Medical model behaviour

Journalist and campaigner Liz Spikol has written an excellent piece for the Philadelphia Weekly on the influence of the ‘medical model’ on how we understand and treat mental illness.

To simplify a little, the ‘medical model’ approach involves classifying mental distress or impaired behaviour as cut-and-dry diagnoses and assumes that these disorders are best understood at the level of neurobiological changes in individual patients.

Alternative approaches might consider that mental disorders are not always adequately described as by making a clear dividing line between mental illness and mental health and probably exist as a spectrum of differences (the continuum model), and that you need to understand more than just the brain to understand why people become distressed or disabled (such as social influences).

Needless to say, drug companies have a vested interest in promoting medical model because it implies drugs are the best treatment.

At the other end of the spectrum, some groups completely reject the medical model and any attempt to classify distressing mental states or research the neuroscience of mental disorders, often because they feel it upholds existing social orders or power structures with which they disagree.

What each of these extremes miss, however, is that the ‘medical model’ is a tool, a conceptual approach. In some situations it will be useful, in others misleading, and most importantly, it can be questioned and revised where necessary and can exist alongside other approaches.

Beware of any group that pushes a conceptual tool as an ideology. They are usually trying to sell you something.

This applies equally for drug companies and pressure groups.

Liz Spikol’s article is so good because it evaluates the medical model in context. In this case, in terms of attitudes, advertising and the law concerning mental illness.

Link to Liz Spikol’s Philadelphia Weekly article.

One Comment

  1. Mark(p.s.)
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    “They are usually trying to sell you something.”
    You don’t have to sell a state/country sponsored religion. Psychiatry is part of the existing law.
    “Psychiatrists, lawyers, journalists, and medical ethicists routinely call incarceration in a psychiatric prison ‚Äúhospitalization,‚Äù and torture forcibly imposed on the inmate ‚Äútreatment.‚Äù Thomas Szasz


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