Challenging The Mental Illness Stigma

what is a mental disability definition

Mental Disabilities / September 20, 2022

What is a mental disorder? This is a question the American Psychiatric Association (2012) has been contemplating as it prepares the DSM-5, the soon-to-be-published revision of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM-5 development website proposes the following new definition of mental disorder (APA, 2012):

  1. A behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual
  2. That reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction
  3. The consequences of which are clinically significant distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning)
  4. Must not be merely an expectable response to common stressors and losses (for example, the loss of a loved one) or a culturally sanctioned response to a particular event (for example, trance states in religious rituals)
  5. That is not primarily a result of social deviance or conflicts with society

To many people, this sounds pretty good on first read. But how readily does this definition allow us to truly distinguish what is or isn’t a disorder? What are the underlying assumptions that this definition implies? Let’s consider the first two definitional criteria, which when combined hold that a mental disorder is “a behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual that reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction” (APA, 2012).

The DSM has long claimed to be “atheoretical” about the causes of mental disorders (APA, 1980, 1987, 1994, 2000). This makes sense if you think about all the constituencies the DSM has to please. Mental health professionals have a lot of different (often conflicting) ideas about what causes people to experience problems in living. They also often disagree on how best to alleviate such problems. Should they rely on medication, psychoanalysis, behavioral conditioning, rational argument, extended family discussions, sociopolitical consciousness raising, or any number of other possible intervention strategies to help those they serve? In order to avoid alienating any particular constituency of mental health professionals, the DSM has strategically adopted an atheoretical stance on the etiology (causes) of mental disorders. At the same time, the DSM hews to a medical model by organizing mental disorders into discrete categories, just as medicine does with diseases. That is, DSM is a medical-model manual that is nonetheless atheoretical about the causes of the disorders it catalogs. This is kind of confusing, but important to keep in mind.

Trying to be atheoretical about causes makes defining disorders difficult. This is readily apparent in the DSM-5’s proposed definition, which says that a mental disorder is “a behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual” (APA, 2012). What does this mean? To start with, it means that disorders are inside people. They are things people “have.” Can I have a psychological syndrome or pattern inside me? Even though we can’t observe it directly, the idea that our “psychology” is inside us seems commonsensical to most people. But what about our behavior? Is it also inside us? No. Behavior is something people do. It is observable, not inside us. Thus, to say that behavior is something that occurs in an individual doesn’t quite hang together theoretically. At the very least, it might irritate died-in-the-wool behaviorists, who discourage us from relying on abstract mental concepts to explain behavior.

However, things get really hairy when we shift to the second definitional criterion, which holds that these “behavioral or psychological syndromes or patterns” reflect an “underlying psychobiological dysfunction” (APA, 2012). First, this marks a clear shift away from the aforementioned “atheoretical” position that has been a hallmark of the DSM for the past 30-plus years. Second, in claiming that mental disorders are psychobiological, the DSM’s reach clearly exceeds its grasp. Let me take these two points one at a time.

The first point concerns the move away from an atheoretical stance on the causes of disorders. As already noted, the DSM has long sought to keep the peace among professionals of varying theoretical orientations by remaining mute when it comes to specifying the causes of mental disorder. It has prided itself on sticking to descriptions of disorders and avoiding speculation about causes. Discovering etiology, according to past DSMs, is best left to researchers. Given this longstanding commitment to an atheoretical position on etiology, the prospect of changing the definition of mental disorder to one that explicitly defines disorders as “psychobiological dysfunctions” is big news indeed because doing so is overtly theoretical. Psychobiology conceptualizes human psychology as something that can be reduced to and explained exclusively in biological terms. As such, the proposed new definition of mental disorder contends that all DSM disorders have biological causes. The goal of being atheoretical goes out the window if DSM explicitly defines mental disorders as biological.

