I haven’t read Davis’ book, but I do work in a similar area. The question for me is, in the diagnostic category of ‘causing marked distress’, what, precisely, causes the distress? Some would say OCD, and yet even Agin observes that if your obsession earns you money, it’s unlikely to be a psychiatric symptom. Thus what makes something a symptom is not given by the symptom itself, nor by the brain, but by how particular behaviours are situated within a given culture. What defines something as a symptom is not, in the end, a psychiatric matter. Which means that psychiatrists really need to be able to engage with the context within which that symptom occurs; what makes a particular behaviour problematic? Yes, severe distress, but what produces that distress? A mismatch between the expectations of the context within which the person works, and that person’s behaviours.

You might say that none of this matters, but as has already been pointed out, the use of psychiatric drugs is already re-setting the bar for what counts as ‘normal’ within our cultural context. As a result, more people are falling outside ‘normal behaviour’ and this, then, causes the distress which is apparently key to rendering something a psychiatric symptom. Thus ipsychiatrists need to begin to engage with understandings of the world which do not treat the brain as if it occurs in a vacuum, because to do otherwise is to reproduce and expand the very problem they are supposedly seeking to address.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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