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psychiatry and mental illness

george w. brown

Subject Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631221647.2002.x


Psychiatry – a way of both defining and treating mental illness -has seen important changes since World War II in both its practice and its intellectual roots. This has included a greatly diminished role for psychoanalytic thought (see P sychoanlysis ), particularly marked in the USA where it had been a dominant influence. With this there has been an increased concern with the biological origins of the wide range of disorders that make up psychiatric practice. During the last 20 years the complex task of their classification has returned, together with a biological perspective, to the centre of psychiatric attention as seen in the highly influential third, 1980, edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). The coming together of nosology (classification of diseases) and biology has undoubtedly been partly prompted by the success of pharmacological treatments and the hope that they would prove to be specific for certain diagnoses. DSM-III largely reflects clinical experience rather than research findings, and it is possible to find described in it well-recognized conditions such as severe mental illnesses (psychoses) like schizophrenia and manic depressive psychosis, the less severe neuroses and emotional disorders, psychosomatic disorders, organic states of dementia, mental retardation and behavioural anomalies ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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