How “Mental Disorders” are Diagnosed

Published by the Inner Compass Initiative, this article “examines how diagnoses of ‘mental disorders’ differ from medical diagnoses, and reviews the reliability of mental health screening tests and other clinical methods for diagnosing mental disorders.” It begins:

“Are there biological tests for diagnosing mental disorders?

For decades, many researchers have been trying to find biological markers that could be linked to particular mental disorder diagnoses, hoping that such discoveries could lead to better drug treatments. So we often hear of new evidence about biochemical imbalances of serotonin or dopamine, genetic roots of mental disorders, brain scans revealing types of schizophrenia, blood analyses for detecting depression, and various other biological tests for mental disorders. Though often trumpeted in the media, none of these experimental findings has ever been scientifically validated. There are currently no genetic, biological, chemical or other physical tests of any kind that can determine the presence or absence of any mental disorders.

For many of us this can be difficult to accept or believe because we have heard otherwise so frequently. One factor that sows confusion is the way in which evidence of physical effects is often misrepresented or misconstrued as evidence of disease pathology and causes of pathology. It’s important to understand that, for example, while it’s certainly possible to detect physical effects of anxious feelings such as accelerated breathing, rising heart rate, or increased blood flow in parts of a person’s brain, those observations do not tell us anything about what is causing the person’s anxiety. Furthermore, being able to observe those physical changes does not prove that the person ‘has’ a ‘disease’ called ‘Generalized Anxiety Disorder’.

Another cause of public misunderstanding is the fact that the treatment of mental disorders as if they were well-understood, brain-based, biochemical illnesses has become a large and lucrative industry that spends, conservatively, tens of billions of dollars annually in promotional, “educational” and public relations activities. (For more information, please read ICI’s ‘How Psychiatric Drugs are Researched and Marketed‘.) As part of these promotional efforts, leading proponents and experts for this industry are often reluctant to publicly clarify that there continue to be no known biological causes of mental disorders or biological ways of detecting mental disorders. It was, for example, only amid a groundswell of high-profile criticism and questioning in 2013 surrounding the release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that the American Psychiatric Association issued a news release clarifying for news reporters and the general public that, indeed, there are no known biological markers for any mental disorders …”

You can read more from here.

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