Psychology in Action

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"pseudopatients" acted normally. The staff never knew these people had faked their symptoms; the patients, on the other hand, quickly recognized the deception. The hospital stays lasted several days and when the seven pseudopatients were released, they were released as "schizophrenic in remission." Ask the students if they think the mental health system is really this sloppy in their diagnoses. How could this happen? What are the effects of psychiatric labels on the judged "normality" of behavior? Use their responses as a lead-in to the chapter. Instructor’s Resource Guide                              Chapter 14                                         Page   180
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   L ecture E xtenders 1. The Myth of Mental Illness Thomas Szasz, whose thoughts on sexual behaviors were discussed in an earlier extender section, has many strong feelings about the profession of psychiatry. Most of his antipsychiatry feelings have been directed at involuntary hospitalization and the myth of mental illness. He decries the expansion of the mental health system, the use of a diagnostic system that is fobbed off on the public as a scientific document whereas it is actually a means of detecting "psychiatric sin." The following material discusses his beliefs about similarities between witchcraft and psychiatry and are based on his book, The Manufacture of Madness (1970). Szasz states that all societies have to provide certain functions: they must acknowledge events, devise an explanation for what happens, and then institute social control. He compares the social function of the psychiatrist and all others who practice in the mental health field to that of the witchpricker of the middle ages--they both provide explanations for and social control of events or undesirable behaviors that bother us. Both professions were designed to uplift and protect society from what most people would call deviant behaviors (Szasz deliberately refuses to use this word since he says it implies an inferior position). Szasz's special target is institutional psychiatry. Here, he is referring to those who serve as the gatekeepers of the mental institutions, where most patients are involuntarily admitted. There are several similarities he cites between the practice of witchcraft and modern day psychiatry. First, just as one had to determine who was a witch during the middle ages, the psychiatrist has to know the people in need of treatment. How was this knowledge obtained for witches? The best way was believed to be through confessions, many of which came after days of torture; nevertheless, the public felt this was a fair procedure. The equivalent of confession in the mental patient is the admission that one may have problems, feel anxious, and so forth. These statements, which presumably will make things better for the person, may be used as evidence of one's incompetence or mental disorder. What if the person refuses to admit to an emotional problem? The same "heads I win, tails you lose" game is played:
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