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Asperger's Out as U.S. Reframes Psychiatric Disorders

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The American Psychiatric Association has voted to review its classification of certain mental disorders, turning autism into a single, all-encompassing category and removing Asperger's syndrome as a separate ailment.

This weekend's vote by the group's board of trustees marks the first revision of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since 1994 and the fifth since it first came about.

The latest change comes after a lengthy and often animated debate among psychiatrists, patient groups and foundations, sparking concerns among some.

The new criteria -- the details of which will be known once the new manual is published in May 2013 -- could deprive some patients of access to welfare services because the insurances and public assistance programs are based on American Psychiatric Association (APA) definitions.

The new classification groups all variants of autism into a single category called "autism spectrum disorder" to "help more accurately and consistently diagnose children with autism," according to an APA news release. It will include Asperger's disorder.

"Disruptive mood deregulation disorder" will be included to "diagnose children who exhibit persistent irritability and frequent episodes of behavior outbursts three or more times a week for more than a year," according to the release.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, meanwhile, will be included in a new chapter on trauma and stress-related disorders.

"Our work has been aimed at more accurately defining mental disorders that have a real impact on people's lives, not expanding the scope of psychiatry," said David Kupfer, chair of the taskforce overseeing the manual's revision.

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