Health Experts Suggest Psychiatric Diagnosis is ‘Scientifically Meaningless’

Experts infer that diagnosis is scientifically meaningless, creates stigma and prejudice

Recent study suggests key contents of DSM-5 that assist psychiatric diagnosis hold no scientific value. 

According to an article published in Neuroscience News, mental health experts warn in many cases psychiatric diagnosis are “scientifically meaningless” and that they can “create stigma and prejudice”.

Based on a research paper, researchers from University of Liverpool and University of East London who have studied the “heterogeneous nature of categories” for DSM-5 [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5 is a book by the American Psychiatric Association], have discovered many inconsistencies and contradictions.

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They have thereby concluded a lack of uniformity in key chapters of the DSM-5 stating that it has significant “implications for research, clinical practice, and the provision of care” which is meant to be specific to meet an person’s individual needs. According to Dr. Kate Allsopp, while “diagnostic labels create the illusion of an explanation” they are otherwise meaningless and can lead to creating stigma and prejudice.

DSM-5 is a widely recognized as a sort of “diagnostic bible” for mental health. Dr. Allsopp and her team have analyzed five chapters that cover “schizophrenia”; “bipolar disorder”; “depressive disorders”; “anxiety disorders”; and “trauma” and/or stressor related disorders. They have discovered a high range of inconsistency within the diagnostic categories of the DSM-5. They suggest that while two psychiatric diagnoses do not use the same decision-making rules, there is an overlap of symptoms between them which goes noticed leading to contradictions.

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Moreover, they have deciphered that DSM-5 key elements fail to diagnose treatment custom to individual requirements. They have also found that almost all the diagnoses either dismiss or understate the impact of trauma and its consequent distressing events. The study authors argue that trauma or stressors are discussed in only one chapter implying that other categories are unrelated to trauma. Even experiences assessed are taken to be “symptomatic” of a disordered or inappropriate response.

Study author, Dr. Peter Kinderman, who is a clinical psychology professor elaborates, “the diagnostic system wrongly assumes that all distress results from disorder”. 

The researchers have further observed that DSM-5 has approximately “24,000 possible symptom combinations of panic disorder” as compared to that of social phobia which has one combination. They argue that there is a lack of uniformity “within the criteria” to be able to properly diagnose individuals in all editions of the DSM-5. In short, the study focuses on the idea that while diagnostic models can provide assistance to psychiatrists “clinical judgement” exercise, they can also result in lack of understanding when it comes to causes of any form of mental distress such as trauma.

With the recent study, the researchers have stressed for a “pragmatic approach” which would help in providing recognition based on individual experience since that would enable a better understanding of distress.

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The study authors have concluded their analysis by stating that the recent 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.”


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