Slides in this set
Abnormality is a difficult concept to define. One of the
problems is trying to decide where normal behaviour stops
and abnormal behaviour takes over. Clinicians and
researchers working in the field of psychopathology have
developed classification systems to help them make an
Classification the act of distributing things into classes or
categories of the same type.
Diagnosis the recognition and identification of a disease or
condition by its:
Signs the results of objective tests, such as those from blood
or urine tests.
Symptoms these are reports from the patients about how they
Classifying and diagnosing mental disorders
Classification is central to scientific disciplines. It is used in psychopathology for a
variety of reasons:
To make communication between professionals working within the field of psychopathology
To understand the implications of diagnosis for predicting the outcome of the disorder and for
choosing appropriate treatment.
To understand more about the possible causes of mental disorders.
To indicate possible preventative measures.
To stimulate research and to make the research more reliable.
Psychiatric classification raises particular controversies and challenges which are not
the same for other scientific disciplines, including other branches of medicine. Mental
disorders, for example, differ from physical disorders in several ways:
One major difference is that the underlying cause of the problem is usually apparent in physical
illnesses. Clinicians are more dependent on the patients' accounts of their symptoms. However,
with the arrival of modern brain scanning techniques such as PET and MRI, more signs are now
available to those working in the field of psychological disorder.
Another difference is that there is less agreement about what actually constitutes illness with
regard to mental disorders as opposed to physical disorders. For example, no one would disagree
with the conclusion that someone having a heart attack is ill and needs treatment. However, there
is less agreement about whether someone who is in a sad and depressed mood should be
classified as `mentally ill' and in need of treatment.
There are two major classification systems used in the field of psychology. These are
called the International Classification System for Diseases (ICD) and the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)…read more
While most professionals working in the field of
psychopathology acknowledge the usefulness of
classification and diagnosis, some people think it is
inappropriate in the context of psychological abnormality:
Some people have challenged the whole idea of treating mental
disorder in the same way as physical disorder. Thomas Szasz
(1962), for example, dismissed this approach as `the myth of
mental illness'. He believed that it encourages us to interpret the
problems of living as if they are illnesses. As a consequence, we
remove all responsibility from individuals for solving their own
problems and we run the risk of administering inappropriate,
even damaging, treatments.
Some critics say that placing a patient in a diagnostic category
distracts from understanding that person as a unique human
being with an individual set of difficulties. This can lead to
stigma whereby an individual with a mental illness is wrongly
judged as dangerous, unpredictable, incurable etc.…read more