Chapter 2. International Classifications and the Diagnosis of Mental Disorders: Strengths, Limitations and Future Perspectives

  1. Mario Maj3,
  2. Wolfgang Gaebel4,
  3. Juan José López-Ibor5 and
  4. Norman Sartorius6
  1. T. Bedirhan Üstün1,
  2. Somnath Chatterji1 and
  3. Gavin Andrews2

Published Online: 24 APR 2002

DOI: 10.1002/047084647X.ch2

Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification

Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification

How to Cite

Üstün, T. B., Chatterji, S. and Andrews, G. (2002) International Classifications and the Diagnosis of Mental Disorders: Strengths, Limitations and Future Perspectives, in Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification (eds M. Maj, W. Gaebel, J. J. López-Ibor and N. Sartorius), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/047084647X.ch2

Editor Information

  1. 3

    University of Naples, Italy

  2. 4

    University of Düsseldorf, Germany

  3. 5

    Complutense University of Madrid, Spain

  4. 6

    University of Geneva, Switzerland

Author Information

  1. 1

    Classification, Assessment, Surveys and Terminology, Department of Evidence for Health Policy, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

  2. 2

    School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales at St. Vincent's Hospital, 299 Forbes Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010, Australia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 APR 2002
  2. Published Print: 15 APR 2002

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471496816

Online ISBN: 9780470846476



  • classification;
  • ICD;
  • DSM;
  • mental disorders;
  • genetics;
  • neurobiology;
  • culture;
  • psychopathology


The classification of mental disorders has improved greatly in the last decade of the 20th century and now provides a reliable operational tool. Both the ICD and DSM classifications have greatly facilitated practice, teaching and research by providing better delineation of the syndromes. The absence of aetiological information, linked to brain physiology that could serve as the basis of independent definitional variables, has, however, limited the understanding of mental illness and has been a stumbling block to the development of better classifications. The use of a universal classification for differing cultures has also raised concerns about a lack of sensitivity to local diversity, especially as human behaviour is not always context-free. Given these limitations, and the expectations of scientific advances in the field of genetics, neurobiology, and cultural studies, we should be able to build better classifications based on an international consensus informed by evidence-based research.