[ExI] mental illness & social construct

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Sat Apr 19 11:55:16 UTC 2008

On 19/04/2008, Tom Nowell <nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

>  This whole discussion centres around what is mental
>  illness, and how much of this is social rather than
>  biological. With advances in neuroscience, we've been
>  able to discover more about changes in brain chemistry
>  and architecture that underlie many mental illnesses.
>  Biological studies have indicated that some conditions
>  can be shown in other species eg the "anorexia in
>  young female pigs" study.
>   However, the threshold of when to treat, and when to
>  say someone's just a bit different, is something that
>  is blurry, changing and socially defined. UK studies
>  on the incidence of mental health show approximately
>  35% of the population will suffer from depression that
>  fits the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression.
>  However, there are arguments on how these figures are
>  reached at. In our current age of the "prozac nation"
>  with many people on antidepressants who in earlier
>  times would have been untreated, and many children
>  being on medication of attention deficit disorder/
>  hyperactiivty/ related syndromes, are we
>  overmedicalising human behaviour or are at the dawn of
>  a golden age of alleviating human suffering?
>   The top diagnostic manuals (the american DSM and the
>  WHO guidelines) change their diagnostic criteria based
>  on research and debate, and there are often some
>  controversial inclusions. After all, the 1952 DSM
>  included homosexuality as a mental disorder:
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_psychology

Yes, but mental illness is not fundamentally different in this regard
from physical illness. Some people are attracted to amputees or even
seek elective amputation of their own limbs. They would argue that
seeing amputation as abnormal or undesirable is a social construct,
and in a sense it is. However, amputation *itself* is not a social
construct. Either the limb is there or it isn't.

Stathis Papaioannou

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