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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:


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.


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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