Many studies estimate that around half of the population in Western countries will suffer from a mental disorder sometime in their life. Approximately a quarter of the population will develop an anxiety disorder and a similar number will suffer from depression. A tenth will develop a personality disorder, and similar figures are found for many other mental disorders. These figures are striking, but are hard to interpret. This presentation argues in favour of the pathologization thesis, which claims that it cannot be argued in a straightforward manner that we are simply more ill and disordered than before, perhaps due to the malaises of modernity. Instead, we have learned to think and talk about human problems in new ways, viz. ways that involve pathologization. Pathologization, however, is not a unitary phenomenon, and the presentation gives an overview of four types of pathologization, which are called stigmatizing pathologization, self pathologization, risk pathologization and de-pathologization. It is argued that we need a variety of ways of understanding the complex phenomenon of pathologization and that previous critical frameworks (e.g. as promoted by the anti-psychiatry movement) are often overly simplistic.
Main Research Area:
Social pathologies of contemporary civilization, 2010