Chemically ImbalancedEveryday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery

Chemically ImbalancedEveryday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery

Joseph E. Davis

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226686547

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

For a generation, an intense debate has been waged over the expanding number of people who are diagnosed with a mental disorder and treated with prescription drugs such as Prozac and Adderall. One side, the psychiatric, sees progress. People suffering from mental illness are finally getting the treatment they need. The other side challenges the psychiatric perspective and the medicalization and treatment of common personality traits and forms of distress as mental disorders. Neither side has much to say about how people themselves explain their suffering and or envision a resolution. Chemically Imbalanced, based on interviews, explores this sense-making among people dealing with experiences of loss, disappointment, and underachievement. At the heart of distress is a gap between experience and valued standards and ideals of selfhood, and confusion over why things are not going as they should. People are in a predicament, and the book explores how many take up diagnostic categories, biological explanations, and pharmaceuticals as social objects and narratives to make sense of their situation and ameliorate it. These efforts reveal that a quiet but profound revolution in consciousness is underway. Ways of conceiving of suffering in terms of the mind, interpersonal experience, and social circumstances are being replaced with a thin and mechanistic language of the body/brain. The appeal of this “neurobiological imaginary,” the book argues, is not its explanatory power but in what it promises people they can be in our fluid and depthless culture. Despite the vaunted freedom, the imaginary has troubling and entrapping consequences.