The phenomenon of overdiagnosis in mental health arises from the tendency to label certain behaviors as pathological when they are not.
The overdiagnosis is not uncommon in psychiatry. However, this not only leads to incorrect diagnoses, but also leads many people to take drugs that they don’t really need.
The subjective nature of the diagnostic process has long been a problem in psychiatry. The psychiatrist is supposed to use his observations and imprecise diagnostic tools to determine whether a patient has a mental disorder. In these circumstances, it is easy to make mistakes which, in turn, lead to overdiagnosis.
The most widely used diagnostic reference is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM; English for “Diagnostic and Statistical Guide to Mental Disorders”). A group of psychiatrists (mostly from the United States) publishes the manual.
They vote to make decisions about how to define and include incidents in the guide. The first version of the manual identified 60 faults. The latest version, on the other hand, identifies more than 500.
Is there a mental health overdiagnosis problem?
The data show that overdiagnosis is a mental health issue. If we stick to the strict definitions of the latest version of the DSM, experts say that 70% of the population suffer from a mental illness. But that’s not all, because these people would also all be candidates for prescription drugs.
The DSM-5 contains some disorders that even mental health professionals will seriously question. For example, there is a disorder in the DSM called “Psychosis Risk Syndrome,” which is made up of features that indicate a high likelihood of developing psychosis in the future. This diagnosis is sufficient to prescribe a drug with antipsychotics.
However, if we stop and think about it, almost anyone could be diagnosed with this syndrome at some point in their life. Have you never felt like “going crazy” but didn’t feel like it? It is absurd to treat a disorder that may occur in the future could be . It’s like prescribing high blood pressure medication for a child with a hypertensive parent because there is a risk that the child will eventually develop high blood pressure as well.
Another example is “dysfunctional personality disorder with dysphoria”. This “disorder” basically describes an unsociable, selfish, and immoral person. According to the DSM, someone with this “condition” is also a good candidate for medication.
In reality, however, these people have only one uncomfortable personality. In the DSM-V, feeling extremely sad for more than a month after the death of a loved one is enough to be diagnosed with depression.
The difference between a disorder and malaise
The boundaries between wellbeing and illness in mental health are difficult to define. After all, “normal” is a very subjective concept and is related to the specific context of an individual. It is also important to point out that being human always involves a certain amount of suffering. Life is synonymous with dealing with constant uncertainty.
We will never have everything we want, and we will not have a perfectly balanced life. Everyone deals with suffering because there is death and it is a brutal imposition. No one can avoid the frustration that arises from circumstances beyond our control. Also, everyone is selfish or “bad” to some extent.
It makes sense that we would have times in our lives when we are sad and others when we struggle with fear. Some psychoanalysts believe that it is perfectly normal to have three episodes of psychosis in the course of our lives. It all depends on what’s going on around us. As mentioned above, problems that are completely normal are defined as disorders that in turn lead to overdiagnosis.
Another approach to disorders and suffering
Until recently, grief over the loss of a loved one was dealt with in the comfort of an individual’s immediate community. Every member of this community understands that some level of suffering is normal and necessary. Today, however, these support networks are becoming weaker.
In this day and age, it is more difficult to express emotional pain, which is why people in suffering feel alone. The idea that we should be happy all the time puts a lot of pressure on everyone. Many people do not even allow themselves to suffer. Hence, her way to deal with these feelings is through a pill prescribed by a psychiatrist.
Good or bad, medication is a way to deal with individual and collective discomfort. Overdiagnosis is a two-pronged reality. On the one hand, there are orthodox psychiatrists who work in a very narrow field of diagnosis and intervention. On the other hand, there are people who suffer but refuse to understand their pain. Instead, they ask for a chemical that will help suppress it.