The Social Construction of Abnormality
The fields of psychology and psychiatry similarly postulate that there are proper inherent functioning attributes and characteristics, which can be identified in human nature as normal, and this provides the means to characterize ‘abnormal functioning’. Within the diagnostic process of mental disorders there is a classificatory system, which the field of psychiatry developed through means of social construction, and it defines if someone does or does not have a mental illness. Hence, the purpose of this paper arises from this realization, and it is to elucidate the means by which psychiatry has missed the mark in attempting to declare mental illness as natural kinds by using the standard model of science in the development of psychiatric theories.
In this paper, I will begin by describing aspects of abnormal psychology and how “abnormal behavior” is evaluated. This will include the diagnostic criteria of Social Anxiety Disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatry Association, to provide an example of diagnostic symptomatology to compare in relation to theories in social constructionism and the standard model of science as they pertain to defining mental disease or illness. The following questions will be analyzed to extract the socially constructed elements of mental illness in relation to the standard model of science: what is the line that distinguishes between people who meet or do not meet diagnostic criteria, and who created this? If abnormal behaviors are able to be deciphered, then, is the paradigm for normal versus abnormal behaviors or functioning innate in the human condition or did we create it? Should abnormal behavior be the determinant that someone has a mental disorder? What is a mental disorder? Would mental disorders exist if we were not able to name it? As the discourse progresses in response to the questions, critiques from Thomas Szasz and John R. Searle will be incorporated to show that psychiatry has adopted a foundational system of diagnostics, which, inherently, is erroneous in that its use of the standard model in ‘discovering’ mental illness misses the truth of the matter.
To develop a reductio ad absurdum argument, I will begin with and momentarily accept the assumption that mental illness is innate within the human condition and that certain abnormal behaviors are characteristic of specific disorders. A person is characterized as having a mental illness according to a spectrum, which ranges from adaptive to maladaptive functioning and behavior, if a clinician defines them as spending a majority of time, figuratively, on the maladaptive end of the spectrum, then the client is ‘mentally ill’. However, where is this line? Psychiatry postulates that there is never an exact specification of where this line is, but it varies depending on each individual. The level is based on the evaluation of their functioning...