The psychiatric community seems determined to ground its medical legitimacy on principles that confuse diagnoses with disease. If mental illnesses are diseases of the CNS, they are diseases of the brain, not the mind. If mental illnesses are the names of (mis)behaviour, they are forms of behaviour, not diseases. Psychiatric metaphors have the same role in medicine as religious metaphors have in theology. Religion is, among other things, the institutionalised denial of a finite life. Psychiatry is, among other things, the institutionalised denial of the tragic nature of life: individuals who want to reject the reality of free will and responsibility can medicalise life, and entrust its management to health professionals. Psychiatrists have succeeded in persuading the scientific community, the courts, the media, and the general public that the conditions they call mental disorders are diseases, that is, phenomena independent of motivation or will. The more firmly psychiatrically based ideas take hold of the collective American mind, the more foolishness and injustice they generate. Long ago, the law makers agreed to let psychiatrists literalise the metaphor of mental illnesses. Thus, the Americans With Disabilities Act (AWDA), scheduled to be fully implemented by July 1992, covers claustrophobia, personality problems, and mental retardation, though unlike DSM–III–R it excludes kleptomania, pyromania, compulsive gambling, and transvestism. The literal language of psychiatry allows motivated actions to be called ‘diseases'. Other examples of behaviour for which psychiatrists have disease names, and which AWDA implicitly accepts as genuine diseases, include dysmorphophobia, multiple personality disorder, frotteurism, hypoactive sexual desire disorder, and factitious disorder with physical symptoms. However, it remains an open question whether premenstrual syndrome will achieve similar recognition in DSM–IV. Diseases occur naturally, whereas diagnoses are artefacts; why do psychiatrists make diagnoses?