Diagnosis of mental illness has always been strife with uncertainty and doubt, with the changing of criteria and standards adding to the confusion. For multifaceted conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it has been difficult to formulate a standardized equation of symptoms to diagnosis, and the current DSM-IV criteria are quite broad. In fact, there are now 636,120 combinations of symptoms that officially can lead to a positive PTSD diagnosis (Galatzer, 2013). Since a virus, fungus, or bacterium does not typically drive mental illness, the borders of classification are often blurry, and in this case, individuals with very different conditions can be grouped together under the same label. Offering standardized therapy and treatments to PTSD victims under DSM-IV criteria can prove to be an ineffective allocation of limited time, resources, and medication for those who need critical help.
Ultimately, there is no correct answer for how to treat PTSD, and finding a generalized homogeneous recovery plan for every patient is likely impossible.
An individualized treatment option catered to specific conditions, symptoms, and mental histories is likely to be the best route to follow in the clinical psychology setting. Reevaluating the actual criteria for PTSD identification is significantly harder to implement due to the nature of mental diagnosis. In particular, supplying a patient with a concrete name for their general mental struggles provides a great deal of comfort and stability, which is lost when they are left with an open-ended case.
Furthermore, using population criteria such as sex and age to differentiate between the symptom equations used can weaken its statistical relevance, leading to questions of legitimacy. Marking symptoms on a non-linear scale with multiple axes could hold the answer to accurately testing levels of PTSD in patients without stripping them of the benefits of a firm diagnosis, and keeps the statistical relevance of the condition strong.
- Galatzer-Levy, I. R., & Bryant, R. A. (2013). 636,120 ways to have posttraumatic stress disorder. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(6), 651-662.