I’ve got an article in The Observer on how some of the best evidence against the idea that psychiatric diagnoses like ‘schizophrenia’ describe discrete ‘diseases’ comes not from the critics of psychiatry, but from medical genetics.
I found this a fascinating outcome because it puts both sides of the polarised ‘psychiatry divide’ in quite an uncomfortable position.
The “mental illness is a genetic brain disease” folks find that their evidence of choice – molecular genetics – has undermined the validity of individual diagnoses, while the “mental illness is socially constructed” folks find that the best evidence for their claims comes from neurobiology studies.
The evidence that underlies this uncomfortable position comes recent findings that genetic risks that were originally thought to be specific for individual diagnoses turn out to risks for a whole load of later difficulties – from epilepsy, to schizophrenia to learning disability.
In other words, the genetic risk seems to be for neurodevelopmental difficulties but if and how they appear depends on lots of other factors that occur during your life.
The neurobiological evidence has not ‘reduced’ human experience to chemicals, but shown that individual life stories are just as important.