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Mental disorder

New rules on psychiatric diagnosis are misguided

By Anjana Ahuja   March 2012

In 1973, the American psychologist David Rosenhan sent eight healthy people, and also himself, to visit mental institutions and claim they were hearing voices. All were certified mad; some were incarcerated for a month. Rosenhan’s paper, “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” created a media sensation and a crisis in psychiatry. Doctors, it seemed, unlike suspicious fellow patients, could not tell a lucid stooge from a lunatic.

The ensuing controversy led to the tightening of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM), the “psychiatrists’ bible” that lists mental disorders and their symptoms. The DSM, first published in 1952,…

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