Mental Illness and Its Limits

Edited by Jennifer Radden

in The Philosophy of Psychiatry

Published in print June 2004 | ISBN: 9780195149531
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199870943 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

 Mental Illness and Its Limits

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Studies indicate an ongoing “epidemic of psychopathology.” These newly popular pathologies range widely, not just in their incidence but in their presentation: social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and attention deficit hyperactivity, to name a few. A number of new conditions have also emerged alongside these commonly accepted disorders—such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and repetitive stress injury—whose very status as mental disorders is hotly disputed. This chapter examines this recent upsurge in mental disorder. It identifies four factors at work: the ascendancy of biomedicine as the dominant way of understanding and explaining psychological distress; the success of biomedicine in treating mental illness; the growth of support and advocacy groups; and the commercial availability of medications.

Keywords: epidemic of psychopathology; mental illness; mental disorders; social anxiety; panic; PTSD; obsessive-compulsive disorder; anorexia nervosa; bulimia

Chapter.  4855 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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