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Criticism of Medical Model of Psychological Disorders


Psychological disorders are one of the global problems of our time. For example, depression has been encountered by almost every person -either in person or in a friend’s experience. Lots of people are continually living with anxiety disorders. Such disorders are generally considered mental illnesses. At the same time, people who can adapt to the environment and successfully solve various household problems are considered mentally healthy. If a person is unable to do so, it is usually a deviation, illness. Even though the medical model of mental disorders has long been accepted and widespread, some scientists consider it inappropriate.

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Thomas Szasz’s Criticism of the Medical Model of Psychological Disorders

The medical model of the disease is centered on the study of natural factors as external causes of the disease. However, Thomas Szasz criticizes the general concept of mental illness, as well as the therapeutic methods used in its treatment (Weiten et al., 2018). He points out that psychiatry does not investigate biological structure but behavior. That means that deviation is not studied through cells or tissues of the body, but through socially accepted norms, which is the wrong approach.

I agree with Szasz in some aspects. For example, often through mental disorders, a person tries to explain to the surroundings how difficult it is for him or her. In such a case, moral assistance and support are needed. However, I see a sharp contradiction in his assertion that aid should be provided entirely voluntarily. That statement does not mean I am in favor of enforced treatment. Nevertheless, often people suffering from mental disorders tend to disappear into themselves and cannot seek help – they need to be pushed to do so.

Treating Psychological Disorders

The modern rhythm of life is such that the mental state is most susceptible to negative influence. I believe this supports Szasz’s view that the causes of the disorders are in the circumstances of life. A considerable number of stresses are everywhere: at work, at home, on the internet. A massive flow of information comes to a person from all sides and often carries a negative character. Stress causes human problems, including physical health problems.

However, it has been proven that the roots of mental disorders are not only in lifestyle but also in biology, often in genetics (Kring & Johnson, 2018). For this reason, I am sure that their treatment should be complex and include psychological therapy in the form of interviews with a specialist, and if necessary (complex or neglected case), drug treatment.

For some disorders, drug therapy is necessary; in the case of others, it is only one of the possible alternatives. For example, depression should be treated by drugs and psychotherapy combined together. Moreover, I think it is important to note that medication makes meaningful life possible for those suffering from quite severe disorders. For example, they help to get rid of hallucinations, obsessions. However, isolation and continuous care of medical personnel, as in cases of mental illness, are not mandatory here.


Thus, psychology and psychotherapy, their methods continuously develop and change. Thanks to researchers like Thomas Szasz, one can look at the goals and approaches of these sciences from the other side. Moreover, a critical look at such studies will also help to identify irrelevant aspects and add missing ones, as Szasz pointed on the role of the surrounding atmosphere, but missed the biological reasons for disorders.

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Kring, A. M. & Johnson, S. L. (2018). Abnormal psychology: The science and treatment of psychological disorders. John Wiley & Sons.

Weiten, W., Dunn, D. S., & Hammer, E. Y. (2018). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century. Cengage Learning.

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