UIUC PSYC 238 - Szasz (1961) - The Myth of Mental Illness (6 pages)

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Szasz (1961) - The Myth of Mental Illness



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Szasz (1961) - The Myth of Mental Illness

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Pages:
6
School:
University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign
Course:
Psyc 238 - Abnormal Psych

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THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS THOMAS S SZASZ State University of New York Upstate Medical Center Syracuse M Y aim in this essay is to raise the question Is there such a thing as mental illness and to argue that there is not Since the notion of mental illness is extremely widely used nowadays inquiry into the ways in which this term is employed would seem to be especially indicated Mental illness of course is not literally a thing or physical object and hence it can exist only in the same sort of way in which other theoretical concepts exist Yet familiar theories are in the habit of posing sooner or later at least to those who come to believe in them as objective truths or facts During certain historical periods explanatory conceptions such as deities witches and microorganisms appeared not only as theories but as self evident causes of a vast number of events I submit that today mental illness is widely regarded in a somewhat similar fashion that is as the cause of innumerable diverse happenings As an antidote to the complacent use of the notion of mental illness whether as a self evident phenomenon theory or cause let us ask this question What is meant when it is asserted that someone is mentally ill In what follows I shall describe briefly the main uses to which the concept of mental illness has been put I shall argue that this notion has outlived whatever usefulness it might have had and that it now functions merely as a convenient myth MENTAL ILLNESS AS A SIGN OF BRAIN DISEASE The notion of mental illness derives it main support from such phenomena as syphilis of the brain or delirious conditions intoxications for instance in which persons are known to manifest various peculiarities or disorders of thinking and behavior Correctly speaking however these are diseases of the brain not of the mind According to one school of thought all so called mental illness is of this type The assumption is made that some neurological defect perhaps a very subtle one will ultimately



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