Disorder as Harmful Dysfunction: A Conceptual Critique of DSM-III-R's Definition of Mental Disorder

Jerome C. Wakefield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev.; DSM-III-R) operationally defines disorder essentially as "statistically unexpectable distress or disability." This definition is an attempt to operationalize 2 basic principles: that a disorder is harmful and that a disorder is a dysfunction (i.e., an inability of some internal mechanism to perform its natural function). However, the definition fails to capture the idea of "dysfunction" and so fails to validly distinguish disorders from nondisorders, leading to invalidities in many of DSM-III-R's specific diagnostic criteria. These problems with validity are traced to DSM-III-R's strategies for increasing reliability.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)232-247
    Number of pages16
    JournalPsychological Review
    Volume99
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

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    Mental Disorders
    Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychology(all)

    Cite this

    Disorder as Harmful Dysfunction : A Conceptual Critique of DSM-III-R's Definition of Mental Disorder. / Wakefield, Jerome C.

    In: Psychological Review, Vol. 99, No. 2, 01.01.1992, p. 232-247.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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