Psychiatrists' accounts of clinical significance in depression
Clinical significance is a crucial element in the diagnosis of mental illness, yet, it is practically untheorised and significantly under-researched. This article takes up the question of how the criterion of clinical significance is translated into psychiatric practice. More particularly, it examines how psychiatrists account for the threshold between health and depression. The paper is anchored in the constructionist view of discourse underpinned by the assumptions of critically oriented discourse analysis. It is based upon a convenience sample of 39 semi-structured interviews with specialist-psychiatrists in south-western Poland. There is no discursive space for clinical significance in psychiatrists' accounts. There is no boundary, no decision to be taken as to whether the symptoms are clinically significant. Depression, invariably constructed in terms of diagnostic criteria, is always represented as fully developed, appearing out of thin air, with no period of falling ill. The article raises the issue of the validity and usefulness of psychiatric diagnosis.
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