560 CONRAD/POTTER sharply increased the number of cases of AD, now including cases of senile dementia over 60 years old. As a result, AD has become one of the top five causes of death in the United States. Psychiatric and medical diagnoses are the product of socio-historical circumstances and the claims-making of particular interest groups. New diagnoses rarely emerge simply as a result of new scientific discoveries. Medicalization studies have demonstrated that agents such as self- help and advocacy groups, social movements, health-related organizations, pharmaceutical companies, academic researchers, and clinicians can be central in creating specific diagnoses. Medicalization is usually a product of collective action, rather than a result of "medical imperialism" (Conrad 1992). Whatever the extent of medicalization, it is not simply doctors colonizing new problems or labeling feckless patients. Reissman (1983) and others have asserted that patients and other lay people can be active collaborators in their own medicaliza- tion, although sympathetic professionals are usually needed for successful claims-making (Brown 1995).
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Medicalization, Medical Diagnoses, new medical categories