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History of Mental Health Diagnoses

The history of mental health diagnoses has been marked by continual transformation and little consistency. Although diagnoses and diagnostic systems have proliferated, one clear trend emerges—the continually increasing scope of mental health diagnoses. This entry briefly outlines these changes, beginning with a short précis of pre-Enlightenment forms of diagnosis, turning then to the expansion in diagnostic scope accompanying the development of the mental health disciplines, and then covering the major shifts in diagnostic philosophy among the principal diagnostic systems of the 20th century.

Early Forms of Diagnosis

Although the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry have their origins in the 19th century, it is common for histories of mental health to reference several ancient medical texts as early examples of psychiatric diagnostics, as these texts contain descriptions ...

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