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Pink and blue: the role of gender in psychiatric diagnosis
  1. George Gillett
  1. Correspondence to George Gillett, Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK; george.gillett{at}


Why are the diagnostic criteria of some psychiatric disorders standardised by gender while others are not? Why standardise symptom questionnaires by gender but not other personal characteristics such as ethnicity, socioeconomic class or sexual orientation? And how might our changing attitudes towards gender, born from scientific research and changing societal narratives, alter our opinion of these questions? This paper approaches these dilemmas by assessing the concept of diagnosis in psychiatry itself, before analysing two common approaches to the study of psychiatric diagnosis; the naturalist and constructivist views. The paper assesses the relative merits and significance of each, before turning its attention to the nature of gender and its relevance to psychiatry. The paper introduces a framework to approach gender-based diagnostic bias and concludes by drawing a distinction between qualitative and quantitative standardisation, arguing that gender standardisation of psychiatric diagnoses is ethically justified in the former but not the latter.

  • psychiatry
  • ethics
  • clinical ethics
  • sexuality/gender

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  • Contributors I take responsibility for the content of this manuscript, wrote it and decided to submit it for publication. The manuscript represents original work undertaken entirely by the proposed author.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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