The Bio-psycho-social Perspective in Alcoholism

  • Benjamin Kissin
  • Meredith Hanson


In the past several decades, a bio-psycho-social perspective has become very popular in psychiatry, most particularly in the field of psychosomatic medicine but elsewhere as well.1–4 There is general agreement that certain behavioral disorders may involve several pathogenetic mechanisms at one level or another; however, in any given syndrome, there is wide disagreement as to the relative impact of these mechanisms. Thus, for schizophrenia, biological psychiatry stresses aberration in biogenic amine metabolism, psychoanalysis emphasizes defective ego structures and traumatic early experience, and social psychiatry describes pathological family constellations. Although each discipline tends to acknowledge the existence of the others and the legitimacy of their findings, little attempt is made to investigate possible interactions among pathogenetic mechanisms at different levels. Rather, each discipline tends to see its own explanations as paramount, with other influences either adding or substracting (in a purely arithmetic and linear fashion) to the critical mass necessary to achieve clinical pathology. This viewpoint tends to dominate psychiatry, which, like its parent discipline, medicine, recognizes that multiple explanations frequently signify only that the real etiology has not yet been discovered.


Problem Drinker Physical Dependence Chronic Alcoholism Heroin Addict Alcoholic Anonymous 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Kissin
    • 1
  • Meredith Hanson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryState University of New York, Downstate Medical CenterBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Division of AlcoholismState University of New York, Downstate Medical CenterBrooklynUSA

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