From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
There is no great genius without some touch of madness. -- Seneca, Aristotle
""The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (1845) by Edgar Allan Poe tells of the inmates taking over the mental asylum, or, role reversal of mental patients and mental health professionals."--Sholem Stein
A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern generally associated with subjective distress or disability that occurs in an individual, and which is not a part of normal development or culture. Such a disorder may consist of a combination of affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual components. The recognition and understanding of mental health conditions have changed over time and across cultures, and there are still variations in the definition, assessment, and classification of mental disorders, although standard guideline criteria are widely accepted. A few mental disorders are diagnosed based on the harm to others, regardless of the subject's perception of distress. Over a third of people in most countries report meeting criteria for the major categories at some point in their lives.
The causes are often explained in terms of a diathesis-stress model or biopsychosocial model. In biological psychiatry, mental disorders are conceptualized as disorders of brain circuits likely caused by developmental processes shaped by a complex interplay of genetics and experience.
Services are based in psychiatric hospitals or in the community. Diagnoses are made by psychiatrists or clinical psychologists using various methods, often relying on observation and questioning in interviews. Treatments are provided by various mental health professionals. Psychotherapy and psychiatric medication are two major treatment options, as are social interventions, peer support and self-help. In some cases there may be involuntary detention and involuntary treatment where legislation allows.
Ancient civilizations described and treated a number of mental disorders. The Greeks coined terms for melancholy, hysteria and phobia and developed the humorism theory. Mental disorders were described, and treatments developed, in Persia, Arabia and in the medieval Islamic world.
Conceptions of madness in the Middle Ages in Christian Europe were a mixture of the divine, diabolical, magical and humoral, as well as more down to earth considerations. In the early modern period, some people with mental disorders may have been victims of the witch-hunts but were increasingly admitted to local workhouses and jails or sometimes to private madhouses. Many terms for mental disorder that found their way into everyday use first became popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.
By the end of the 17th century and into the Enlightenment, madness was increasingly seen as an organic physical phenomenon with no connection to the soul or moral responsibility. Asylum care was often harsh and treated people like wild animals, but towards the end of the 18th century a moral treatment movement gradually developed. Clear descriptions of some syndromes may be rare prior to the 19th century.
Industrialization and population growth led to a massive expansion of the number and size of insane asylums in every Western country in the 19th century. Numerous different classification schemes and diagnostic terms were developed by different authorities, and the term psychiatry was coined, though medical superintendents were still known as alienists.
The turn of the 20th century saw the development of psychoanalysis, which would later come to the fore, along with Kraepelin's classification scheme. Asylum "inmates" were increasingly referred to as "patients", and asylums renamed as hospitals.
Europe and the U.S.
In the 20th century in the United States, a mental hygiene movement developed, aiming to prevent mental disorders. Clinical psychology and social work developed as professions. World War I saw a massive increase of conditions that came to be termed "shell shock".
World War II saw the development in the U.S. of a new psychiatric manual for categorizing mental disorders, which along with existing systems for collecting census and hospital statistics led to the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) followed suit with a section on mental disorders. The term stress, having emerged out of endocrinology work in the 1930s, was increasingly applied to mental disorders.
Electroconvulsive therapy, insulin shock therapy, lobotomies and the "neuroleptic" chlorpromazine came to be used by mid-century. An antipsychiatry movement came to the fore in the 1960s. Deinstitutionalization gradually occurred in the West, with isolated psychiatric hospitals being closed down in favor of community mental health services. A consumer/survivor movement gained momentum. Other kinds of psychiatric medication gradually came into use, such as "psychic energizers" and lithium. Benzodiazepines gained widespread use in the 1970s for anxiety and depression, until dependency problems curtailed their popularity.
Advances in neuroscience and genetics led to new research agendas. Cognitive behavioral therapy was developed. The DSM and then ICD adopted new criteria-based classifications, and the number of "official" diagnoses saw a large expansion. Through the 1990s, new SSRI antidepressants became some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Also during the 1990s, a recovery model developed.
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Chemical imbalance
- List of mental disorders
- Madness and Civilization
- Mental disorders in art
- Mental disorders in fiction