meus intuitus

medicalization counterpoint

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People talk about the medicalization of behavior—always in a negative and demonizing sense.  Now, I am not here to say that psychiatry is without its issues (over-diagnosis and pharmaceutical industry influence are real issues).  However, psychiatry’s issues are ones that all good psychiatrists are very cognizant of.  Medicalization is not evil by nature.  Medical is just a lens through which we can view maladaptive psychological phenomena—and it is a lens that actually provides answers and cures.  This is in contrast to, say, the cultural lens that would shrug its shoulders when asked “what should we do about it?”  For example, there is an argument that schizophrenics in our society might be viewed as spiritual healers or prophets in other cultures.  There is truth to this statement.  However, the reality is that our culture in America is what it is—we don’t believe in shamans and we are individualistic; as such each individual must be able to stand on his or her own in life.   To draw another contrast, in Indian societies, identity and social roles are much more communal.  Families more frequently live together and the non-ill members of the family can support and make up for the lack of productivity of the ill one.  The reality in America is that people with mental illnesses are often estranged or shunned from their families—and so must stand on their own.  If you will, American culture (individualism) and family dynamics (again, individualism) create an environment such that many mentally ill patients can not “get by” as easily.  As such, it falls upon some other institution (in this case, medicine) to help these people.  This is where Psychiatry (both interpersonal-therapeutic and pharmacological) comes in.

Yes, behavior is more “medicalized” in America.  However, medicalization is not an inherent evil.  Medical is simply a method.  To use an analogy, take banking for instance.  Banking in itself is not evil.  In fact, it provides a service vital to society—the liquidity of capital for the creation of wealth.  However, in both banking and in medicine, the evil comes in abuses.  Psychiatry is to Banking as an over-influential pharmaceutical lobby is to an over-sized financial sector.  Neither is evil in itself and both do society a great deal of good; and, sure, both need restraint to prevent abuses.

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Written by meusintuitus

April 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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