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Overuse of DSM diagnostic labels has the potential to harm rather than help.




The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides clinicians with a standardized system for diagnosing mental health conditions. Identifying a diagnosis helps patients better understand their symptoms and helps clinicians identify effective treatment options. Diagnosis aids clinicians in performing collaborative care due to a continuity in clinical jargon.


For many individuals, a diagnosis is necessary to make treatment accessible, for example, insurance companies require a specified diagnosis to justify paying for those treatments. In situations of severe illness, it allows patients to receive disability support. Mental health diagnoses should be used as a tool to aid treatment, but when the DSM is misused or overused, it can have the following harmful consequences for individuals struggling with mental illness:


Stigmatization:


Being labeled with a mental illness may open a person up to discrimination, causing shame and a reluctance to seek treatment or talk about their struggles.


Misdiagnosis:


Proper use of the DSM diagnostics requires interpretation both of behaviors observed by others and experiences reported by the individual. Hasty or unskilled application of this tool can result in a misdiagnosis, and therefore inappropriate or ineffective treatment.


Self-fulfilling prophecy:


There is a risk that diagnosis will serve as a label rather than a help. In such cases, individuals may feel their struggles are permanent, giving rise to a self-fulfilling prophecy that recovery is hopeless.


Overemphasis on illness:


The focus of the DSM is mental health disorders. Considering disorders alone leads to a narrow view of mental health, ignoring the individual's strengths, abilities, and potential. This limited view usually results in a lack of emphasis on the individual's personal growth, self-discovery, and healing.


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