Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 505–531 | Cite as

To Forgive and Discredit: Bipolar Identities and Medicated Selves Among Female Youth in Residential Treatment

Original Paper

Abstract

Based on 11 months of ethnographic fieldwork at a residential treatment center in the United States, this article explores the varied meanings that female youth attribute to behavior and the strategic (mis)use of knowledge about psychiatric diagnosis and medication at a time when the scope of behaviors pathologized in young people continues to expand. Drawing upon psychological and critically applied medical anthropology, as well as contributions from philosophy on how classifications of people come into being and circulate, attention is paid to the multiple contradictions at work in diagnosing young people with mental disorders. A detailed examination of an exchange that occurred during one particular group therapy session is presented to demonstrate how psychiatric selves emerge in this environment when conventional labeling practices no longer suffice as an explanation of behavior. This turn to psychiatry reveals both the salience of and confusion around mental health treatment and diagnosis among adolescents, opens up the distinctions young people make between “real selves” and “medicated selves,” and invokes the possibility of psychiatric disorder as a means to both forgive and discredit.

Keywords

Adolescents Psychiatric disorder Bipolar disorder Residential treatment United States 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric ResearchNew YorkUSA

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