability Evaluations for the Mental Health Field | the Human Factors Blog

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