We need to rethink how we classify mental illness

“Psychiatric diagnosis must serve an ethical purpose: relieving certain forms of suffering and disease. Science alone can’t do that”

Dr. Tamara Kayali Browne is a Bioethicist and Philosopher, lecturing in Health Ethics and Professionalism at Deakin University, Australia.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Dr. Browne asks: “How do we decide what emotions, thoughts and behaviours are normal, abnormal or pathological?”

She continues:

“This is essentially what a select group of psychiatrists decide each time they revise the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered a ‘bible’ for mental health professionals worldwide.

But questions like this cannot be answered by scientists alone. This was famously demonstrated when homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in the DSM in 1973. The decision was not based on new scientific evidence but came about due to pressure from activists. Cases such as this show the limitations of psychiatry and is where I believe philosophers, sociologists and ethicists could be of use …”

Read more here.

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1 Comment

  1. Jay A. J. Shuck

    Interesting and thought provoking. However, I think the author missed the point where peculiarities and situations become clinical. It is at the point of disruption of normal activities for that patient. This is the demarcation between unusual and clinical.


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