What are the advantages and disadvantages of classifying mental disorders into “types” and maintaining such for clinical reference? Explain your answer.
Well, one of the main disadvantages to classifying mental disorders is that they sometimes become self-fulfilling prophecies. Some of the classifications, such as schizophrenia, cover a broad range of symptoms and dysfunctions. In fact, schizophrenia has acted at times as the catch-all for mental illnesses. The problem with classifying people, especially when they are young, is that they see themselves in the context of whatever that classification might be. For instance, if someone is classified as mentally retarded or ADHD in childhood this could lead to a lifetime of lower expectations. The main advantage to the classification of mental disorders is that once classified these disorders are easier to understand and treat. It would be difficult to explain a disorder by the sum of its parts. If we did not have classifications, then a psychiatrist might describe a person as alternating between bouts of extreme eccentricity and extreme despair, rather than simply diagnosing them bi-polar. It would also complicate treatment because a physician would have to treat the many symptoms rather than simply the disorder. In the end, though, I think that the classification of types is a necessary evil.
Goodwin, C. J. (2005). A history of modern psychology (2 nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.