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Diagnosing Psychological Disorders

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Diagnosing Psychological Disorders

How do professionals diagnose a psychological disorder? Does culture play a part in diagnosis? And what type of psychological disorders are there?

  • What are methods to diagnose psychological disorders?
  • Are there cultural differences in diagnosing psychological disorders?
  • What are criteria for diagnosing psychological disorders?
  • Can fictional characters be diagnosed with psychological disorders?

Methods of Diagnosing Psychological Disorders

Diagnosing psychological disorders can be difficult due to many overlapping symptoms. Mental health professionals need to make an accurate diagnosis to provide the patient with the best treatment.

DSM-5 and Psychological Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals across the globe. This manual is the blueprint for diagnosing psychological disorders, and the most recent contains 157 different diagnoses.

To make an accurate diagnosis, mental health professionals must rule out both biological diseases and other psychological disorders before diagnosing patients. This is typically done through laboratory tests of the patient's blood, imaging, and the administration of psychological tests.

Substance Abuse

A mental health professional must rule out substance abuse-induced symptoms by talking with the patient and their family about the nature of their substance abuse. Substance abuse is often a comorbidity of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, MDD, and bipolar disorder.

Once substance abuse is ruled out or determined as comorbidity, the mental health professional must evaluate the specific primary disorder using the DSM-5. Disorders in this manual are grouped according to common presenting symptoms. Once a primary diagnosis has been made, the mental health professional typically administers a psychological test to determine the level of severity.

For example, a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia via the DSM-5 criteria could be evaluated using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). This test determines how severe a patient's schizophrenia is by looking at 18 symptoms of behavior like aggression, psychosis, and hallucinations. The test ranks the severity of each symptom on a scale of 1 (non-existent) to 7 (very severe). Depending on the severity of their symptoms, schizophrenic patients will be prescribed lower or higher-dose antipsychotics.

Diagnosing Fictional Characters with Psychological Disorders

The set of characters that we will be analyzing today is from a show that we all know and love, SpongeBob SquarePants. If you look closely at the main characters, you will find that they all display symptoms of different psychological disorders. SpongeBob has a short attention span, is hyperactive, and gets distracted very easily. According to the DSM-5, he could be diagnosed with ADHD based on his symptoms. Since he is not a human, we can't rule out any biological diseases that might be the cause of his symptoms.

Patrick, on the other hand, could be diagnosed with an eating disorder due to his extreme love of food. Another character with a potential psychiatric disorder is Squidward. He has a fixed routine and takes showers in a very specific way, a textbook symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Now let's move on to Mr. Krabs. He is fixated on money and is very impulsive when it comes to his decisions and actions. His symptoms could be of Autism Spectrum Disorder or mania, and he would most likely need additional psychological testing for an accurate diagnosis.

Cultural Differences In Diagnosing Psychological Disorders

Culture influences how psychological disorders are diagnosed. Many cultures do not believe in psychological disorders, and as a result, many people are underdiagnosed. Cultural stigma is one of the primary reasons people do not seek mental health assistance. In many cultures, mental health issues are seen as a form of weakness that should not be discussed with others.

Stigma: A mark of disgrace associated with a given circumstance. Things with a stigma are linked to shame.

Another way culture can affect the diagnosis of psychological disorders is how well people understand and describe a patient's symptoms.

For example, a person from an African culture who is deeply religious may see the symptoms associated with schizophrenia as God or the Devil talking to them. They may be reluctant to seek mental health assistance because they may not even understand what schizophrenia is.

Criteria For Psychological Disorders

Historically speaking, the DSM-4 outlined a psychological disorder as having the 4 Ds: deviance, dysfunction, distress, and danger. A person needed to showcase symptoms that caused all or some of the 4 Ds to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder.

Deviance

For example, schizophrenic patients deviate from the societal norms due to their hallucinations and psychosis, as people do not normally have hallucinations unless they induce them with drug use.

Dysfunction

Dysfunction occurs when the affected individual cannot function normally in his daily life. According to the DSM-4, the level of dysfunction must be large enough to significantly interfere with the person's life. To understand this D, let's take a look at MDD. The DSM-4 outlines MDD as presenting with two or more episodes of severe depression. The patient may have difficulties functioning in their everyday life due to their depressive moods and may have extremely poor hygiene due to the lack of motivation that is usually present in MDD. These dysfunctions are considered severe and would demonstrate a diagnosis of MDD.

Distress

A patient will exhibit symptoms of distress when their symptoms are severe enough to activate a consistent stress response. Distress can be explored with anxiety symptoms such as phobias. If a patient is suspected of having a phobia of roaches, the mental health professional would expect to see an elevated stress response in the person when roaches are present near that person. Distress can be severe or mild and can greatly impact a person's everyday function.

Danger

Danger refers to a person being dangerous to themselves or others. In severe cases of MDD, a person can exhibit suicidal ideations and may even attempt suicide. These symptoms are extremely dangerous for the patient's well-being and require emergency intervention.

Diagnosing Psychological Disorders, Understanding psychological disorders/ Psychological disorders list and symptoms, Study SmarterUnderstanding psychological disorders. pixabay.com.

Psychological Disorders List and Symptoms

There are numerous psychological disorders outlined in the DSM-5, and each of them is unique.

Anxiety Disorders

Typical symptoms of anxiety disorders are high levels of distress that impact a person's function in everyday life. Symptoms include severe worrying, insomnia, fear, the feeling of doom, and panic attacks. The stress associated with anxiety affects your body's physiology and can cause high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and even strokes. There are distinct types of anxiety disorders, and all have a specific diagnosis.

