Are Psychiatric Diagnoses an Obstacle for Research and Practice? Reliability, Validity and the Problem of Psychiatric Diagnoses. The Case of GAD

Carlo Faravellia, *, Giovanni Castellinib, Monica Landib, Andrea Brugneraa
a Department of Psychology, University of Florence, Italy
b Psychiatric Unit, Department of Neuropsychiatric Sciences, Florence University School of Medicine, Italy

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© Faravelli et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology, University of Florence. Via di San Salvi, 12 - Pad. 26 - 50135 Firenze, Italy; Tel; 055 4298447; Fax: 055 4298424; E-mail:


The present article focused on the problem of validity, reliability and specificity of psychiatric diagnoses.

The authors moved by the concept of syndrome, defined by Sydenham in the 18th century as a constellation of several interrelated symptoms, showing a stable, characteristic structure and a peculiar prognosis, in order to analyse the peculiarity of the current psychiatric nosology. In our opinion, the current nosographic system based on DSM-IV criteria, prevents psychiatry from benefiting of the significant technological progress that has led the rest of medical sciences to important clinical achievements in the last 20 years. The case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder was taken as an example of a disease characterized by unstable diagnostic criteria, high rate of comorbidity and uncertain boundaries. An analysis of the data from the Sesto Fiorentino study was performed to investigate the presence of common mood and anxiety symptoms across the most represented DSM IV diagnoses, in order to evaluate the specificity of these symptoms.

The results supported the hypothesis of a low specificity of these symptoms, suggesting the need for psychiatry to find new and more specific markers and instruments.

Keywords: Comorbidity, classification, diagnosis, synrome, symptoms.