Permanency in Psychiatric Labeling Research Paper

Writing Assignment, 500 words. ( refer to the article below the questions when applicable )

  1. What do you think of the process of “labeling” people with psychological disorders?
  2. Do you think pinning a potentially derogatory label on a person may do more harm than good?
  3. Why do you think psychiatrists and psychologists generally support the use of some classification system for psychological disorders?
  4. As the article states, do you think that labeling can be permanent, explain why and do some research on your own to support your opinion (cite your work) ?

Permanency in Psychiatric Labeling


Many schools today use white boards instead of the traditional blackboards. White boards have become more common because it allows you to use dry erase markers (which are easily wiped off with a rag or paper towel) instead of chalk. It is important to note that it can be quite difficult to erase the marks on a white board, if you use a permanent marker and allow it to set overnight. In addition, an underlying image may remain long after the marks have been erased.

This example illustrates how labeling and stigmatization affects those with mental illness [5]. Psychiatric “markers” or labels tend to resemble permanent markers rather than erasable ones. Once a psychiatric label is applied to a person, it not only affects him or her in all aspects of his or her life, it also has the ability to be used as a weapon by those closest to him or her.

Although subsidiary, most U.S. psychiatrists operate under the medical model, which consists of identifying causes and symptoms, assigning labels, prescribing psychotropic medications and teaching clients more effective coping skills (self-help skills). Under this model, it is assumed that without psychiatric treatment and prescription medications, the client is not capable of helping himself or herself.

Some psychiatrists do not fully understand that labels are considered permanent, which is especially prevalent when it comes to severe mental illnesses. A typical response from a psychiatrist who follows the medical model may be “You will always have to be on medication.” Under this model, the psychiatrist is not looking for a way to cure the disorder so the client can live a healthier and more productive life, rather he or she prescribes powerful psychotropic medications in order to manage, control or subdue the client’s “illness”.

Moreover, if a non-medicated client no longer manifests symptoms of a mental illness, over an extended period of time, perhaps because he or she has addressed the underlying causes of the illness, a psychiatrist may determine that the disorder is in remission. This determination implies that the “illness” is not really cured and therefore can reappear again at a future date. In other words, the “illness” is only in remission for the time being, but there is always a chance that it will flare up again (unannounced and for no reason) like shingles or malaria, which lingers in your bloodstream.

The medical model tends to assign permanent labels for some severe psychiatric disorders. It is not really concerned with addressing the cause of the disorder or encouraging lifestyle changes as a possible solution. The focus is on labeling the individual and prescribing strong medications (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。 to control the “illness”. The result is that anyone assigned with a psychiatric label under the medical model (which is usually applied while the client is in a formal psychiatric-based government or public school program) can be permanently labeled and face the prospect of taking strong and debilitating psychotropic medications for the rest of his or her life. For example, a teenager (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。 who exhibits risky behaviors and has been “labeled” with a psychiatric disorder may no longer display the signs of the disorder as he or she matures, yet may still be condemned to a lifetime of taking strong and debilitating psychotropic medications, simply because he or she was “labeled” during a difficult stage in his or her life.

For many, this life-long sentence is unacceptable, which is one of the main reasons why there are strong and sometimes vitriolic protests against the medical model and this type of psychiatry. Opponents of psychiatric labeling believe that this practice often abuses those who are the most vulnerable such as: foster children, children of immigrants in the U.S. (who do not speak English), and/or children whose parents are illiterate and/or incapacitated.

Controversy has surrounded the terms “mental illness” and “the mentally ill”. In 1966, Thomas Scheff, professor emeritus in the Department of Sociology, University of California: Santa Barbara, former chair of American Sociological Association: Sociology of Emotions, president of the Pacific Sociological Association and author of the book Being Mentally Ill, challenged the common perception of mental illness by claiming that mental illnesses are manifested only as a result of societal influences. In other words, society establishes certain norms and anyone who deviates from those imaginary, societal-imposed norms, to a significant degree, is considered “mentally ill”. Labeling terms like “mentally ill” and “mental illness” have the ability to lead to permanent stigmatization [8].

Scheff formed his theory by examining societal and cultural norms and analyzing how they are perceived and/or interpreted. Many times, in Western societies, when a person “sees things” that are not there and/or “hears voices,” he or she is diagnosed as schizophrenic (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。. On the other hand, some indigenous societies (i.e. some America Indian tribes) believe that seeing something that is not physically present (a “vision”) is a right of passage for future leaders of the tribe. In other words, symptoms commonly associated with mental illness in the Western world are considered attributes in aboriginal societies. In fact, Crazy Horse, a popular Native American, experienced a “vision” as he passed from boyhood to manhood. His vivid “vision” not only extended beyond the physical realm and contributed to his life-course, it also guided him for decades. In many cultures, someone who “sees things” that aren’t physically present and/or “hears voices” from the spirit realm is considered “gifted” and invited to become a “shaman” or religious, spiritual guide of the tribe.

In Judeo-Christian religious books, those who saw “visions” and “heard voices” from the spirit realm were treated with reverence and considered to be prophets. In modern psychiatry, an atheistic world-view forms the foundation of thinking, so that out-of-the-ordinary transcendental experiences are generally interpreted as a biologically-rooted mental illness.

Even though official psychiatric sources make room for religious interpretation of uncommon experiences as a part of the normal threshold of perception based on one’s religious views, in general, psychiatrists typically do not make room for such interpretive perceptions, especially in regards to mental disorders [6]. So while psychiatry is specifically concerned with how certain experiences negatively affect the life of an individual, there are other explanations and/or interpretations for supernatural, out-of-the-ordinary or transcendental experiences, which may not always be negative [7].

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals (though often approaching transcendental experiences from an atheistic perspective) need to make room for religious interpretation of such out-of-the-ordinary experiences based on a person’s religious background and belief system and not be so quick to fit those experiences into a symptomatic profile that leads to a psychiatric label.

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, then, though often approaching transcendental experiences from an atheistic perspective, need to make room for religious interpretation of such out-of-the-ordinary experiences based on a person’s religious background and belief system and not be quick to fit such into a symptomatic profile that leads to a psychiatric label.

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