• Anne Kjær
  • Susanne Lip
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
The aim of this thesis was to gain knowledge about the conception and understanding
of mental illness in Denmark through the following research question; In which ways
is the conception and understanding of mental illness expressed in relation to the
psychiatric discipline, and how does respectively the diagnostic manuals and the
psychopharmacological industry affect upon this? Build upon a theoretical exploration,
and through several systematic literature reviews, this study contains a humanistic
perspective dealing with a historical-hermeneutical approach and is qualitatively
oriented. The initial motive behind forming this paper derived from a wonder about
the degree of fragility concerned with the way we understand and define mental
illness, and an interest in examining some of the potential components influencing
this matter. This was done through examination and discussion of three related and
supplementing components: the main component was the conception and understanding
of mental illness and this was explored in relation to psychiatric diagnostic manuals
and the psychopharmacology industry.

The first examination regards how the conception and understanding of mental illness
is described in a historical and a current perspective. We have created an insight
into essential aspects of the historical perspective, as well as considered the complexity
in a current context, and can hereby conclude that extensive changes have taken
place over the years. Furthermore, we found that there has been, and continues to be,
disagreement regarding the way mental illness should be defined and understood as
well as pathology and normality are dictated by time and culture. The conception and
understanding regarding mental illness is a phenomenon with extensive complexity
and it seems to continue this way.

The second component, psychiatric diagnostic manuals, was found to have had significant
influence over time, and at present, on the way in which mental illness is
understood and defined. In particular, the current dominant approach is a biomedical
understanding dealing with mental illness as neural dysfunctions and in this regard it
is argued that the psychopharmacology industry has contributed to an extension of
this approach which was further examined, regarding the last component: the psychopharmacology
industry. In this concern, we found several arguments that the
industry seems to influence the conception and understanding of mental illness in
Denmark. It was discussed that the industry has contributed to the development of
psychiatric drugs, which can be seen as a prerequisite for the expansion of some
psychiatric diagnoses, as well as for the development of the psychiatric diagnostic
manuals. Furthermore, it was found that the connection between the industry and
doctors seems to influnce the doctor's understanding of illness in some respect and
also some parts of the diagnostic practice.

By relating the components, we found a strong degree of reciprocal influence across
all three components. There was a clear connection between the conception and
understanding of mental illness, the psychiatric diagnostic manuals and the psychopharmacology
industry, confirming our initial hypothesis. This could be seen, among
other things, by the fact that the manuals dictate how diagnostic practice are to be
performed and thus also which understanding of mental illness the practitioner
should take; that the biomedical understanding expressed in the manuals has affected
the number of diagnoses, as well as the fact that the conception of normality and
pathology depends on the given time and culture, which represents a point of criticism
regarding the biomedical anchoring of the manuals. Furthermore, we have
discussed, that the increasing demands of today's society can lead to an expansion of
the inquiry for psychiatric drugs, as well as the industry, by times, develop drugs
prior to the definition and notion of a diagnosis in the manuals and by this, the industry
seems to be a potential influence dictating what is normal and what is pathological.
As to this regard it stands clear that the three components combined has contributed
to the fact that conditions that were previously considered to be within the norm
are currently pathologized and, as an effect, that the number of diagnoses in the
manuals has increased as well as the use and development of psychiatric drugs has
elevated, which we see as a problematic development that the psychiatric professionals
needs more awareness about.

On the behalf of this thesis it was concluded that the relation between the way we
understand and define mental illness and how this is influenced is quite complex.
Through this thesis we have confirmed the initial hypothesis that the conception and
understanding regarding mental illness is influential from several potential areas as
well as in constant development and dictated by the given time and culture. This
fragility and affectivity is an area that extensively lacks scientific exploration, especially
in a Danish context, which underlines the relevance and importance of this
Publication date31 May 2017
Number of pages127
ID: 258568662