The language of psychiatry can be ambiguous and idiosyncratic, reflecting the elastic borders of mental illness and psychiatric disorder. This problem is not unique to psychiatry, but as the medical specialty moves closer towards a 'spectrum view’ of mental illness, psychiatric terminology increasingly risks misappropriation and conflation with lay concepts of normal suffering. Deciding what words mean and how psychiatric disorders are defined requires ongoing consideration of the pragmatic consequences, both intended and unintended. Refining the lexicon of psychiatry with an eye towards precision and the minimisation of stigma requires that terms be revised and updated from time to time, but often suitable word replacements remain elusive.
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