Allen Frances

Allen Frances

Professor emeritus of psychiatry

Dr. Frances is an American psychiatrist best known for chairing the task force that produced the fourth revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), that was published in 1994, and for his critique of the current version, DSM-5. He warns that the expanding boundary of psychiatry is causing a diagnostic inflation that is swallowing up normality and that the over-treatment of the “worried well” is distracting attention from the core mission of treating the more severely ill. DSM-5 takes a strong step towards biomedical model in defining disease in psychiatry. However, Frances has said that “psychiatric diagnosis still relies exclusively on fallible subjective judgments rather than objective biological tests”.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Beach bum.

Q: Who is/was your role model?
A: Hundreds of people and none. I most liked people who quietly do their jobs and wanted to be like them.

Q: Tell us about a meaningful moment in your career
A: Seeing my first patients during psychiatric residency. I am still in contact with several of them 50 years later.

Q: If someone asked you to suggest a book to read, what would you recommend?
A: ULYSSES James Joyce

Q: What do you like to do in your down time?
A: Beach bum, read, play with wife and grandkids, reunions with ok friends.

Q: What is your favourite cuisine?
A: Junk food

Q: What is your favourite place in the world?
A: Wherever I am.

Q: Who would you most like to thank, and why?
A: My father- he was very patient, loving, and much wiset than I realized at the time.

Q: What are three things you would change in medicine?
A” Treat people, not tests
Less is more
Reduce medical mistakes
Cut obscene prices in US
Emphasize primary care

Q: How do you want people to remember you?
A: Since it won’t matter to me, whatever memories serve them best. Or none.

Selected (representative) publications

  1. Frances A. A report card on the utility of psychiatric diagnosis. World Psychiatry. 2016 Feb;15(1):32-3.
  2. Frances A. Resuscitating the biopsychosocial model. Lancet Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;1(7):496-7.
  3. Frances A. The new crisis of confidence in psychiatric diagnosis. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Nov 19;159(10):720.
  4. Schooler NR, Keith SJ, Severe JB, Matthews SM, Bellack AS, Glick ID, et al. Relapse and rehospitalization during maintenance treatment of schizophrenia – The effects of dose reduction and family treatment. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1997; MAY 1997;54(5):453-63.
  5. Simeon D, Stanley B, Frances A, Mann JJ, Winchel R, Stanley M. Self-Mutilation in Personality-Disorders – Psychological and Biological Correlates. Am J Psychiatry 1992; FEB 1992;149(2):221-6.
  6. Frances A. The Dsm-Iii Personality-Disorders Section – a Commentary. Am J Psychiatry 1980;137(9):1050-4. (185 citations)