All About the Mental Health Diagnosis Process & What it Claims to Measure
What is a Mental Health Diagnosis?
The mental health diagnosis process (or psychiatric diagnosis) involves matching the reported symptoms, feelings or experiences of a person’s emotional distress against a list of symptoms contained in (typically) the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The DSM-5-TR (5th edition) was published in March 2022 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and now contains over 300 different mental health disorders.
The original DSM-1 manual published in 1952 contained 106 disorders meaning that more than 200 new disorders have been added since then.
Problems with Mental Health Diagnosis
There are two main problems associated with the mental health diagnosis process leading many experts to question its true value.
Lack of Reliability
Reliability is a concept used throughout the scientific community that states that the results produced by applying the process should be the same regardless of who performs the process, or where it is performed.
Unfortunately, because a mental health diagnosis does not involve any kind of biological test (for example a blood test that might show pathogens in the blood) it relies on the individual interpretation (opinion) of the person performing the diagnosis.
Past research has shown that when different psychiatrists carry out a diagnosis on the same person they will often produce a different diagnosis!
Lack of Scientific Validity
Scientific validity is another concept used within science that determines whether a scientific process actually measures the thing it claims to be measuring, or how well it reflects the reality of what it claims.
The psychiatric and mental health diagnosis process is claimed to be a measure of a mental disease or biological malfunction within the brain of the sufferer.
Most people are largely unaware that in the history of psychiatry, not ONE single piece of evidence substantiating the claims of mental disease at the biological level has EVER been found.
The Usefulness of Mental Health Diagnosis
Whilst there are serious concerns over the scientific reliability and validity of the mental health diagnosis system, there are also a number of benefits associated with it.
Firstly, many people (particularly in the UK) who suffer from problems of mental distress can only access NHS support services if they have been formally diagnosed.
In other words, if you are in need of mental health support that is provided free of charge through the NHS, then you will often need a diagnosis to obtain it.
Secondly, many people feel that having their emotional distress categorised by a health professional helps them to make sense of it as something that is happening to them over which they have no control.
Thirdly, without a formal way of labelling and categorising mental health problems, the pharmaceutical industry would not be able to legitimately produce so many different drugs which are claimed to target mental diseases.
The sale of drugs around the world has grown in almost direct proportion to the growth in the number of mental health disorders listed within the DSM manual.
Psychiatry Through the Looking Glass
Today there is an ever-growing movement drawing attention to the large-scale pathologisation (classifying as due to pathology) of human experiences and how it may be more harmful than useful in the amelioration of emotional distress.
You can read what the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) said recently about the biomedical models of mental illness on Psychology Today using the link below:
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