Studying psychology, week 5: intro to diagnostics manuals and guilt

Uni getting more and more intense week over week, all of us feel the demands of our lectures and seminars increase.

Intro to diagnostics manuals & the power of language

ICD-10 (top) and DSM-5 (bottom) in comparison. DSM is so much bigger because it also contains, among others, extensive content on topics such as prevalence, progression, risks and prognostics, cultural and gender-specific aspects.

In clinical psychology, we review ICD-10 and DSM-5, the two main standard works for diagnostics. ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) is issued by WHO and a diagnostic tool. DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is issued by APA (American Psychiatric Association, not to be mixed up with the American Psychological Association, also APA).

ICD-11, its newest edition, is supposed to be released very soon, bringing several changes, including to the section on gender dysphoria to address broad criticism to the prior version, as well as introducing internet addiction disorder.

Why manuals?

Manuals like these serve a variety of functions, from communication across specialists and researchers or with health insurance providers. They also allow for empirical analysis, diagnosis, and, with it, prognosis and treatment plan. However, they also come with some dangers such as labeling or stigmatisation through diagnoses ­- they don’t function in isolation but exist in societies where mental health issues still come with stigma. And they should be used only for their purpose, the description of symptoms ­- not in an attempt to explain them.

Language matters

Our professor also emphasises the importance of language: we don’t say that a patient “has depression”, or that they “are borderline”; a patient meets the diagnostic criteria of a mental disorder. As someone who deeply cares about language so much that I gave conference talks about this, I’m glad this is something that has a place here

We also discuss the shift in models that shape treatment approaches. The model that’s most widely-used nowadays in psychology across schools (such as psychoanalysis, behavioural therapy, etc.) is the psychosocial model. This model looks at individuals in the context of both psychological factors and their social environment, and their respective impacts.

Baby’s first minutes after birth

In developmental psychology, we review childbirth and a babies’ first minutes after birth, what they see, feel, hear, and how their world changes. Just imagine going from hearing with your entire body because you’re emerged in liquid, to just hearing with your eardrums! I would cry over that too.

An introduction to guilt

In the seminar, we discuss the impact of emotions on prosocial behaviour in toddlers. I’m continuously amazed by the creative study designs: In one study, researchers told children that they cared about a doll, then left the room. While the child was playing with the toy, it would self-damage (doll leg falling off), and the scientists marked the childrens’ behaviour to determine guilt.

In a later study (Vaish, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2016), scientists were able to show that guilt as a distinct motivator of prosocial behaviour emerges by at least 3-year-olds already. When they accidentally caused a mishap that led to harm, the children would show reparative behaviours (verbal, such as apologising, or physical, like attempting to fix it).

We spend the remainder of the the seminar discussing the social relevance of guilt and its implications and limitations as a motivating factor (think: upholding social standards, legal system, pretense of guilt as manipulative behaviour).

First test in statistics

This week, we have to submit our first mini-exam in statistics; submitting it is a requirement to be admitted to the exam after the semester. Turns out it’s also great practice for what we’ve learned so far (it’s late as I’m writing this, I’ll translate statistics terms into English another day, so I can share with you what we’re learning).

Getting more into uni life

I also spend some time chatting over coffee with students in higher semesters and getting some intel on uni life and exam prep (like which professor is a real stickler for details, vs. which ones’ exams aren’t typically as frightening as one would think). It really helps to get some perspective.

And together with a few fellow students, I start a study group (my first study group! Ever!), we review our statistics lecture together and I already feel like it helps my learning.

By Lena

Engineering executive turned leadership coach & consultant, public speaker, and psychology student. Fast walker, avid reader, poetry fan, violinist, pianist in the making, and intersectional feminist. Writes about all the above (and, occasionally, trees).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *