<i>Is Pathological Behaviour Caused by Mental Illness</i> <i>?</i>

Simona Giordano

in Understanding Eating Disorders

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780199269747
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603129 | DOI:

Series: Issues in Biomedical Ethics

 Is Pathological Behaviour Caused by Mental Illness   ?

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This chapter considers a widespread argument that behaviour classified as psychopathological is caused by the mental illness. It is common to believe, for example, that patients hear voices because they suffer from paranoid schizophrenia; or that they lose interest in life because they suffer from depression; or that they binge and fast because they suffer from bulimia and so on. It seems to follow that the autonomy of the person with a mental illness is diminished, and therefore paternalism towards mentally ill people can be justified precisely on the grounds that they have a mental illness. This chapter argues that a mental illness does not cause the experiences and behaviours that are regarded as pathological. It shows that it is fallacious to contend that abnormal experiences and behaviours are the result of an underlying mental illness. This has important ethical implications — paternalism cannot be claimed as ethical because the person has a mental illness.

Keywords: pathological behaviour; mental illness; descriptions; tautologies

Chapter.  6321 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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