Issues surrounding classification and diagnosis

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  • Created by: sia sundu
  • Created on: 15-06-13 08:05

Discuss issues surrounding the classification and/or diagnosis of SZ (8+16 marks)

Schizophrenia is said to a disorder characterised by distorted thinking, impaired emotional responses, poor interpersonal skills and a distortion of reality.

Classification systems are central to scientific disciplines. They are used in psychopathology for a variety of reasons: to make communication between professionals working with the field of psychopathology easier, to understand the implications of diagnosis for predicting the outcome of the disorder and for choosing appropriate treatment. Also to understand more about the possible causes of mental disorders, to indicate possible preventive measures, and to stimulate further research and make it more reliable. In order for a classification system to be this advantageous, it needs to be robust which means it should be exhaustive, mutually exclusive, valid and reliable. Being exhaustive means including all types of abnormal behaviour, mutually exclusive means the boundaries between different categories should be clear and not be “fuzzy” so it can be known what disorder(s) a person is suffering from. Validity refers to the appropriateness of the classification categories, for example, if someone is diagnosed as schizophrenic they should then respond to a particular treatment. If they do not this casts doubt over the predictive validity of the diagnosis. Finally, reliability means each time the classification system is used to diagnose a set of symptoms it should produce the same outcome.

Most people acknowledge the usefulness of classification and diagnosis. Some psychologists, however, think there are big issues with the system and it is inappropriate in the context of psychopathology. Thomas Szasz (1962) dismissed the whole idea of treating mental disorders in the same way as physical disorders, as “the myth of mental illness”. Szasz believed it encouraged us to interpret 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. He also argued that the process of diagnosis is just a form of politically sanctioned social control. Similarly, some critics of diagnosis have suggested that it is stigmatising


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