The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice

Objective Investigations of Controversial and Unorthodox Claims in Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Social Work

The Harmful Dysfunction Analysis and the Differentiation between Mental Disorder and Disease

Gregg R. Henriques - University of Pennsylvania

Author Note:
Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., Science Center Room 2029, 3535 Market St., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-2648; E-mail:

Wakefield's Harmful Dysfunction Analysis (HDA) for distinguishing disorders from nondisorders has received much attention in the literature. Although the analysis has many strengths, Wakefield (1999a, 1999b) fails to appropriately capture the nature of the disorder construct, thereby leading to much confusion. A solution is offered suggesting that disorder can be thought of as a utilitarian construct. When viewed in this light, the HDA offers an excellent and useful definition of disease for medicine. However, the HDA fails as a useful definition for mental disorders because it contains a greedily reductionistic error that suggests that all mental disorders are reducible to biological theory. An alternative way of conceptualizing mental disorders is offered and it is suggested that the HDA's success in defining disease provides an important piece that allows mental health scientists both begin to answer which mental disorders are akin to medical diseases and which mental disorders are not.

You can read the full text of this article in
The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, vol. 1, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2002).
Subscribe now!

  ©2004 Center for Inquiry    | SRMHP Home | About SRMHP | Contact Us |