Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Dr Thomas Szasz Quotes on the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The primary function and goal of the DSMs is to lend credibility to the claim that certain behaviors, or more correctly, misbehaviors, are mental disorders and that such disorders are, therefore, medical diseases. Thus, pathological gambling enjoys the same status as myocardial infarction (blood clot in heart artery). In effect, the APA maintains that betting is something the patient cannot control; and that, generally, all psychiatric ‘symptoms’ or ‘disorders’ are outside the patient’s control. I reject that claim as patently false.

The ostensible validity of the DSM is reinforced by psychiatry’s claim that mental illnesses are brain diseases—a claim supposedly based on recent discoveries in neuroscience, made possible by imaging techniques for diagnosis and pharmacological agents for treatment. This is not true. There are no objective diagnostic tests to confirm or disconfirm the diagnosis of depression; the diagnosis can and must be made solely on the basis of the patient’s appearance and behavior and the reports of others about his behavior.

The problem with psychiatric diagnoses is not that they are meaningless, but that they may be, and often are, swung as semantic blackjacks: cracking the subject’s dignity and respectability destroys him just as effectively as cracking his skull. The difference is that the man who wields a blackjack is recognized by everyone as a thug, but one who wields a psychiatric diagnosis is not.

Diseases are “malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain” while “no behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. That’s not what diseases are.