Stalling or oiling the engines of diagnosis: Shifting perspectives on the DSM and categorical diagnosis in psychiatry

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Abstract / Description of output

Diagnosis in psychiatry and its precursors has long attracted debate and dissent. Attempts to discipline professional praxis are associated especially with the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In this article, I explore how social actors with the institutional power to contribute in important ways to shaping psychiatric contexts construct the problems with and purposes of the DSM and of diagnosis in psychiatry. I suggest that despite common assumptions that influential psychiatrists and related stakeholders uncritically adopt the DSM and other tools of categorical diagnosis, their relationship with these is rather more nuanced, ambivalent, and even fraught. However, I will also show that critiques can themselves be folded into styles of psychiatric thought in ways that do little to impact wider concerns about biomedicalisation and pharmaceuticalisation - and might even further accelerate these processes. Moreover, since professional critiques of the DSM often underscore its ubiquity and entrenchment, when positioned against implicit or explicit justifications of the ongoing use of this text they might inadvertently contribute to a ‘discourse of inevitability’ - acting to ‘oil’ rather than ‘stall’ what Annemarie Jutel terms the ‘engines of diagnosis’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Volume46
Issue numberS1
Early online date17 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2024

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