what are bureaucrats Tips on how to run the lost city of gaxmoore What is the name of the tool you use to cut cigar tips? How to test for black mold what does constant of proportionality mean How to get a credit card with no credit what does probability mean How much do you pay in tips on a cruise what is mean in spanish Classical story where a boy tricks other kids to paint a fence in what organelle does cellular respiration occur Tricks how to win crazy bugs slot machine what are lab grown diamonds Why are the tips of my spider plant turning brown How to draw a rabbit? what does the name marie mean How to please a woman movie? How to ge? what does eu mean what does h+ mean on phone How to wedding dj tips How to get urine out of a mattress when dry? When did tips come in us How to grill hamburgers? How old do you have to be for medicare How to pay taxes on tips at the end of the year How to stop eating How to love someone what is frfr mean what are phytoplankton what does it mean to ping someone How to make cheesecake filling? what does patrick mean How to make container in little alchemy 2? How to make money fast online? what does disclaimer mean what does playing hooky mean what does fishing in the dark mean How to treat hives? How can i find out typical tips for around the world How to take out nose stud with flat back? Tips on how to invest in the stock market How do tips work at applebees What are tips vs. artificial nails How to cleanse rose quartz? How to find out how someone died? How to watch fate series what sic mean what are the fire signs How do i qualify for daycare subsidy tips and tricks How to thicken alfredo sauce? How to send long videos on iphone? How to stop siri from reading messages on airpods? what does more mean in math What does irs pay for tips on tax cheaters How to train a cat tricks what does a keratin treatment do what does over under mean what does determined mean Tips on how to dm 3.5 what does acorn squash taste like How do you put tricks together on tje game of spades what does translucent powder do How to track server tips state of michigan How to make tanghulu? what does pete davidson do what does the d in d-day stand for what does the liver do How to not throw up what does bd mean in text How to say happy ramadan? what does suka blyat mean How to get over anxiety what does the name allison mean How to keep rabbits out of garden? How to get rid of carpet beetles How to get antidepressants Where to buy long q tips How to calculate ebit How to set up tips with stream elements How to spawn uber elder? what does pope mean what are the measures of central tendency what does waning mean How to recover hacked facebook account How to d0 really cool magic tricks What in the tips in tool cache 51130 How much ss and medicare to pay on tips what time does the state of the union How to negotiate salary after job offer? what does shark week mean what time does love story come out How to replace louboutin heel tips what does vigorous mean what does lock sound mean on iphone How to make brown gravy for beef tips Tips for begginers on how to be a front line in paladins How to make a picture less blurry? How to declare an array in java? Tips on remembering what you read kids what does y2k stand for what does goose taste like What do you use cotton balls and cue tips for on babies Tricks to make eyes not water when you yawn Iron man parts where someone tricks someone h j gh j n what does work remotely mean How to sell your house quickly tips How to do tricks on a ripstik How to clean mirrors? what does taro tea taste like what does crv mean How to reset samsung phone How long do you cook beef tips in crock pot How to be safe on the internet tips what does subcutaneously mean Tips n how to get more people in your room in my free cams what does the number 999 mean How to improve sat reading tip and tricks How to breed horses in minecraft? what does distribute mean what fish does caviar come from How to do tricks with nunchucks what does phi mean How to check passport status online How find better models in fixed effect tricks How to hook a reader tips How to charge apple watch 7? What do magicians say during their tricks What is the waterfall force in magic tricks what organs are on the right side Tips on staying awake when driving what does imr mean How to watch f1 in usa what are introns and exons what does bicameral mean? How to care for monstera Why are instacart tips so low How to make egg rolls How to connect phone to car? How to find your blood type? what does omfg mean what does quench mean How to calculate return on investment what time does survivor series start what does bi curious mean what does lym mean what does the word democracy mean Ice skating why does the girl do more tricks How to get lyrics on spotify? what does aaa stand for what does ppr mean in fantasy football what does albuterol do Tips for falling asleep when anxious what time does the super bowl start today 2022 How to stream on youtube what does ha mean Which animal does tricks like a gymnastics what does butterfly mean what movies are on showtime How to name skateboard tricks with spins Tire bead will not seat how much air tips what apps are running in the background what does icd 10 cm stand for Pathfinder rogue tricks, what action is it? How to break links in excel Why are the roots in my pot plant brown tips What are yhe three tricks every magician need to know Tips for when buying rebuilt engine 73-87 How to stop anxiety? How to lower alkaline phosphatase How to talk to anyone 92 little tricks audiobook free download How to relieve upper back pain? How much do pizza delivery in oregon make hourly +tips How to type degree symbol How to set voicemail on iphone How to wear ankle boots with straight leg jeans what does a slow heart rate mean what does hermit mean what does discharge look like when pregnant what are charger plates How to get rid of fruit flies in drain What is the meaning of voltaire's history is a pack of tricks we play on the dead what does exempt employee mean How to beat akhos and malos tips and tricks Tips when searching for a realtor How to wrap a sprained wrist? How to get rid of hard water stains what are the side effects of tramadol How to cook fresh green beans? what does ng mean what does the name amber mean what does a cat purring mean what does metallic taste mean How to turn a zombie villager into a villager what does white clumpy discharge mean Rdr2 where to see robbery tips what does bum mean what does 4 4 mean in music what does bond title mean what does hearsay leading mean in court How to keep kidneys healthy what does dmx stand for what does ig mean in snapchat How to thin nail polish what does low bilirubin mean How to make a enchantment table? Novel where guy tricks girl what does dia mean what does jeer mean what time does the irs update the refund status what are the best days to book flights what are balloons made of what are chimichangas How to install oticon minifit grip tips How to test for autism How to remove split screen on ipad? what does abundance what episode does ward die in outer banks what does constitutional carry mean what are the requirements what does ponder mean How to use discord tips and tricks Song in which acdc plays nasty tricks on livestock How to make seafood boil sauce? How to pop ears what does sup mean in texting We find concolations; we learn tricks with which we deceive ourselves How are prediction magic tricks done what does 1221 mean How do you feel about sharing tips/tip sharing? How to write envelope Why cant i cash out my tips on instacart what does wager mean How to get rid of external hemorrhoids what does whip mean in baseball what does mimi mean in spanish How to probe people for information tips and tricks Why is my peace lily getting brown tips on leaves How to strip stain from wood tricks How to turn off fire alarm How to webcam easy tips and tricks cute teen clothes Tips when laying rock in yoiur front yard what does alyssa mean How to get water out of your ear when jumping & q tips don't work How to make a carved pumpkin in minecraft? How to feed a baby bird How to clear search history on google How to wash allbirds How to keep spiders out of house? what does it mean when dogs howl What makes finger tips white and numb How to train your rat to do tricks what does the georgia election mean How to forward mail what does sugoi mean what does pogchamp mean How long to bake a pork tenderloin tips How to connect my iphone to my tv? what does ir what does it mean when a transmission slips Name of man who has floral and landscaping tips what does a bad wheel bearing sound like How to invest in stock market? Tips for parents about how to talk about vaccines what are artifacts what does a branded title mean How to make a piston in minecraft?