The Pros and Cons of Classification Systems in Psychiatry

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Classification refers to the procedure in which ideas or objects are recognized, distinguished and understood. Currently, two leading systems are used for grouping of mental disorder namely International Classification of Disease (ICD) by World Health Organization (WHO) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Other classifications include Chinese classification of mental disorder, psycho-dynamic diagnostic manual, Latin American guide for psychiatric diagnosis etc. A survey of 205 psychiatrists, from 66 different countries across all continents, found that ICD-10 was more customarily used and more valued in clinical practice, while the DSM-IV was more valued for research [1].


1. It aids us to communicate our understanding with other experts. Trull (2004, pp. 125-126) referred to diagnosis as “verbal shorthand” for elucidating the features of a particular mental disorder [2]. It will be challenging for us to convey schizophrenia to other professionals just by using the clinical features, without a diagnosis. Listening to a diagnosis, immediately conjures up a doppelganger in our mind about what the patient can be suffering from.

2. A proper classification method removes the guess work for diagnosis. It serves as a guide to reach a precise diagnosis. Diagnostic criterion helps the clinician to make an interim diagnosis and clarify it in further assessments.

3. In the absence of a consistent classification, assortment and assessment of subjects will become nearly unmanageable. Researchers use diagnostic sets that empower them to draw deductions and comparison among different research groups.

4. Standardization of diagnoses helps to warr...

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