Hey everyone,

This last week in psych we have been looking more closely at categorical and dimensional approaches to classifying mental conditions and disorders.

The Categorical Approach is the approach to classifying mental disorders involving assessment of whether an individual has a disorder on the basis of symptoms and characteristics that is described as typical of the disorder. This approach also uses 2 classification strategies DSM and ICD. The DSM names the disorders and describes them in specific terms. The ICD identifies symptoms that indicate the presence of a disorder. Categorical approaches are based on a number of underlying principles and assumptions including:

  • A mental disorder can be diagnosed from specific symptoms that are shown during a mental health assessment.
  • Thoughts, feelings and behaviour can be organised into categories representing disorders
  • All or nothing principle (so the individual either has a diagnosable metal disorder or does not have a diagnosable disorder.)
  • the system used to classify and diagnose metal disorders is both valid and reliable( this classification system actually organises metal disorders into discrete and distinct disorders and that the classification system produces the same diagnosis each time it is used In the same situation)

Strengths for using this approach include:

  • Helps communication
  • Allows diagnosis

Weaknesses for using this approach include:

  • Low inter reliability
  • Lots of overlap between symptoms which can make diagnosis tricky
  • Stigma and labelling

The Dimensional approach is the approach to classifying mental disorders that quantifies a person’s symptoms or other characteristics of interest and represents them with numerical values on one or more scales or continuums, rather than assigning them to a mental disorder category. Diagnosis then becomes not a process of deciding the presence of a symptom or disorder but rather the degree to which a particular characteristic is present. Instead of making judgements, the dimensional approach asks the question “how much?” Lower scores equate to lower impairment and higher scores equate to higher impairment.

Strengths for using this approach include:

  • More detailed information on each symptom
  • It takes into account a wider range of factors. (More than categorical approaches) 
  • A profile is created instead of labelling.

Weaknesses for using this approach include:

  • Time consuming
  • There is no standard inventory to compare scores to making diagnosis difficult.

Ok i think thats everything 😀 And in the famous words of Forrest Gump…. ” That’s all i have to say about that”

( Please feel free to correct any mistakes 😛 )