Psychiatric diagnosis is meaningless, new study shows

In a new study, researchers concluded that psychiatric diagnoses are worthless as tools to identify discrete mental health disorders.

The research was led by a team from the University of Liverpool.

In the new study, the team conducted a detailed analysis of the latest edition of the widely used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Diagnostic manuals such as the DSM were created to provide a common diagnostic language for mental health professionals and aim to provide a definitive list of mental health problems, including their symptoms.

The researchers focused on on ‘schizophrenia’, ‘bipolar disorder’, ‘depressive disorders’, ‘anxiety disorders’ and ‘trauma-related disorders’.

They found that psychiatric diagnoses all use different decision-making rules; there is a huge amount of overlap in symptoms between diagnoses; almost all diagnoses ignore the role of trauma and adverse events; diagnoses tell little about the individual patient and what treatment they need.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that diagnostic labeling represents ‘a disingenuous categorical system’.

They say that diagnostic labels create the illusion of an explanation but they are scientifically meaningless and can create stigma and prejudice.

The psychiatric diagnostic system wrongly assumes that all distress results from disorder, and relies heavily on subjective judgments about what is normal.

The team hopes the new findings can encourage mental health professionals to think beyond diagnoses and consider other explanations of mental distress, such as trauma and other bad life experiences.

They suggest that maybe it is time to stop pretending that medical-sounding labels contribute anything to the understanding of the complex causes of human distress or of what kind of help people need when distressed.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Kate Allsopp, University of Liverpool.

The study is published in Psychiatry Research.

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