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Psychiatric diagnoses questioned

Wednesday July 10th, 2019

The labels placed on psychiatric disorders are unhelpful and do not support effective diagnosis, experts have claimed.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool, UK, led a study into five important chapters of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - on 'schizophrenia', 'bipolar disorder', 'depressive disorders', 'anxiety disorders' and 'trauma-related disorders'.

The conclusion they reached was that psychiatric diagnoses all use different decision-making rules and have significant overlap in symptoms between the different diagnoses.

In addition, almost all diagnoses “tell us little about the individual patient and what treatment they need”. Therefore, they believe that diagnostic labelling is “a disingenuous categorical system”.

Full details of the work are published in the September issue of Psychiatry Research.

The authors write that the current system has implications for the way cause is conceptualised, “such as implying that trauma affects only a limited number of diagnoses despite increasing evidence to the contrary”.

Instead, they call for a “pragmatic approach to psychiatric assessment, allowing for recognition of individual experience”.

Dr Kate Allsopp, the lead researcher, commented: "Although diagnostic labels create the illusion of an explanation they are scientifically meaningless and can create stigma and prejudice.

“I hope these findings will encourage mental health professionals to think beyond diagnoses and consider other explanations of mental distress, such as trauma and other adverse life experiences."

"Perhaps it is time we stopped pretending that medical-sounding labels contribute anything to our understanding of the complex causes of human distress or of what kind of help we need when distressed," added co-author Professor John Read.

Allsopp, K. et al. Heterogeneity in psychiatric diagnostic classification. Psychiatry Research to be published in September 2019; doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.07.005

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2019.07.005

Tags: Mental Health | UK News

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