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Taking Over the Asylum

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  • The Debate

    Taking Over the Asylum

    From ADHD to binge eating, celebrity worship syndrome to sex addiction, new types of mental illness are increasingly in the public eye. But what is mental illness?  Are we in danger of medicalising normal human behaviour or offering recognition and treatment to those whose suffering would once have been ignored?

    The Panel

    Night Waves presenter Rana Mitter keeps order as clinical psychologist and psychiatry critic Richard Bentall, Baroness Molly Meacher and controversial consultant psychiatrist Mark Salter debate the extent of mental illness.

    In association with the Maudsley Philosophy Group.

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Ted Frost on 21/02/2012 12:01pm

@The Inquisitor - I think I agree with you, but would take your comment further. I wouldn't be happy if I went to a doctor with a headache, and he wrote down "has headache" and then thought "now, what can we do about this headache..." without thinking about whether my pain was a symptom of a brain tumor or of a heavy night's drinking. But, in claiming that we don't need the categories of pyschiatric diagnosis, that seems to be exactly what Bentall is saying.

Aren't classifications of illness roots to understanding the cause of certain symptoms? And doesn't that mean that they are absolutely vital to the whole process of pyschiatry? I confess I'm not a medical professional, and I have no problem in trusting others who say there are problems with our current categorisations, but I worry at someone who claims that they are not useful at all.

Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding something?

The Inquisitor on 21/02/2012 11:01am

2:32 - Surely being able to marry up certain symptoms with a particular disorder or illness through a kind of classification is a good thing because it means that you then gain access to a wealth of information about previous instances and examples of those particular problems, enabling you to make a far more informed choice as to how best approach the problem? Simply taking "hearing voices" in isolation means that you're very unlikely to be able to treat the person as effectively as if they'd become part of a broader heritage. The whole approach seems very counter-productive.

bobblehat on 21/02/2012 11:01am

Personally I find a system that encourages attention to an individual's symptoms preferable to one that is based on what APPEAR to be more workable categories - even if this attention is borne out of an imperfect system of classification.

If anything, to me that seems like an argument for keeping the imperfect system: surely categories that possesses the illusion of accuracy are likely to encourage diagnostic laziness.

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