Diagnosing Psychiatric disorders

The New York Times has an article describing the problems with diagnosing psychiatric disorders. For instance, the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, a variant of autism, was pulled from a collection of disorders previously labeled Pervasive Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Much is at stake in whether a condition is elevated to the status of a full-fledged diagnosis. Because no laboratory tests or other objective criteria exist for making psychiatric diagnoses, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual is the definitive arbiter of the line between normal and abnormal. Its definitions help determine such practical matters as insurance reimbursement, competence and eligibility for disability. But they also help determine something more elusive, and probably more important: whether someone’s behavior should be considered a personality quirk or a symptom of mental illness.

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