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Science and Pseudoscience in Abnormal Psychology, Part III; Diagnosis & the DSM February 10, 2014 PSYC 2340: Abnormal Psychology Brett Deacon, Ph.D. Announcements. This week : Today: Diagnosing mental disorders and the DSM Wednesday: Rosenhan article Friday: Exam #1.

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Science and Pseudoscience in Abnormal Psychology, Part III; Diagnosis & the DSMFebruary 10, 2014PSYC 2340: Abnormal PsychologyBrett Deacon, Ph.D.

  • This week:
    • Today: Diagnosing mental disorders and the DSM
    • Wednesday: Rosenhan article
    • Friday: Exam #1
on being sane in insane places rosenhan 1973 http www youtube com watch v kq 7uvvooyk
On Being Sane in Insane Places(Rosenhan, 1973)
“It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals.”

-D.L. Rosenhan

diagnosis and stigma
Diagnosis and Stigma
  • On being sane in insane places (Rosenhan, 1973)
  • Issues to consider in the article
  • (1) how diagnoses were made
  • (2) the effects of being labeled with a diagnosis
  • (3) the effects of being a patient in a mental institution
  • (4) your personal reaction to the study
from last class
From Last Class
  • Naïve realism and the accuracy of subjective impressions (intuition)
    • My debate with EPA president about antidepressant efficacy
  • Second half of Scott Lilienfeld’s presentation
important points
Important Points
  • Pseudoscientific therapies are popular
  • In part, their popularity is due to the romantic “way of knowing” (as opposed to empiricism)
  • Romantics endorse naïve realism and fall prey to confirmation bias
  • Scientific thinking is unnatural
    • Scientists should be humble
  • Scientific training – thinking like a scientist vs. learning scientific technologies
  • Last few slides
causes of spurious therapy effectiveness
Causes of Spurious Therapy Effectiveness
  • Name reasons why a client might appear to improve during therapy – other than the direct effects of the therapy itself.
causes of spurious therapy effectiveness1
Causes of Spurious Therapy Effectiveness
  • Placebo (expectancy) effects
  • Spontaneous remission
  • Regression to the mean
  • Demand characteristics
  • Maturation
  • Absence of knowledge of the hypothetical counterfactual
ethics science and pseudoscience
Ethics, Science, and Pseudoscience
  • APA ethics code (
  • Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
  • “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons.”
exam review
Exam Review
  • Chapter 1 (Intro and Historical Context)
  • Defining abnormality, mental disorder, insanity, and disease
  • DSM-IV and diagnosing mental disorders
  • Differences between mental health professions
  • Scientist-practitioner model
  • Historical conceptions of psychopathology (supernatural, biological, psychological)
exam review1
Exam Review
  • Chapter 1 (Intro and Historical Context)
  • Assumptions of the modern biological approach, classifying psychotropic medications and understanding drug action, chemical imbalance theory
exam review2
Exam Review
  • Chapter 1 (Intro and Historical Context)
  • Psychoanalytic theory
  • Humanistic theory
    • Assumptions of scientific approach to psychotherapy research vs. humanistic philosophy
  • Behavioral and cognitive theory (classical and operant conditioning, cognition)
exam review3
Exam Review
  • Costs of pseudoscientific therapies
  • Lilienfeld talk
    • Romantic vs. empiricism
    • Reasons why what we think is so might not be
  • Importance of science in abnormal psychology
exam review4
Exam Review
  • Rosenhan article
    • Arguments, and responses from critics
  • The anti-psychiatry movement
exam review5
Exam Review
  • Chapter 3 (Diagnosis; pp. 85-96 only)
  • Categorical, dimensional, and prototypical approaches to classification
  • Advantages and disadvantages of diagnosing
  • Reliability and validity in diagnosis
  • Characteristics of previous and current versions of the DSM
diagnosing mental disorders
Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • Diagnostic classification
    • Classification is central to all sciences
    • Develop categories based on shared attributes
    • Controversial when applied to abnormal psychology
  • Scientific classification strives to “carve nature at its joints”
  • Seeks to identify “natural categories”
  • Examples of natural categories of medical diseases: tuberculosis, hepatitis, influenza, HIV/AIDS
  • Not all medical problems are natural categories
    • Hypertension, obesity, etc.
issues in diagnosing mental disorders
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • Natural vs. artificial categories
    • Are mental disorders distinct entities that can be meaningfully (validly) classified into different categories?
    • Does nature have “joints” that represent different mental disorders?
    • Do mental disorders represent natural categories?
issues in diagnosing mental disorders1
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • Mental disorders are not valid, in the sense that there is no objective test for them
  • Mental disorders are “fictive categories” or “heuristics” not to be misconstrued as “natural kinds” or “real entities” (former NIMH Director Steven Hyman)
issues in diagnosing mental disorders2
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • Does this mean that psychological problems do not exist?
    • Is schizophrenia a “myth” (Szasz, 1961)?
