2009 issue 4

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Volume 18, issue 4

Review

The role of psychiatric diagnosis in the process of stigmatization of persons with mental disorders

Piotr Świtaj1
1. I Klinika Psychiatryczna Instytutu Psychiatrii i Neurologii w Warszawie
Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii 2009; 18 (4): 377-386
Keywords: diagnosis, schizophrenia, stigma, labeling, stereotyping

Abstract

Objectives. To discuss the role of clinical diagnosis in the process of stigmatization ofpersons with mental disorders.
Background. The sigma of mental illness is not only a source of subjectively experienced suffering for persons receiving psychiatric treatment, their families and friends, but also has some important implications for public health. The course of the process of stigmatization of the mentally ill is outlined in thepaper, and the role of psychiatric diagnosis in thisprocess is discussed, with an emphasis on the relation-ship between the diagnosis and two key elements of stigma: labeling and stereotyping. To illustrate the stigmatizing effect of psychiatric labels the diagnosis of schizophrenia was used, since both the concept and the name have been more and more sharply criticized in recentyears.
Conclusions. Psychiatric diagnosis is inevitably associated with social conseąuences and may reinforce the stigma of mental illness. Thus, the process of diagnosing should not be for psychiatrists a routine procedure lacking reflection, also on ethical aspects. The use ofpsychiatric diagnostic labels in clinicalpractice reąuires due critical attitude, caution, and sensitivity to theirpotentially discrediting character.

Address for correspondence:
Dr Piotr Świtaj
I Klinika Psychiatryczna IPiN
al. Sobieskiego 9, 02-957 Warszawa
e-mail: switaj@ipin.edu.pl