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Bad Science and the Mythology of Mental Illness

  1. SocraticMethod profile image61
    SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago

    Many thinkers argue that psychology is not a science, in that the methodology and the reasoning used does not lead to nor provide a generalizable theory of human nature or behaviors. Yet, without a sound theory of human nature, there is still a widely held view that there is such a thing as mental illness. How can there be good well-reasoned theories of mental illness without a theory of human nature that resembles a scientific theory? In addition, how are psychological (psycho-pharmacology) "treatments" being permitted without good reasons and apparently few questions being asked? History is repeating itself by our society accepting the now institutions of mental health to use all sorts of interventions to "help" people without having good reasoning, other than a culture view and a manufactured market demand. There is more mythology then science or fact in ideas of mental illness that permeate our culture and impact the lives of those who are labeled as such. This sort of psychology this is called "Folk-Psychology" and it is pure culture and lack good reasoning. Culture requires the most corrosive skepticism and serious critical thinking or practices get created and imposed that deform and oppress human dignity. It is this reasoning that allowed at one time homosexuality to be considered a mental illness and as it stands today, the medicalization of human behavior with any good reasoning to support. .

    1. aspieadult profile image60
      aspieadultposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      I like your statement and I agree to a large extent. "Disorder" in psychology is supposedly defined by the extent of distress and lack of "normal" functioning a condition arouses, however many times 'distress' and 'dysfunction' are a result of cultural reactions to behaviour or experience, rather than the behaviour or experience itself. Also, the science of psychology and western medicine in general is still very euro-centric and thus culture influences what is seen as healthy-normal-beneficial, and what is unhealthy-abnormal-damaging. You might notice a lot of diseases are now measured in terms of monetary impact, and thus the bias of production-gains-capitalisation type attitudes also permeate diagnosis and treatment.

      As disorder is culturally dependent, theories about human nature are also very dependent upon culture- as well as religion, politics, et cetera--most of which are areas ignored or avoided by psychologists altogether. It is strange, psychology as a science tries to pry itself from cultural and religious superstition and ideas about life, nature, and humans...and yet at the same time, it is exactly what individuals take into consideration (subconsciously and consciously) when intuiting the significance of their existence, health, experience, and expectations about life and death...all of which contribute to a perceived [and chemically reinforced] state of well-being or disorder.

      1. psycheskinner profile image81
        psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        Yes, psychology has fallen prey to cultural stereotypes and panics.  It is no different to other products of culture (including other sciences) in that.  That works of man are always flawed.

        And yet many people are helped by the products of psychology and psychiatry.  One day when those two are part of the same thing we might make a lot more progress.

        1. aspieadult profile image60
          aspieadultposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          People are certainly helped. Just because the science is to a large extent culturally biased/enforced does not mean that mental 'illness' is nonexistent. There are some conditions, for instance, which cause disorder in the individual no matter what the cultural interpretation or treatment/solution of it may be.

          On the other hand, some ideas of disorder and abnormality are reinforced by chemical/hormonal changes in the body causing changes in mood, behaviour, and development--- therefore, altering such changes does indeed alter a persons state/mood/behaviour and it would seem they are benefitted by the treatment. In the long run, is it best for the individual? What if the same end could be come to by different means? Which means is "superior"? Is there a 'one treatment fits all'? Can the individual be treated without treating their environment/community? All these questions and many more remain neglected, or variably answered at best. It is a science in its infancy...I would even say it is just past the zygote stage as a real objective science.

          1. psycheskinner profile image81
            psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago in reply to this

            Behavioral abnormalities have very complex and diverse etiology, we are about as far along with them as with other similarly complex conditions, like cancer. But there has been, and continues to be, progress.

            1. aspieadult profile image60
              aspieadultposted 4 years ago in reply to this

              I see you have skinner in your name....a behaviouralist bias then? (just curious)

              Cancer is not a good analogy. We understand quite a bit about cancers. I think the point is that what we understand about "abnormality" in psychology in general is coloured by what we partially assume and partially "confirm" (dangerously generalized) about "normality".

              Therefore, it is not that there is no 'progress', or that no one is 'helped' it is how we are defining progress, and how we are defining help which needs to be constantly reexamined. A good place to start would be to define what wellbeing means for the mind, and that is something generally considered partially subjective (touched by culture and religion/belief), and partially objective (chemically balanced, behaviourally safe), and even what is objective is heavily influenced by subjective perception.

              Therefore as much as we would like to make psychology an objective, organized science, it remains overwhelmed with uncertainties and exceptions. It has to acknowledge its limitations to truly progress. The reason it would be difficult to acknowledge such limitations is that it takes some phenomenological 'faith' which would appear wholesomely unscientific.

              1. SocraticMethod profile image61
                SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                Well stated!!!
                "Therefore as much as we would like to make psychology an objective, organized science, it remains overwhelmed with uncertainties and exceptions. It has to acknowledge its limitations to truly progress. The reason it would be difficult to acknowledge such limitations is that it takes some phenomenological 'faith' which would appear wholesomely unscientific."
                The wishful thinkers and apologists of psychology have yet to persuade many thinkers including all of science and philosophy that the phenomenology is there as well as the theory. Yet, our culture still lets psychology "help" our society more like tells it's dog what to do and what to say.

