Axis III in the DSM: Diagnosis, Disorders & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:40 5 Axes of the DSM
  • 1:56 General Medical Condition
  • 2:27 Diagnosis
  • 4:28 Types of Conditions
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Explore Axis III of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Learn about general medical conditions, how they are related to the treatment of mental disorders and more.


Imagine that a client comes into your office experiencing symptoms of depression. After continuing your conversation, you find out that the client's depressive symptoms started right after the client was diagnosed with lung cancer. A review of the client's medical records also reveals that the client has asthma. Assume that you determined that the cancer is the cause of the client's depression. You decide that you should address the client's emotions surrounding his cancer diagnosis in your sessions. Like all general medical conditions, the client's cancer diagnosis would be recorded on Axis III.

The Five Axes of the DSM

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is often referred to as the 'Bible' of psychology. The DSM contains the classification of mental disorders that are diagnosed in the United States, including the requirements for diagnosis. In order to include a complete picture of the factors that influence the client's mental health, the DSM is broken down into five axes:

  • Axis I contains clinical disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Axis II contains mental retardation and personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
  • Axis III contains general medical conditions, such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Axis IV contains environmental and psychosocial factors that may affect the client's mental health, such as a recent divorce, inadequate social support and the death of a parent.
  • Axis V contains the global assessment of functioning, which is a numerical scale that measures the level of functioning of the client. The scale ranges from 0 (inadequate information) to 100 (high functioning with no symptoms of mental illness present).

For this lesson, we will focus on Axis III.

What Is a General Medical Condition?

A general medical condition is a physical problem that can potentially influence your client's mental illness. General medical conditions may be relevant to understanding and treating your client's mental disorder. There are three ways that you can view general medical conditions:

  1. They are directly related to your client's mental health problems.
  2. They are important in creating a comprehensive diagnosis of the client.
  3. There is not a significant relationship between the general medical condition and the client's mental health problems.


Whenever you determine that a mental disorder is a direct consequence of a general medical condition, you must record it as an 'Axis I diagnosis of a mental disorder, due to a general medical condition' and record the general medical condition on Axis III. In the example above, it was determined that the lung cancer was the cause of the client's depression. Therefore, a diagnosis of 'mood disorder due to lung cancer, with depressive features' goes on Axis I. Lung cancer is listed again on Axis III.

In instances when there is not a clear enough relationship between the general condition and the mental disorder to warrant a diagnosis of a mental disorder due to a general medical condition, the general medical condition is recorded on Axis III only. If you recall, the client in our example also has asthma, but there is not a clear relationship between the client's asthma and depression. Therefore, we record asthma on Axis III only.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.