“Evaluation of the anti-psychiatric approach to understanding mental disorder” Alberto del Río Aguilar
The anti-psychiatric approach
What is madness?
The emergence of a mental disease
Labelling diseases: the importance of the background
The problem of medicalization
The effect on the patients and their families
The results of the anti-psychiatric approach
The impact of the anti-psychiatric approach
Criticisms to anti-psychiatry
In an attempt to cover and resume all the main points in which psychiatry is criticised by this approach and evaluate it, I have decided to divide the essay in three parts. First, a description of the anti-psychiatric approach and the way in which the criticism are made; second, an evaluation of the impact of these attacks to psychiatry; finally, a closing conclusion summing up all the information and evaluating this perspective. The first part tries to cover an objective description of the activity of the anti-psychiatric approach against psychiatry and its methods, talking about the way that madness is labelled and medicalized for example. In the second topic, the objective is to give an idea of the impact that all these ideas have had over the societies and a criticism that have been made to this approach. Finally, in the conclusion, there is a summing up of all the points that have been explained and a review and an evaluation of the anti-psychiatric approach and its consequences. 1. The anti-psychiatric approach
To evaluate the certainty and accuracy of the anti-psychiatric criticisms, we must have a clear idea of what anti-psychiatry means and the points where it attacks traditional psychiatry. The perfect introduction for this essay and a simple and strong idea of the notions that anti-psychiatry supports can be found in the first paragraph of Szasz’s book “The therapeutic state”. “Theologians can neither define God nor demonstrate his existence; for them and their followers the existence of God is obvious beyond need of demonstration. Those who deny the existence of God are mistaken, misguided or worse. The burden of proof is on the non-believer to proof the non-existence of God. Now the premise underlying psychiatry is the existence of mental illness. (...) So mental illness exists only for those who believe in imaginary illnesses or ‘causes’.” (Szasz, The Therapeutic State, 1984) Basically, the anti-psychiatric approach runs against all that psychiatry supports. They criticise its concepts, the methods they use and their uncertain objectives between others; but, above all, they criticise the idea that psychiatrists have of what a mental disease is. To sum up, it is a sceptical and critical perspective of the psychiatric knowledge, or the view of psychiatry as a mere myth. b. What is madness?
In a first level, in the criticism of the way that psychiatrists build the concept of madness, this perspective backs up in two main ideas: First, the edge where deviant or unacceptable behaviours become illnesses, and second, the double bind that questions if mental illnesses just exist or not. Within the first of these ideas anti-psychiatry criticises, for example, the way in which violent conducts or shyness behaviours are labelled and treated as mental illnesses and, in most of cases, medicalized. “Who are the deviants? They are by no means a homogeneous group, and the symptoms which mark them for societal attention are not simple to classify. The earmarks if some are predominantly medical – the schizophrenic, the manic-depressive, the senile. Others may manifest their deviance though intellectual, chronological, social, economic, sexual, or doctrinal nonconformity: the...
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