The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment

By Allan M. Leventhal; Christopher R. Martell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
SOCIETAL VIEWS OF
MENTAL DISORDER

From earliest times people have attempted to comprehend the world. History is replete with explanations of the mysteries of life, many of which strike us today as foolish given our current understanding. Yet it is clear that we have always been driven to understand our world with the tools we have at our disposal. Of particular interest to humankind has been understanding occurrences that inspire awe and fear, probably because of their implications for our survival. Survival requires appraisal of the environment to detect danger, to protect ourselves from harm. Our own distress or the sight of a fellow human in distress captures our attention, as does the sight of a fellow human acting strangely. Curiosity and uneasiness about these conditions has led throughout history to attempts to explain the basis for physical and mental disorder. Religion, philosophy, and science, our most highly developed systems of thought, all concern themselves centrally with questions having to do with life and death. The wisdom of each age's most esteemed authorities was rooted in presumed expertise in these matters. Hindsight enables us to see that much of this thought was erroneous, but in their day, acting on the knowledge at their disposal, their views prevailed and dictated how society dealt with those who were afflicted.


The Medical Model

Modern science and medical treatment as we know it today is only about 150 years old. It has its roots in such figures as Galileo and

-1-

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