Search This Blog

Friday, 9 October 2009

Psychiatric Diagnosis -The corpse that wouldn't die

The criticisms of taxonomic systems in psychiatry and psychotherapy are not new - indeed Wittgenstein suggested that "The classifications made by philosophers and psychologists are like those that someone would give who tried to classify clouds by their shape" (PR #154).

Professor Ricahrd Bentall (whom I trained with in Liverpool many moons ago) has recently revisited the topic yet again in the Guardian ( He points out that there is minimal genetic evidence supporting psychiatric diagnostic systems (compared with other fields of medicine) and that the advances that have occurred in other medical areas have noticeably failed to be replicated in psychiatry.

The flawed nature of the psychiatric diagnostic system has failed to lead to its disappearance however. Indeed, what strikes me as interesting is that despite the changing tide towards "talking therapies" a pharmaceutical classification system remains arguably more predominant than ever. Twenty years ago, criticisms of the psychiatric diagnostic system were rife as part of the tail end of the anti-psychiatry movement and within my own profession (clinical psychology). Today, such criticisms is notable by their rarity.

Why is it that such a heavily criticised model refuses to lie down and die ? The most common answer given (apart from the `the tradition one that drugs "work" , thus "proving" the validity of the diagnostic system) is that big Pharma and the medical profession are well financed and have a lot invested in maintaining the system. Jobs, careers and profits would be lost, if it wasn't so. This is true.

However, I'm struck by how this argument also applies to other professions as well. To obtain funding for research requires acceptance of the diagnostic system, to have a conversation with colleagues about a client
requires acceptance of the diagnostic system, to fail to do so would lead one to be seen as a "poor team player", to obtain promotion may well require an interest in particular diagnostic categories. In other words, there is no real alternative. If this really is the case I'm not sure I expect to see a proper burial of the system any time soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About this Blog

This is our first attempt to join the exciting world of blogging and bring to you all the fresh and hot news about the world of psychology and, of course, about your favourite training company. This is our new enterprise and we are finding our way in this mysterious world of blogging cautiously (but surely...) :-)
We are hoping to move our popular SDS Delegate Debate into this blogging format in the future and looking forward to lively discussions here with you. We are planning to start with publishing already existing SDS Delegate Debates — with comments received from you. Then we'll move to the current news as well as will run new delegate debates there.
Feel free to leave comments to any of the posts — whether they are old debates, the news or new debates. As you can guess — every blogger loves his readers and LIVES for the comments. :-) We are just the same. You don’t need to register in order to be able to comment. You can leave your feedback as “Anonymous”, however, may we ask you to sign you name (or nick) at the end of your comment (even if you are commenting without logging in) so that we know how to address you.
Another useful tool that SDS Blog provides us with is availability of Polls that enable us to find out your views about various subjects. Polls are located on the left panel of the page and updated regularly. Please feel free to vote. You can see the results of each poll by clicking the button "Results".
If you wish to register — nothing can be easier — you just open a Google account — most of you, surely, already use one.
Your comments are read by SDS Consultants regularly and — in many cases — replied to.
The blog is moderated — mainly to protect you and other readers from spam and irrelevant comments.
All posts are tagged — hopefully it'll help you to find your way around there.
Wish us luck and please join the list of our followers.
There was an error in this gadget