Discuss Some of the Issues Surrounding the Diagnosis and Classification of Schizophrenia

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Diagnosis involves identifying and deciding on an illness based on the signs and symptoms shown by the patient, whereas classification is a technique used to allocate similar things into a particular category. For physical illnesses, diagnosis is usually fairly straightforward, based on clear physical tests such as blood tests and X-rays. However, for mental disorders such as schizophrenia there are no such tests that can be carried out, making diagnosis and classification difficult. Even if it were possible to carry out ‘schizophrenia tests’, there is still the issue that the cause is unknown, and it is possible that it doesn’t have a single aetiology. This unknown cause means that is can’t be identified, making diagnosis difficult. Although there have been many studies indicating that genetics are a cause of schizophrenia, the studies are correlational, so identify only a link, not the actual cause of schizophrenia itself. Furthermore the studies are often twin studies, meaning they are often carried out on a small scale, and present the issue whether the link is caused by genetics or environment – affecting the reliability of these studies and their findings. One of the major issues of diagnosing schizophrenia is that the diagnosis has been used so widely and inconsistently over the world, meaning it is unreliable. For example, in the US, 20% of patients in mental hospitals had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, which rose to 80% in the 1950s. In comparison, in London the diagnosis rate of 20% remained stable over the same period. Cooper et al (1972) also found that a diagnosis of schizophrenia was twice as likely to be made in New York than in London. As it is very unlikely that significantly more people in the US have schizophrenia, it suggests it was due to different diagnostic practices. This was due to the use of the DSM in the US, and the ICD in the UK, which at the time were very different, broad, and open to interpretation. However more recently this...
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