Medicalization occurs when previously nonmedical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually in terms of an illness or disorder. After setting the historical context for how certain forms of deviant behavior became defined and treated as medical and psychiatric problems, we examine three more recent instances of medicalization. First is the growth of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from a children’s disorder to a lifespan disorder, which highlights medicalization through the expansion of an existing medical category. Second, we discuss the emergence of social anxiety disorder (SAD) as a common diagnosis, focusing on how a pharmaceutical company initially marketed shyness and social anxiety as a disorder and then advertised Paxil as its preferred treatment. Third, we consider the debate about whether to remove the bereavement exclusion from the diagnostic criteria for depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, V (DSM-V), which would make normal grief a basis for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.
- psychiatric diagnosis
- medical categories
- social anxiety disorder
- bereavement exclusion
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In 2000, Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham merged to form GlaxoSmithKline. In 2001, GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil received FDA approval to treat GAD.
Some of the most common side effects for Paxil include feelings of nervousness, drowsiness, dizziness, sleep problems, nausea, constipation, weight change, decreased libido, and impotence (www.paxil.com).
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
American Psychiatric Association
Centers for Disease Control
Children and Adults for Attention Deficit Disorder
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising
Federal Drug Administration
Generalized anxiety disorder
Lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender, queer
Minimal brain dysfunction
Social anxiety disorder
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
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Conrad, P., Slodden, C. (2013). The Medicalization of Mental Disorder. In: Aneshensel, C.S., Phelan, J.C., Bierman, A. (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4276-5_4
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