Depressive Disorders

Depressive disorders are associated with mild to high levels of dysfunction, distress, and danger. Symptoms of depression include low mood, lack of motivation, lack of happiness, dysfunction in multiple aspects of life, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal attempts. Everyone with depression will have different symptoms and different levels of severity.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders range from moderate to severe, with anorexia being the most extreme. Eating disorders significantly impact a person and usually result from poor self-esteem. People with anorexia often starve themselves because they see themselves as fat, while people with bulimia binge eat and then take methods to prevent their bodies from absorbing the food. Eating disorders often showcase MDD as comorbidity. People with eating disorders have a significantly low mood, contributing to the worsening of the symptoms.

Personality Disorders

People with personality disorders often have a distorted sense of reality. In the case of narcissism, an affected person may be highly manipulative in order to get what they want. People with personality disorders lack empathy. Personality disorders are associated with a high level of deviance.

Empathy: The ability to share and understand the feelings of another person.

Psychotic Disorders

Usually, psychotic disorders range from mild to severe. However, most patient's have intense symptoms and need medical intervention. Symptoms of psychotic disorders include visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations, psychosis, and delirium. People with a psychotic disorder may present danger to themselves or others as they have distorted realities when not on medication. Psychotic disorders are associated with a high level of distress, danger, and dysfunction.

Diagnosing Psychological Disorders - Key takeaways

  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals across the globe.
  • The most recent DSM is the DSM-5 which contains 157 different diagnoses.
  • A malingering "disorder" is not a psychological disorder but a result of a person making up their symptoms to obtain something, which is usually money, drugs, or evading responsibilities.

  • Cultural stigma is one of the primary reasons people do not seek mental health assistance. In many cultures, mental health issues are seen as a form of weakness that should not be discussed with others.

  • DSM-4 outlined a psychological disorder as having the 4 Ds: deviance, dysfunction, distress, and danger.


References

  1. Davis, T. O. (2009, December 31). Conceptualizing Psychiatric Disorders Using "Four D's" of Diagnoses.
  2. Mental Health First Aid USA. (2022, March 22).
  3. Depression (major depressive disorder). StudySmarter. (2018, February 03).
  4. Mental Disorders. StudySmarter. (2022, March 15).

Frequently Asked Questions about Diagnosing Psychological Disorders

Psychological disorders are diagnosed based on the person's symptoms and scores on psychological tests. 

The DSM-5 is the most common method for diagnosing mental disorders as it outlines symptoms of over 100 psychological disorders. 

The four criteria for identifying psychological disorders are the four Ds: deviance, dysfunction, distress, and danger.

Mental health professionals, such as licensed mental health counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists can diagnose psychological disorders. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) was designed to diagnose psychological disorders. 

Final Diagnosing Psychological Disorders Quiz

Question

What is a psychological disorder?

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Answer

A condition that affects a person's mood, thinking, and behavior. 

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Psychological disorders can range from mild to severe.

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True

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What is the diagnostic tool used by most mental health professionals across the globe?

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Answer

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5)

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What are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors?

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Answer

Medications used to treat Major Depressive Disorder by preventing serotonin from leaving the synaptic cleft.

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What is malingering?

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Answer

A factitious disorder 

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What is a common comorbidity of psychological disorders?

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Answer

Substance abuse 

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In addition to the dsm-5 criteria, what other methods are used to diagnose a psychological disorder?

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Answer

Psychological tests 

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What is a common psychological test used to determine the severity of a person's schizophrenia?

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Answer

Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS)

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What is one of the major reasons why people do not seek mental health assistance?

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Answer

Cultural Stigma 

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What are the 4 D's used to determine if a person should be diagnosed with a psychological disorder?

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Answer

Deviance 

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People with personality disorders normally lack what?

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Answer

Empathy 

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What is empathy?

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Answer

The ability to share and understand the feelings of another person

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Which of the four D's outlines how much a person differs from societal norms?

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Deviance 

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Which of the four D's outlines the extent to which a person can't function in daily life?

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Dysfunction 

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Which of the four D's is the highest in anxiety disorders?

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Answer

Distress 

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How many diagnoses are in the DSM-5?

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148

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Why is it important for clinicians to do laboratory and psychological tests before diagnosing?

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Answer

To rule out diseases and other psychological disorders to make sure their diagnosis is accurate

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What does comorbidity mean?

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Answer

When multiple disorders are present at the same time

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Question

What mental health disorder would Spongebob be diagnosed with?

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Answer

ADHD

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What is the stigma around mental health disorders?

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Answer

People are viewed as weak or are shamed 

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Does culture impact people with mental health disorders getting help?

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Answer

Yes. Some cultures view mental health disorders as a weakness and therefore should not be talked about. 

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Does culture impact the diagnosis of people with mental health?

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Yes. Different cultures might interpret symptoms of mental health disorders differently, potentially viewing the person as cursed or blessed. 

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What does deviance mean?

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Answer

The person is no longer adhering to social norms

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What does dysfunction mean?

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Answer

The person is unable to function and have a normal life 

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What does distress mean?

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The person is constantly stressed

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What does danger mean?

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The person is dangerous to themselves and others

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When determining if a patient has a substance abuse issue, does the clinician only talk to the family and friends of the patient?

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No, they talk to the patient too

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Some of a patient's symptoms can be attributed to multiple diagnoses. What does the clinician do?

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They look at all the symptoms and figure out which diagnosis is the best overall. There are symptoms that overlap multiple diagnoses. 

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How does an anxiety disorder differ from a depressive disorder?

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Answer

Someone with an anxiety disorder usually has high levels of stress and worrying, while someone with a depressive disorder usually has a low mood and lack of interest in their daily life

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Why is lacking empathy a symptom of a personality disorder?

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Answer

People are unable to understand where someone else is coming from, leading to a lack of social abilities

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