New psychiatric diagnostic categories could lead to spike in ADA claims

The DSM-5 manual added new disorders and relaxed the criteria for others

When the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released its new manual of psychiatric condition diagnoses in May, some employment lawyers sounded an alarm. The so-called DSM-5 added new categories of diagnoses and loosened the criteria for others, raising concerns it could trigger more requests for workplace accommodation.

“The DSM-5 is the ‘bible’ for diagnosing psychiatric or mental disorders, and it adds more than a dozen new diagnoses [to its predecessor, DSM-4],” says Terry Dawson, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg. “In short, the DSM-5 may expand the types of behavior that might be considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).”

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a diagnosis for women with symptoms such as mood swings; increased interpersonal conflicts; anxiety or tension; overeating or food cravings; or weight gain, bloating or breast tenderness in the week prior to the start of the menstrual cycle.

“A condition that to date has been considered a fact of life is now characterized as a psychiatric disorder and potentially qualifies anyone diagnosed for accommodation,” McDonald says. That could lead to more requests for leaves of absence and altered work schedules, he adds.

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Mary Swanton

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