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The Biologization of Everyday Suffering

The Biologization of Everyday Suffering

(p.42) Two The Biologization of Everyday Suffering
Chemically Imbalanced
Joseph E. Davis
University of Chicago Press

To express, explain, and validate their suffering and frame intervention, many people draw upon a “grammar” of institutionalized medical concepts and practices. The source of this grammar, the focus of the chapter, is a biomedical landscape of meaning—a “healthscape” of ideas, symbols, and institutionalized practices—that began to emerge in the 1950s with Freudian ideas about the neuroses and the explosive public reception of the “minor tranquilizers” like Miltown and Valium. By the early 1970s, people were using psychotropic drugs at rates comparable to today but doing so within a broadly psychosocial frame of reference, with little recourse to somatic theories, disease models, or even medical diagnoses. This began to change in the 1970s, when, especially in light of existing drug use, psychiatry began a decisive change centered in the development of a new diagnostic language of mental disorders. The 1980 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, was shaped by biological rather than Freudian theories. Powered subsequently by Prozac and the SSRI class of antidepressants, it shifted practice decisively toward medication, including for children, and short-term behavioral therapies, and reoriented the field toward neuroscience. The new categories were powerfully institutionalized and effectively reified.

Keywords:   DSM, Freud, diagnosis, Valium, Miltown, Prozac, behavioral therapy, healthscape, SSRI, neuroscience

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