Here at Research Dialogue: Blogging on Brain and Behaviour,
The idea that mental illness is related to brain abnormalities or other biological factors is popular among some patients; they say it demystifies their experiences and lends legitimacy to their symptoms. However, studies show that biological explanations can increase mental health stigma, encouraging the public perception that people with mental illness are essentially different, and that their problems are permanent. Now Matthew Lebowitz and Woo-young Ahn have published new evidence that suggests biological explanations of mental illness reduce the empathy that mental health professionals feel towards patients.
Over two hundred psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers were presented with vignettes of patients with conditions such as social phobia, depression or schizophrenia. Crucially, some of these vignettes were accompanied by purely biological explanations focused on factors like genes and brain chemistry, while other vignettes were accompanied by psychosocial explanations, such as a history of bullying or bereavement. … More.
I’ve noticed that myself. Purely brain-based explanations inevitably dehumanize. The big problem is, they give us implicit permission to avoid emotional involvement. People don’t believe the whole person exists any more, so they don’t visit. Neurological illness begins to appear like a prison where the prisoner no longer exists.
We care what people think and feel. No one cares what neurons or synapses “think” or “feel.”
Yet the prisoner does exist. See:There is a country for old men,
Also: What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness
and The human mind
File under: Trends in medicine that bode no good. – O’Leary for News.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose
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