Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis

book cover: Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis by Ashley L. Peterson

Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis: Understanding the DSM-5 is the second book by Ashley L. Peterson, BScPharm, BSN, MPN, and includes illness stories from some amazing contributors. 

The book is available from:

You can find the complete DSM-5 on Amazon.


Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis: Understanding the DSM-5 aims to cut through the misinformation, stigma, and assumptions that surround mental illness and give a clear picture of what mental illness really is.

The book pairs diagnostic criteria and descriptions for a cross-section of mental illnesses in the DSM-5 with nineteen first-hand narrative accounts of what it’s like to live with those conditions. The book is also infused with the author’s own experience as a mental health nurse and person living with depression.

With the fusion of diagnostic information, clinical experience, and lived experience, this book offers a unique, well-rounded perspective on the reality of mental illness.

Chapter Summary

  • Diagnostic systems
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar and related disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • OCD and related disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Trauma and stressor-related disorders
  • The diagnosis experience
  • Correcting misinformation
  • What diagnosis means for recovery
  • The evolving nature of diagnosis

Book excerpts

Mental Illness Story Contributors

Reader responses

“A good mental health consultation should always involve the professional sharing their thinking with the patient to reach a shared understanding; but too often it does not; or it can be hard to retain all the information. This book helps address that and empowers patients to be more equal partners in their mental health experiences. Every mental health service should have this in their waiting room!”

– Dr Louise Atkin, Consultant Psychiatrist, Amazon UK

Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis was an informative and eye-opening read. My favorite thing about it was getting to hear many unique perspectives that I probably wouldn’t find elsewhere. I recommend this book to anybody who suffers from mental illness, knows someone with who suffers from mental illness (pretty sure we all do), is interested in psychology, or wants to hear the perspectives of those who experience the world in a different way.”

Hannah Celeste, Books and Bakes

“I love this book!! I could not put it down! It was actually a page turner…something very unusual for a clinical book in this therapist’s experience….user friendly for clinicians or non.”

– Sandi,

“This book does an amazing job breaking down various mental illnesses and I highly recommend it for everyone.”

– Sandy Pace, author of Your Mental Health and You, Goodreads

“This book accomplishes to carefully and skillfully dissolve the steep, cold walls of mental health stigma and allows it’s readers to peer into the diagnosis’s that will never define any of it’s contributors who battle their illnesses, fearlessly.”

– Mike and Katy Mae of Our DID Journey

“I love how it is written in way that breaks the stigma of a psychiatric diagnosis meaning your mental illness defines you like a label.  Ashley wrote this book in a way that teaches people what mental illness is and that a psychiatric diagnosis means what you want it to mean.”

Michelle Tikalsky, author of Shattered

“It’s not often writers can make psychiatry easy to understand, engaging and useful all in one go. But Ashley has managed to do just this, covering and exploring the issues around mental illness diagnosis and the criteria with which individuals are assessed against. She covers the topics thoroughly and makes highly relevant, extremely thought-provoking points throughout.”

Caz, Invisibly Me

“Ashley’s book can be summarized as, “The DSM-5 for Dummies.” I wish I had this book when I was in graduate school because it would have made understanding mental illness much easier.”

– Johnzelle Anderson, LPC, Panoramic Counseling

Posts on MH@H Related to Psychiatric Diagnosis

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention #iGiveBoldly

The Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis team proudly donated net proceeds from 2019 sales of Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on Giving Tuesday 2019.

Mental Health Book Series bundle from Mental Health @ Home Books

This page contains affiliate links that let you support Mental Health @ Home at no extra cost to you.