Lecture: Learning
Reading Assignment 26:
Descriptive Diagnosis & Schizophrenia (pp. xxx-xxx)

Summary:
The twenty-sixth reading assignment introduces students to the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and several well-known psychological disorders. Contrary to popular belief, psychiatrist and mental health professionals more so than psychologist use descriptive diagnoses, as they are medical doctors. Many people believe that getting a second opinion with respect to a medical or psychological diagnoses, especially a serious one, is a good thing. Differences in a doctor’s knowledge, approach, and the technology they have access to can influence treatment. The DSM-IV is a descriptive and diagnostic manual used to identify psychological disorders that, when used appropriately, can ensure that diagnoses made by different practitioners are consistent. The DSM-IV is a Multi-Axial System of Diagnosis that utilizes 5 distinct axes when describing characteristics of each diagnosis (Wikipedia.org/Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). It, however, does not come without its criticism. The Labeling Theory explains how the many categories listed in the DSM, which increase in number with each revision, contribute to surrounding stigmas and add unnecessary stressors to society and the diagnosed individual.

The DSM-IV is believed to be applicable for all humans and is effective in diagnosing disorders across the entire life-span. It is often used to assist with the identification of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), formerly and more popularly referred to as Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). The realization that a child has ADD often occurs at the age of schooling. While characteristics likely exist prior to that age, it is the difficulties faced with adhering to structured routines and directions that often aids in flagging a child as a candidate for the disorder. The identification of ADD is rather tricky, even with the use of the DSM-IV, as an agreed upon medical diagnosis does not exist and it is important to rule out other socio-economic factors that might cause the same symptoms. For example, a shy and introverted teenager that is forced to share a room with 3 other siblings, one or more of which is of the opposite sex, might cope with this situation in a way that resembles ADD. As a result, other potential causes must be ruled out before making a conclusive diagnosis. Another disorder that can be diagnosed as a child is Conduct Disorder, which is believed to impact males more so than females and African-Americans and Asian-Americans more so than Caucasians (Wikipedia.org/Conduct Disorder). Not only is the onset of this disorder likely at a young age, a variety of risk factors believed to contribute to it also can occur at a young age. Exposure to smoking or alcohol in utero or to physical abuse as a child increases the chances of Conduct Disorder onset.

The onset of Substance-Abuse Disorder and Alcoholism often occurs later in life but can occur as early as adolescence; that is, when the individual can typically gain access to it. Research suggests that some individuals have a genetic predisposition to Substance-Abuse Disorder and Alcoholism (need citation). The current DSM uses functional definitions that evaluate a disorder's impact on the mental, social, and occupational functioning of the individual. The same is the case for Substance-Abuse Disorder and Alcoholism which is not solely determined by the frequency or quantity of one’s use but rather its impact on those three aspects on one’s life.

In my opinion, the most life crippling of the mental diagnoses discussed in this reading assignment is Schizophrenia. The onset of Schizophrenia usually occurs in one’s early twenties for males and females; it is also often triggered by an environmental stressor. Due to its apparent dependence on biological and environmental factors, Schizophrenia has been referred to as a Multi Factorial Inherited Disorder (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). I, unfortunately, have known of two students that have experienced an onset of Schizophrenia in the midst of their college career. Having a genetic predisposition for a mental disorder and managing the stressors of life, such as earning a Bachelor’s degree, might serve as a trigger for the onset of this life-changing disorder. What makes Schizophrenia so detrimental is that it is a collection of disorders rather than one specific disorder; collectively they have the potential of impact every facet of life. The collections of possible disorders that define Schizophrenia have been referred to as Negative Symptoms and Positive Symptoms. Negative Symptoms include disorder that remove characteristics of normal functioning, such as Lethargy and Loosening of Association; while Positive Symptoms add characteristics to normal functioning like Delusions and Hallucinations. While no agreed upon consensus exist on the specific cause of Schizophrenia, some researchers have proposed a Dopamine Hypothesis. The idea that Dopamine might play a role in the onset of Schizophrenia is influenced by observations that medications that regulate its functioning have had an impact on the severity of symptoms. While the answer may not lie solely in the functioning of one Neurotransmitter, these observations have led to some promising advances and increased understanding of this mental disorder.






References:
Draft of Summary
Cole, T. (2012, Fall). Assignment 2.3. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Introduction to Experimental (RPS 410).


Streams, S. (2012, Fall). Assignment 2.3. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Introduction to Experimental (RPS 410).

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