                1. aspieadult profile image60
                  aspieadultposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                  I am not sure I completely understand you....I believe it is the uncertain, and exceptional phenomena that most psychologists shy away from---far from trying to 'persuade' others of it.

                  The issue is the stigma attached to a certain level of open-mindedness... Consider that the further away a science can stake it claims from the intrusions of culture and belief, the more objective and real it is seen. The closer a science touches culture and subjective experience, the closer it looses its 'domain'- so to speak -for that area historically belongs to the realm of religion/church, or simple-mindedness (so it is thought). Psychology walks the line between what is unimpeded by culture and belief (such as the nervous system-which includes the brain), and what is practically molded by culture and belief (the mind in all its abstract wonder...). Therefore psychology as a field is torn between what is considered objective and real science, and what is considered subjective, and changeable.

                  Unfortunately, reconciling the two "sides" of psychology is not a feat many psychologists are prone to extensively dwell upon for the majority are not philosophers. Most are practitioners of some sort (or researchers who hope their work can be indirectly applied) and their first concern is how they are going to help people in the here and now, or how they are going to publish more research papers to get the funding they need. They use what they have to help and progress, but the issues of culture, bias, and belief remain woefully neglected.

                  In fact there are rifts among psychologists regarding the importance of such issues. A good example of just how limited psychology remains is regarding gender. Many participants or patients in any research study are only given the choice of Male or Female. That is a culturally based restriction. What about people who are intersex (biologically other)? What about those who are transgender (psychologically other)? For some cultures there might even be a third or fourth gender to consider.

                  I personally know psychologists who acknowledge the reality of other genders, and have 'faith' in the phenomenology of it, and yet conduct research using the same old binary system either out of convenience and habit, or they do not consider it relevant, or for fear of reprisal (because it is culturally 'abnormal' and unexpected and therefore not scientific enough).

                  That is just one example out of many.

      2. aspieadult profile image60
        aspieadultposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        btw I edited my reply after I submitted it...I apologise for any confusion.

  2. knolyourself profile image59
    knolyourselfposted 4 years ago

    I would say that psychology is the reasoning of all reasons to justify all behaviors. Mental illness is another kind of reasoning of reasons based on premises that are generally considered as untrue. Religion can be considered as mental illness, and soon we will have a drug for it no doubt.

    1. SocraticMethod profile image61
      SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Psychology is the lap dog of culture.

  3. wilderness profile image94
    wildernessposted 4 years ago

    Mental illness is a defined characteristic, not a natural one.

    People are all different and behave differently.  When those differences varies from the norm to the point that it crosses an invisible line defined and drawn by society and/or psychologists it is termed "mental illness" - nature makes no distinction as what behavior constitutes illness and what constitutes simple difference or uniqueness.

  4. knolyourself profile image59
    knolyourselfposted 4 years ago

    I want what you or we all have in common. None will give it me. I find as many reasons as I can why I should have it and those others should not.

  5. psycheskinner profile image81
    psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago

    There is plenty of science behind both psychology (behavior) and psychiatry 9the brain).  It isn't perfect but it isn't absent either. There isn't a single universe science of human nature because it is not rational to expect such a thing to exist.  Human nature is not a unitary phenomena that one theory will be able to explain. But there are a lot of well accepted theories for a lot of specific behavior and brain systems that are easily equivalent to what you see in biology or other sciences that deal with living systems and sentient beings.

    Mental illness is a catch-all category including all brain and/or behavior malfunctions characterized by a failure to cope with normal life activities and experiences. Some are very easily treated (e.g. specific phobias) and some are still largely not understood and subject to more research, but in the meantime we help people deal with their systems as best we can (e.g. Schizophrenia). If someone wished to not avail themselves of psychological and/or psychiatric help, and they are not a danger to anyone, they can go it alone.

    1. SocraticMethod profile image61
      SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      We will disagree about that this statement, "There is plenty of science behind both psychology (behavior) and psychiatry 9the brain)" which why I used the term "bad science". Science is not the finally say on knowledge, but to say there is a science of behavior that is convincing is to take a leap. Yes, I am a criteria-monger, but more so an observer of discourse, to use Thomas Szasz and Michel Foucault's ideas that the so-called science of psychology is at best folk psychology (not neurology) and it is discursive. In the case of mental health and illness...The cart is before the horse.

      1. psycheskinner profile image81
        psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        I mean the theories of Operant and Respondent Conditioning, not post-modern blah blah. Conditioning theories were absolutely developed scientifically. the parts of psychology that are science, are science.  that parts that are not, are not.

        1. SocraticMethod profile image61
          SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          The method is "scientific" just as animal behavior, but the same problem remains; proof as in sound studies that try to prove their hypothesis wrong. Its quite the opposite. The example of conditioning models are theories as good one since they have not  been proven to be a true theory, but accepted as truth without good reason. Just as Maslow's hierarchy of need is gospel in the field, yet it as not been proven, let alone replicated in any "study". The ad hoc reasoning abounds and unjustified in any so-called treatment suggestions. It is not post-modernity but I am looking for some modernity, i.e. standards that have some objectivity.

