Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 3
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should necessarily be abandoned, but it is one that should be closely monitored when potentially
Psychologists follow in the shadow of their medical doctor colleagues by adhering to the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM; APA, 2000), currently in its 4th edition, which defines
the myriad of diagnosable psychiatric conditions. The DSM-IV-TR uses a categorical model that
separates clusters of behaviors into checklists and boxes. The process of how the DSM was
conceived and carried out is discussed more fully later in this paper. The diagnoses contained in
the DSM outline behaviors and characteristics associated with each disorder. Thomas Szasz, a
psychiatrist, famously argued that mental illness is a myth of convenience. Not only does mental
illness not objectively exist - it is only theory - Szasz argues it is unduly treated as objective
truth much as the use of deities and witches were improperly utilized as causal explanations in
times past (Szasz, 1960). Diseases of the brain, those with physiological etiology, should be
called exactly that and not mental illness, argues Szasz; reducing complex psychosocial
behaviors that occur in broad contexts, to simple internal brain illnesses is misleading. In fact,
recent research on the efficacy of treating "mental illnesses" like depression with pharmaceutical
interventions has recently revealed that antidepressant drugs have little effect beyond placebo
(Fournier et al., 2010), suggesting a non-physiological etiology to one of the most DSM's most
Multiple theoretical approaches indicate that the contexts in which behaviors occur, are at
least equally as important as dispositional variables. For example, behavioral genetics posits that
the environment plays an integral role by interacting with genetic predispositions to produce
behavioral outcomes (Plomin & Rende, 1991). Social cognitive explanations of the role of the
environment contend that the interplay of environment and personality traits explains why
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Schmalz, Jonathan. Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error, thesis, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103389/m1/9/: accessed February 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .