Psychiatric Diagnoses Are ‘Scientifically Meaningless’ Study Finds

A new study, led by researchers from the University of Liverpool and published in Psychiatry Research, has concluded that psychiatric diagnoses represent “a disingenuous categorical system” and are scientifically worthless as tools to identify mental health disorders. 

The study analyzed chapters on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and trauma-related disorders, in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Psychiatrists use the DSM to provide them with a common diagnostic language and a definitive list of mental health problems and their symptoms.

However, the study found the psychiatric diagnoses in the DSM are “scientifically meaningless.” They found that almost all diagnoses mask the role of trauma and adverse events and ultimately tell very little about the individual and what treatment they need. The researchers detailed how there is too much overlap in symptoms between diagnoses for them to be legitimate and arriving at various diagnoses requires the use of different decision-making rules.

The research, titled “Heterogeneity in psychiatric diagnostic classification” was co-authored by Kate Allsopp, John Read, Rhiannon Corcoran, and Peter Kinderman.

Lead researcher Dr. Kate Allsopp said, “I hope these findings will encourage mental health professionals to think beyond diagnoses and consider other explanations of mental distress.”

Professor Peter Kinderman said, “This study provides yet more evidence that the biomedical diagnostic approach in psychiatry is not fit for purpose.”

Professor John Read said, “Perhaps it is time we stopped pretending that medical-sounding labels contribute anything to our understanding of the complex causes of human distress or of what kind of help we need when distressed.”



Photo: “Reeve041476” by Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine is licensed under CC BY 2.0