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People or Plants?

People or Plants?

The Myth that Psychiatric Diagnoses are Meaningful

(p.89) 5 People or Plants?
Doctoring the Mind
Richard P. Bentall
NYU Press

This chapter initially presents the case of Andrew, a man with pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that was exacerbated by the bullying he received while serving in the army. Modern biological psychiatrists assume that psychiatric disorders can be classified into a discrete number of diseases analogous to those encountered in physical medicine. Andrew's anxiety about his diagnosis is a reminder that this assumption may have important consequences for both clinicians and patients. For the clinician, classifying the patient's experiences under a diagnosis seems like an important first step in order to make sense of the patient's difficulties. For the patient, being diagnosed will often evoke some kind of emotional response. The chapter shows the importance of having a widely used system of psychiatric classification that provides a realistic and meaningful framework for understanding the problems of patients. This question of diagnostic validity lies at the center of modern psychiatric theory.

Keywords:   psychiatric classification, biological psychiatry, diagnostic validity, modern psychiatric theory, PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychiatric disorders

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