Robert Spitzer, Psychiatrist, Died at 83

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Robert Leopold Spitzer was born on May 22, 1932, in White Plains, New York, and died on December 25, 2015.

He was a psychiatrist and retired professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.

Robert was a major force in the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Spitzer received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cornell University.

He received his M.D. from New York University School of Medicine in 1957.

Roberts completed his article on Wilhelm Reich’s theories in 1953 which the American Journal of Psychiatry declined to publish.

Robert co-developed a computer program, Diagno I, in 1968, based on a logical decision tree, that could derive a diagnosis from the scores on a Psychiatric Status Schedule (which he co-published in 1970) and that the Project used to check the consistency of its results.

His many works include; co-developing the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ), a screening technique used for diagnosing bipolar disorder, co-developed the Patient Health Questionnaire (PRIME-MD) which can be self-administered to find out if one has a mental illness and he also co-authored a position paper in 2003 with DSM-IV editor Michael First, stating that the “DSM is generally viewed as clinically useful.

He was known in the 2007 BBC TV series The Trap, in which he stated that the DSM, by operationalizing the definitions of mental disorders while paying little attention to the context in which the symptoms occur, may have medicalized the normal human experiences of a significant number of people.

Robert took an interest in discussing homosexuality delivered a controversial paper, ‘Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? at the 2001 annual APA meeting; in that paper, Spitzer argued that it is possible that some highly motivated individuals could successfully change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

He also wrote and co-authored books including; Critical Issues in Psychiatric Diagnosis (with Donald F. Klein), Raven, 1978. ISBN 0-89004-213-6, DSM III Casebook, American Psychiatric Publications, 1981. ISBN 0-89042-051-3, Treatment of Mental Disorders (with James W. Jefferson), Oxford University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-19-503107-5, Psychopathology, a Case Book (with Janet B. W. Williams and Andrew E. Skodol), McGraw-Hill, 1983. ISBN 0-07-060350-2, DSM-III Case Book (Diagnostic), Cambridge University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-521-31530-1, APA: Desk Reference to DSM-III R (Diagnostic), Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-521-34693-2, An Annotated Bibliography of DSM-III, 1987. ISBN 0-88048-257-5 and many more.

Robert Spitzer received the Thomas William Salmon Medal from the New York Academy of Medicine for his contributions to psychiatry.

Robert Spitzer passed away at 83 yrs old.