Social Constructions of Mental Illness

Allan Horwitz

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392753
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Social Constructions of Mental Illness

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This article rejects the idea that the sociology of mental illness classification and organizational embeddedness shows that mental illness is a pure social construct. The three styles of social construction include pure constructionism, interactive social construction, and harmful dysfunction (HD) conception. Because mental illnesses are social artifacts, they cannot be universal. Interactive conceptions of mental disorder illustrate the effects of social classification through situating them within institutional practices, social meanings, and interactions. The HD view offers the grounds for critiquing mental health practices. The HD analysis shows that the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders definitions pervasively confuse problematic but natural human emotions which develop as responses to stress with mental disorders. The profound social influences on constructions of mental disorder reveal the value of sociological approaches for the study of phenomena that are typically viewed as aspects of individual personalities and brains.

Keywords: mental illness; social construction; pure constructionism; interactive social construction; harmful dysfunction; social classification; mental health; mental disorder

Article.  8953 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Philosophy of Mind

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