The abnormal

The social construction of psychopathology works something like this: Someone observes a pattern of behaving, thinking, feeling, or desiring that deviates from some social norm or ideal or identifies a human weakness or imperfection that, as expected, is displayed with greater frequency or severity by some people than by others. A group with influence and power decides that control, prevention, or “treatment” of this problem is desirable or profitable. The pattern is then given a scientific-sounding name, preferably of Greek or Latin origin. The new scientific name is capitalized. Eventually, the new term may be reduced to an acronym, such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and BDD (body dysmorphic disorder). The new disorder then takes on an existence all its own and becomes a diseaselike entity. As news about “it” spreads, people begin thinking they have “it;” medical and mental health professionals begin diagnosing and treating “it,” and clinicians and clients begin demanding that health insurance policies cover the “treatment” of “it.” Once the “disorder” has been socially constructed and defined, the methods of science can be employed to study it, but the construction itself is a social process, not a scientific one. In fact, the more “it” is studied, the more everyone becomes convinced that “it” really is “something.”



Medical philosopher Lawrie Reznek (1987) has demonstrated that even our definition of physical disease is socially constructed. He writes:


"Judging that some condition is a disease is to judge that the person with that condition is less able to lead a good or worthwhile life. And since this latter judgment is a normative one, to judge that some condition is a disease is to make a normative judgment…. This normative view of the concept of disease explains why cultures holding different values disagree over what are diseases (p. 211) … Whether some condition is a disease depends on where we choose to draw the line of normality, and this is not a line that we can discover.(p. 212) … disease judgments, like moral judgments, are not factual ones.



Likewise, Sedgwick (1982) points out that human diseases are natural processes. They may harm humans, but they actually promote the “life” of other organisms. For example, a virus’s reproductive strategy may include spreading from human to human. Sedgwick writes:


"There are no illnesses or diseases in nature. The fracture of a septuagenarian’s femur has, within the world of nature, no more signifi cance than the snapping of an autumn leaf from its twig; and the invasion of a human organism by cholera-germs carries with it no more the stamp of "illnes” than does the souring of milk by other forms of bacteria. Out of his anthropocentric self-interest, man has chosen to consider as “illnesses” or “diseases” those natural circumstances which precipitate death (or the failure to function according to certain values). (p. 30)


As David Patrick (2005) concluded about a definition of mental disorder offered by the British government in a mental health bill,


“The concept of mental disorder is of dubious scientific value but it has substantial political utility for several groups who are sane by mutual consent” (p. 435).



As Lilienfeld and Marino (1995) have said:

"Removing the imprimatur of science…would simply make the value judgments underlying these decisions more explicit and open to criticism… heated disputes would almost surely arise concerning which conditions are deserving of attention from mental health professionals. Such disputes, however, would at least be settled on the legitimate basis of social values and exigencies, rather than on the basis of ill-defi ned criteria of doubtful scientific status."

2 opiniones :

Barracuda dijo...

Fijate sino en el clasificador de enfermedades mentales que usan las obras sociales DSM IV. Todos entramos en alguna categoría, con su consiguiente tratamiento farmacológico.
Laboratorios de parabienes!!

Subjuntivo dijo...

Ja, mirá el DSM IV (2010) y después contame...


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