Feighner Criteria for Psychiatric Diagnosis

The criteria are named after a psychiatric paper published in 1972 of which John Feighner was the first listed author.[1] It became the most cited article in psychiatry for some time.[2]

The development of the criteria had been led by a trio of psychiatrists working together on the project for a medical model of psychiatric diagnosis since the late 1950s: Eli Robins, Samuel Guze and George Winokur.[3][4]

Fourteen conditions were defined, including primary affective disorders (such as depression), schizophrenia, anxiety neurosis and antisocial personality disorder. In the early 1970s homosexuality was considered a psychiatric illness by the medical community, and was also included as one of the fourteen conditions.

The criteria were expanded in the publication of the Research Diagnostic Criteria on which many of the criteria of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM III (1980) were based, which in turn shaped the World Health Organisation’s ICD manual. “The historical record shows that the small group of individuals who created the Feighner criteria instigated a paradigm shift that has had profound effects on the course of American and, ultimately, world psychiatry.”[5]

About Dr. Feighner

Dr. John Feighner was a resident and chief resident in the Department. While in the Department, he was the first author of a classic paper published in 1972 that established diagnostic criteria for major psychiatric illnesses. He became president and director of the Feighner Research Institute in San Diego and has made many contributions to the field of neuropsychopharmacology.

Key publications and related reading

“The Development of the Feighner Criteria: A Historical Perspective.” Published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2009. Full article »