Being ill and getting better: recovery and accounts of disorder

Rachel Cooper

in Recovery of People with Mental Illness

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199691319
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754791 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Being ill and getting better: recovery and accounts of disorder

Show Summary Details


The aim of psychiatric treatment is to help patients to get better, but working out what getting better should be taken to mean can be problematic. This chapter explores how one's view of what counts as recovery will depend on the account of disorder that one adopts. Accounts of disorder can be split into two main categories. Biologically based accounts (paradigmatically those of Christopher Boorse) claim that disorder is purely a matter of biological dysfunctioning. According to such accounts the aim of treatment will be to restore functioning such that ultimately the patient's psychological subsystems will function in the same way as those of other humans of the same age and gender. Accordingly, whether a patient is getting better will be seen as the sort of thing that can be fairly assessed by standardized rating scales. In contrast, accounts which hold that disorder is a value-laden concept will lead one to view recovery differently. According to such accounts, for a condition to count as a disorder it must be bad. It will be argued that whether a condition is bad or not will vary with factors such as the social environment, and also with the aims, desires, and self-understanding of the individual patient. One consequence of this is that a condition that was once bad for the patient can be rendered neutral or good for them not only by altering the functioning of their psychological subsystems, but also by altering the patient's social environment or their own assessment of the situation. This means that measuring “recovery” will not be a straightforward matter. The chapter ends by considering how treatment efficacy might best be assessed according to such a view of recovery.

Chapter.  10418 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.