The “Random Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5” (Random DSM-5) project is equal parts public educational service, performance art, and experiment in synchronicity.

It is launching today and consists of one randomly selected sentence from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) that I will tweet out each day.

Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-5 is:

“… a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders. With successive editions over the past 60 years, it has become a standard reference for clinical practice in the mental health field.”

It is often informally referred to as the “Bible” of psychiatric disorders. Though controversial in some circles, it remains the most thoroughly researched and organized manual we have for understanding and learning about psychiatric and psychological distress.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @StevenJHanley

I’ll be using #RandomDSM5 to identify entries in this project. I will collate each week’s selections and post them in a blog here with commentary and analysis where appropriate.

Why am I doing this?

  • Why not?
  • I wanted to do something unique and (possibly) fun in my field.
  • Taking 18 years to drink coffee from nearly every Starbucks in the world, like this guy did, seems impractical at this stage in my life.
  • I wanted to learn more about the most recent version of the DSM and this seemed like an interesting way to do it.
  • I’ve been interested in Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity, “which holds that events are ‘meaningful coincidences’ if they occur with no apparent causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related”
  • I am curious how chosen sections will correspond to world events and culture of the time.
  • So people might learn something about mental health disorders.

Here are the rules:

  • A random number generator will be used to pick a page number from the DSM-5 between 5 (the first page of the introduction) and 837 (the last substantive page of the manual).
  • The same random number generator will be used to pick a line of text between 1 and 53 (the largest number of actual text lines on a page, excluding page number headers) from the page chosen.
  • On the chosen page I will count down the number of text lines indicated. Headings and spaces between sections will be counted as lines of text.
  • The sentence quoted will be the one that contains the first word in the chosen line of text that is in a complete sentence, even if that sentence started on a previous line.
  • If the chosen line of text lands on a blank line, title, heading, subheading, or chart name, then the first complete sentence that follows will be used, even if it is on a different page.
  • If, however, there is an entire full sentence contained completely in the chosen line of text, then that sentence will be used.
  • If the random page number is a blank page, a new page number will be generated.
  • If the random line of text is invalid (e.g., a shortened page) then another random line of text is generated until a valid result is attained.

That is entirely too complicated, I know. If RandomDSM5 takes off I will try to simplify the rules. I am sure that I will find errors in the process and I will correct them as they occur. The ultimate goal is to create a truly random piece of text from the DSM 5 as possible each day.


Page: 662; Line: 30

On page 662 of the DSM5 you’ll notice that line 30 starts with, “… acts may be a consequence.” The beginning of that sentence starts a few lines above.

The resulting text looks like this:

“When substance use and antisocial behavior both begin in childhood and continued into adulthood, both a substance use disorder and antisocial personality disorder should be diagnosed if criteria for both are met, even though some antisocial acts maybe a consequence of the substance use disorder (e.g., illegal selling of drugs thefts, to obtain money for drugs).”

The tweet will look like this:

So, check out my twitter feed or check back here for weekly (or so) collections.

Interested in discussing this project or have ideas how else it might be use? Drop me a comment in the section below and let’s discuss.