Classification Systems

When diagnosing physical health problems, doctors examine and talk to their patients, to create lists of signs and symptoms. Signs are objective indicators like a rash or a high temperature, while symptoms are the patients’ subjective experiences, e.g. sore throat or tingling sensation. This information is used to reach a diagnosis, which informs treatment and the expected prognosis.

Many Westerners believe that mental disorders can be addressed in a similar way and manuals such as the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM) and the ‘International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems’ (ICD) provide checklists of symptoms that commonly cluster together allowing practitioners to identify and diagnose hundreds of different disorders.

The process of diagnosis often involves ruling out disorders for which the person does not match the description, in order to reach the disorder which is the ‘best fit’ for the individual. Finding an appropriate diagnosis can take the individual one step closer to specialised support and treatment.

There are two main classification systems for diagnosing mental disorder, the DSM and the ICD.

Describing the DSM and ICD

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My detailed PowerPoint: classification of disorders (1)

Extension reading:

starsAn article comparing the DSM and ICD:

Assessment Questions:

  • Contrast two or more classification systems. (22)
  • Evaluate one or more classification systems. (22)