  • Validity issues aside, are there advantages to classifying mental disorders?
classifying psychopathology
Classifying Psychopathology
  • Categorical (classical) approach
  • A person either has a disorder or does not
  • Assumes each disorder has a clear underlying cause (most likely biological)
  • Assumes each disorder is fundamentally unique
  • Everybody with the disorder should meet all diagnostic criteria
classifying psychopathology1
Classifying Psychopathology
  • Dimensional approach
  • People have varying degrees of psychopathology
  • Dimensions can overlap with each other
  • Does not assume the presence of pathology
classifying psychopathology2
Classifying Psychopathology
  • Dimensional approach
  • Advantages: it is accurate
    • Research shows that many mental disorder symptoms (e.g., depressed mood, obsessions and compulsions) are continuous, not categorical
    • No need to assume people with problems are abnormal, defective, or fundamentally different from others
classifying psychopathology3
Classifying Psychopathology
  • Dimensional approach
  • Disadvantages:
    • What are the dimensions? How many are there? How to rate them? What to do with these ratings? What would third-party payers do with these ratings?
    • Nobody has ever generated a clinically useful dimensional system of classification
classifying psychopathology4
Classifying Psychopathology
  • Prototypical approach
  • 1. Identifies essential characteristics of a disorder
  • 2. Allows for variations within the diagnosis
  • Diagnostic criteria include a number of symptoms, only some of which need to be met
  • Combines elements of categorical and dimensional approach, but in the end a person either has or does not have a disorder
  • Exemplified in the DSM
issues in diagnosing mental disorders3
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • 1. Problems are diagnosed based on symptoms without regard to their cause
issues in diagnosing mental disorders4
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • Do all people who meet DSM diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder have the same problem?
    • Person A: homesick college student
    • Person B: terminally ill cancer patient
  • Does the cause of a problem matter if we wish to understand and treat it?
issues in diagnosing mental disorders5
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • 2. Excessive variation within the same diagnosis
diagnosing obsessive compulsive disorder
Diagnosing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • The following people all have the same diagnosis:
    • Patient #1: hoarding worthless objects
    • Patient #2: contamination fear and washing rituals
    • Patient #3: fear of stabbing others with knife
    • Patient #4: fear of hitting pedestrians with car
    • Patient #5: symmetry and arranging compulsions
    • Patient #6: blasphemous obsessions and compulsive religious rituals
issues in diagnosing mental disorders6
Issues in Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • 3. Excessive overlap between different diagnoses
comorbidity exemplar major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder
Comorbidity Exemplar: Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Common symptoms:
    • Physical agitation/restlessness
    • Fatigue/loss of energy
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Irritability
    • Sleep disturbance
  • Extremely high comorbidity
  • “All depressed patients are anxious, but not all anxious patients are depressed” (your text)
purposes and evolution of the dsm
Purposes and Evolution of the DSM
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM); published by American Psychiatric Association
  • DSM-I (1952) and DSM-II (1968)
    • Both relied on unproven theories and were unreliable
evolution of the dsm
Evolution of the DSM
  • History of the DSM
  • 5 editions, I in 1952 through IV in 1994
  • DSM-I (1952)
  • DSM-II (1968)
  • DSM-III (1980)
  • DSM-III-R (1987)
  • DSM-IV (1994; “Text revision” in 2000)
the modern dsm
The Modern DSM
  • DSM-III (1980), DSM-III-R (1987), DSM-IV (1994)
    • Atheoretical, emphasizing clinical description
    • Detailed diagnostic criteria for each disorder
    • Checklist approach to diagnosis
    • Improved reliability for most disorders
    • Problems include low reliability for some disorders and reliance on committee consensus
the modern dsm1
The Modern DSM
  • Paradigm shift from DSM-II to DSM-III (1980)
  • From vague, psychoanalytic model to atheoretical, symptom checklist
  • This shift was not precipitated by advances in scientific understanding of mental disorders
  • Why did it occur?
atheoretical diagnosis
Atheoretical Diagnosis
  • Diagnostic criteria focus on symptoms, not on their presumed underlying causes
  • Improves diagnostic reliability
  • Fosters checklist approach to diagnosis
  • Discourages attempts to understand the factors that are contributing to symptoms
the dsm iv 1994
The DSM-IV (1994)
  • Basic characteristics
    • Multiaxial approach to diagnosis
    • Five axes describing full clinical presentation
the dsm iv
  • Axis I – Most major disorders
  • Axis II – Stable, enduring problems (e.g., personality disorders, mental retardation)
  • Axis III – Medical conditions related to abnormal behavior
  • Axis IV – Psychosocial problems
  • Axis V – Global clinician rating of adaptive functioning (Global Assessment of Functioning, or GAF)
the case of jenny
The Case of Jenny

