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The definition of the concept of a mental disorder fundamental to the mental health field has been an important and controversial issue in psychology Labeling a persons behavior abnormal effects the way they are viewed and view themselves and determines the recommendations for treatment Since the term describes such a broad range of illnesses it is difficult to come up with a definition that is adequately inclusive and consistent JC Wakefield 1992 made a compelling argument that defined a mental disorder as a harmful dysfunction However the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as cited in Emery Oltmanns 1998 provides a more complete definition that includes the different characteristics of mental disorders while excluding certain conditions that could lead to behavior that may be misconstrued as evidence of a mental disorder Specifically the DSM IV as cited in Emery Oltmanns 1998 requires that present distress disability or a significantly increased risk of suffering death pain disability or an important loss of freedom must characterize a behavioral or psychological syndrome for it to be a mental disorder Present distress refers to physically or psychologically painful symptoms experienced by a person Together the increased risk and present distress characteristics roughly correspond to Wakefields belief that mental disorders must be conditions that cause harm to an afflicted person Wakefield 1992 This harm might be in adjustment such as ruining interpersonal relationships mental distress such as anxiety or depression or physical effects such as suicide or other bodily harm Likewise disability referring to the impairment in one or more important areas or functioning corresponds to Wakefields belief that conditions must also result from the inability of some mental mechanism to perform its natural function Wakefield 1992 However the DSM-IV as cited in Emery Oltmanns 1998 requires that a syndrome must not be merely an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event deviant behavior or a conflict between the individual
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