Looking at the Whole Person and Seeing the Whole Picture

July 28, 2019 - 2 minutes read

In an important way I feel encouraged by the results of a new study published in Psychiatry Research

It reinforces a perspective I have had regarding mental health since I graduated 34 years ago. I have never felt that using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) to diagnose individuals was the right way to address mental health. As the study suggests, psychiatric diagnosis do use a range of different decision-making criteria that can include cultural and political bias. There is a huge amount of overlap in symptoms between different diagnosis. Diagnosis outlined in the DSM include in their criteria “atypical” symptoms and “like” symptoms, referring to similar symptoms found in other diagnosis. Unfortunately, all this does is confuse and mislead the individual rather than help clarify and identify needs.

More importantly, I agree with the following statements: 

“Almost all diagnoses mask the role of trauma and adverse events. Diagnoses tell us little about the individual patient and what treatment they need.”

My one concern is for the pendulum not to swing all the way to the other non-medical model side. I strive for integrated assessments and treatment. Let’s not let go of important advancements in medicine in assisting us to provide an expanded awareness of what contributes to distress. 

Everything is connected. So, it is up to us as consumers and professionals to work together in answering the questions: How can I have a better quality of life? What is going on that is preventing me from living my life to its potential?

I am glad that a research study concludes that we cannot hold onto a narrow viewpoint when we are addressing the whole person.