Jenny, a 21-year-old nurse, has mild asthma. She worries that shortness of breath signifies an impending episode of suffocation and death. When she has difficulty breathing, she often experiences severe panic attacks during which she is convinced she is dying. She was referred to a psychologist after numerous ER visits, unsuccessful medication trials, and relaxation training. She frequently misses work because of her panic symptoms and is in danger of being fired if she takes any more sick days.

jenny s dsm iv diagnosis
Jenny’s DSM-IV Diagnosis
  • Axis I: Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
  • Axis II: No diagnosis
  • Axis III: Asthma
  • Axis IV: Occupational problems
  • Axis V: GAF = 55 (Current)
diagnosing mental disorders1
Diagnosing Mental Disorders
  • Primary role of mental health professionals
  • Scientifically questionable but practically indispensable in our current healthcare system
reliability and diagnosis
Reliability and Diagnosis
  • Reliability (interrater agreement). Affected by:
  • Subjectivity of diagnostic criteria
  • Patient report (accuracy, self-disclosure)
  • Types of questions being asked by assessor
  • Unstructured vs. structured interviews
reliability and diagnosis1
Reliability and Diagnosis
  • Diagnosing ADHD
  • APA President Jeffrey Lieberman: ““…clinicians must resist marketing pressures, as well as parental pressures, to ensure that diagnoses are made in a rigorous way and that treatments are prescribed judiciously.”
  • So, diagnoses are to be made in a rigorous way. Could anyone explain to me how the criterion item “Often runs or climbs about in situations where it is inappropriate (Note: in adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless)” can be applied in a rigorous way? How often is “often”? How would one even begin to assess the frequency with which a child runs or climbs about? How do we define appropriate? A strict, uptight nanny might say that running and climbing about is never appropriate. A parent or teacher might feel that running and climbing about were OK for boys but not for girls, etc… And apparently adolescents and adults score yes on this item if they often feelrestless! I would guess that during the winter, half the adult population of the northern United States feel restless. We call it cabin fever! And aren’t adolescents supposed to feel restless? Isn’t it the time of the great awakening – when young people look to the horizon and dream their dreams?
validity and mental disorders
Validity and Mental Disorders
  • Mental disorders overlap a great deal and are not separated by “natural boundaries”
  • We have no objective tests to detect them
  • Mental disorders are not categorically distinct from normality (i.e., mental health problems exist on a continuum)
  • Thus, mental disorders are not valid in the traditional sense
  • They are, however, useful by virtue of conveying information about cause, outcome, and treatment (Kendell & Jablensky, 2003)
advantages of diagnosing
Advantages of Diagnosing
  • Enhances communication between professionals
  • Facilitates study of causes and treatments of specific disorders
  • Helps in treatment planning
  • Necessary for insurance reimbursement
disadvantages of diagnosing
Disadvantages of Diagnosing
  • Adds little to our understanding of a problem
  • Many diagnoses have poor reliability
  • Stigmatizes patients and invites discrimination
  • Suggests the presence of a disease state