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Psychiatrization of Society: A Conceptual Framework and Call for Transdisciplinary Research

Beeker, T., Mills, C., Bhugra, D. , te Meerman, S., Thoma, S., Heinze, M. & von Peter, S. (2021). Psychiatrization of Society: A Conceptual Framework and Call for Transdisciplinary Research. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.645556


Purpose: Worldwide, there have been consistently high or even rising incidences of diagnosed mental disorders and increasing mental healthcare service utilization over the last decades, causing a growing burden for healthcare systems and societies. While more individuals than ever are being diagnosed and treated as mentally ill, psychiatric knowledge, and practices affect the lives of a rising number of people, gain importance in society as a whole and shape more and more areas of life. This process can be described as the progressing psychiatrization of society.

Methods: This article is a conceptual paper, focusing on theoretical considerations and theory development. As a starting point for further research, we suggest a basic model of psychiatrization, taking into account its main sub-processes as well as its major top-down and bottom-up drivers.

Results: Psychiatrization is highly complex, diverse, and global. It involves various protagonists and its effects are potentially harmful to individuals, to societies and to public healthcare. To better understand, prevent or manage its negative aspects, there is a need for transdisciplinary research, that empirically assesses causes, mechanisms, and effects of psychiatrization.

Conclusion: Although psychiatrization has highly ambivalent effects, its relevance mainly derives from its risks: While individuals with minor disturbances of well-being might be subjected to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, psychiatrization could also result in undermining mental healthcare provision for the most severely ill by promoting the adaption of services to the needs and desires of the rather mild cases. On a societal level, psychiatrization might boost medical interventions which incite individual coping with social problems, instead of encouraging long-term political solutions.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2021 Beeker, Mills, Bhugra, te Meerman, Thoma, Heinze and von Peter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: psychiatrization, transdisciplinary research, psychiatric epidemiology, medicalization, overdiagnosis, health system research, medical sociology, mental health
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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