          1. psycheskinner profile image81
            psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago in reply to this

            There are literally hundred of experiments that have proven how conditioning functions.  If you don;t consider that science you must have a very strange definition of science. Falsifiable hypothesis, collect data, use Occam's razor, yes?

            1. SocraticMethod profile image61
              SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

              As definitions go Karl Popper's works for me. There are hundreds of replicated studies? Where? That prove Pavlov and Watson right? Like a law of physics? I want to read that. That would mean we can generalize human behavior. If we want call something science without the substance then it shows it's true colors. Psychology has not and yet it is applied as if is.

              1. psycheskinner profile image81
                psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                Um, yes there are.  If by "prove Pavlov right" you mean, objective studies that cause Pavlov and his successors to develop their theories.

                If you are not aware of the literally thousands of experimental psychology peer-reviewed journals that are as rigorous as journals for any other science then I would question how much you based your own beliefs on sincere interrogation of available data.

                If you had you would know, for a start, that Pavlov was not a psychologist because his work predated the founding if psychology as a science and was absorbed by that field only when it came into being.

                The core behaviorist journals right now would be the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.  But with the decline of behaviorism as a philosophy of scientific psychology these are not the flagship journals in the field anymore. As with any broad science there are a multitude of specialized journals.

                I think before making any more assertions that scientists like myself and my colleagues don;t even exist you should consider doing some reading.  Pavlov, Watson, Skinner etc were experimentalists.  Their theories were their attempts to explain their data parsimoniously--no more and no less.  Or did you think the dog/bell/meat powder thing was a thought experiment?

                1. SocraticMethod profile image61
                  SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

                  That is what I am challenging that you are scientific and I am arguing that your not and that the starting point of your literature is still in question and requires greater scrutiny. Psychology is not neurology and the phenomena of the brain is not the domain of psychology. There are no objective categories of human psychology, culture decides and calls it science. Karl Popper argued that methodologically, psychology is on par with astrology. And it still today. The appearance of legitimacy does not a science make

      2. Hollie Thomas profile image61
        Hollie Thomasposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        science of behavior that is convincing is to take a leap

        Have to disagree, to say there have been plenty of studies which analyze human (and animal ) behavour using scientific methods (as far as possible)  would be an understatement to say the least. Whilst it is true that psychology may not be an exact science in the same sense as chemistry or biology, behaviour is intensely studied and any attempts to modify behavioral patterns come under close scrutiny. What works springs to mind here.

        You sound like so many others  who emerge from a scientific background and who, for no legitimate reason, claim some kind of elitism for your chosen discipline. My son, who is dyspraxic, had been examined by a number of scientists, or physicians, who had always given him a clean bill of health. However, it took an educational psychologist  to, correctly, I might add, recognise that his "problems" were neurological, not behavioural.  If only the scientists could have established that some years earlier.

        1. SocraticMethod profile image61
          SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          Animal behavior studies have the same problems and are questioned by many thinkers as science or another way to put it: that it is not good knowledge. How can the psychologist diagnosis a broken brain without understanding the brain. They do not, they make it up the problem to fit the society that manufactured it in the first place.

  6. psycheskinner profile image81
    psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago

    Feel free to pick any experimental report from either journal I named, and tell me how it is not a work of science.

    1. SocraticMethod profile image61
      SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      I have...the critical questions remain. Read "Psychology's Ghost: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back" by Jerome Kagan or any of the works of Thomas Szasz.

      1. psycheskinner profile image81
        psycheskinnerposted 4 years ago in reply to this

        Which one did you read and why was it not science?  Science doesn't live in books about meta-ideas, it lives in the experimental reports--these are descriptions, quite literally, of the science being done.  I have done that work for many years.  It is psychology and it is science. Telling me otherwise is like saying my dog is a koala.  You can believe it if you want but I am still going to feed him kibble not leaves.

        1. SocraticMethod profile image61
          SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

          Science is a method of knowledge. It starts with a theory of a phenomena that is testable and measureable. The experiment must be replicated, with the goal of proving ones hypothesis wrong. Is anthropology a science? It is uses the method, but it is not studying atoms or a physical substance that can be measure unbiased and objectivity, it is studying culture systematically. Human behavior is not the same as molecules. Studying something systematically does not a science make either. Psychology has a mountain of assumptions that it conveniently over looks and has to or it will have to explain itself intelligently. Phrenology is alive and well with a not so new name, psychology.

  7. Mighty Mom profile image89
    Mighty Momposted 4 years ago

    This is alarming. Have you notified the CDC?
    They will assuredly want to know that mental health is a myth.
    Although I'm guessing "public health" falls under your same "bad science" umbrella as well, eh?

    http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/publications.htm

    1. SocraticMethod profile image61
      SocraticMethodposted 4 years ago in reply to this

      Mental illness is mythology, mental health is ideology.

  8. knolyourself profile image59
    knolyourselfposted 4 years ago

    I have studied human behavior scientifically. I call it psychology, but has nothing to do with the two hundred or so psychological systems.

 
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