Value and Limitations
  • Rudolf UherEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Mental Health and Illness Worldwide book series (MHIW)


Making a diagnosis is a fundamental part of child and adolescent psychiatry that facilitates communication and provision of care. The International Classification of Diseases and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders codify universal definitions of mental disorders and provide operationalized criteria that improve their reliability. However, diagnoses of mental disorders do not reflect distinct entities with known causes. Many mental disorders lie on a continuum and cannot be unambiguously separated from normality or from one another. Comorbidity, heterogeneity, overspecification, overdiagnosis, and stigma have emerged as major challenges to the use of current diagnostic systems. Prototypic diagnoses and dimensional systems have been proposed as alternatives. Yet, a universal categorical system is necessary to support clinical decisions and effective communication. The present systems are imperfect but useful. Appropriate diagnosis makes it more likely that patients receive treatments from which they will benefit. Universality and continuity of diagnostic systems facilitate discoveries and enable evidence-based treatment. This chapter provides a summary of knowledge supporting the use of the present diagnostic systems and provides guidance on using diagnostic categories for the benefit of patients.


Mental disorders Classification of diseases Validity of diagnosis Overdiagnosis Misdiagnosis Dimensional and categorical models 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • F Verhulst
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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