Discuss Issues of Reliability and Validity Associated with the Classification and Diagnosis of Phobic Disorders

682 Words Dec 29th, 2012 3 Pages
Discuss issues of reliability and validity associated with the classification and diagnosis of phobic disorders (8 + 16 marks)

A phobia is a persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable which must meet a set of criteria given in the DSM. A clinical diagnosis is made if there is no other possible physiological cause and if the symptoms cannot be better accounted for by another disorder. The individual also recognises their behaviour is unreasonable and the severity of the fear interferes with an individual’s normal functioning.

Conducting research on the effectiveness of treatments for phobic disorders require researchers to have a reliable and valid means of assessing disorders. Reliability is the consistency of a measuring
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Kendler et al. (1999) suggest that the low reliability found might be due to the poor recall of their fears as people tend to over-exaggerate when recalling previous distress. Also, low inter-rater reliability could be due to different interpretations by clinicians of the severity of a symptom and therefore affecting whether a diagnosis is made.

Another issue is validity, this refers to the extent that a diagnosis represents something that is real and distinct.
Comorbidity refers to the extent that two conditions co-occur. Research has found high levels of comorbidity between anxiety disorders and depression which suggest that these conditions are not separate entities, therefore, the diagnostic category is not very useful, for example, when deciding what treatment to advise. The findings on comorbidity have been supported by Eysenck (1997), who found that 66% of patients with one anxiety disorder are also diagnosed with another anxiety disorder. The implication is that a diagnosis should simply be ‘anxiety disorder’ rather than phobia.
One way to demonstrate that questionnaires and interviews measured what they intended to measure, is to use concurrent validity. It establishes the value of a new measure of phobic systems by correlating it with an existing one. Herbert et al (1991) did this when they established the concurrent validity of the SPAI by giving the test to 23 social phobics.

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