Is mental illness a “social construct?”

If I wrote about every example of leftist stupidity I encountered, I’d have to spend all my time publishing new posts to this blog. I do have better things to do, but once in a while, I see one that’s so exceedingly ridiculous I simply can’t resist.

Lam Vo, of Vox Magazine, believes that changing nomenclature, and categorization policies, are proof that race is a “social construct.” It never occurs to him that race is a valid biological concept, but ethnicity is fluid, and often overlaps with race. Hence, the term race can have more than one meaning.

Let’s apply Vo’s reasoning to mental illness. Now one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders, ADHD wasn’t even officially recognized until the 1960’s. A person with those symptoms might have been diagnosed with “hyperkinetic impulse disorder” prior to that.

If you were gay prior to 1974, your sexuality would have been considered a mental illness. The term “gay” for “homosexual” didn’t even catch on until fairly recently. According to Wikipedia:

In English, some terms in widespread use have been sodomite, Sapphic, Uranian, homophile, lesbian, gay, two-spirit, same-sex attracted and homosexual. Some of these words are specific to women, some to men, and some can be used of either. Gay people may also be identified under the umbrella terms queer and LGBT.

Not all of the terms that have been used to describe same-sex sexuality are synonyms for the modern term homosexuality. The word homosexual itself had different connotations for those who used it 100 years ago to what it does today…

Kleptomania, wasn’t recognized as a bona fide mental disorder until the 19th century. Also, according to Wikipedia:

By 1890, a large body of case material on kleptomania had been developed. Hysteria, imbecility, cerebral defect, and menopause were advanced as theories to explain these seemingly nonsensical behaviors, and many linked kleptomania to immaturity, given the inclination of young children to take whatever they want. These French and German observations later became central to psychoanalytic explanations of kleptomania.

A 2013 article by Market Watch lists 15 newly recognized mental disorders for that year. We’re told:

The DSM-5, which informs the way psychiatrists prescribe drugs, comes with 15 new diagnoses—including hoarding and cannabis withdrawal—while eliminating and combining others. “Sexual aversion disorder,” for example, has been redacted from legitimate diagnoses because of “rare use and lack of supporting research,” according to the APA. (Until the 1970s, the manual listed homosexuality as a disorder.)

The nomenclature, and methodology, of psychology is more dynamic than that of racial science. If Mr. Vo considers race to be a “social construct” due to government’s, and society’s, ever changing attitudes toward it, then mental illness should definitely be a “social construct.” See above for “proof.”

Since Vox is only interested in lecturing us, not in real dialog, there is no comment option for the original article.

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12 Responses to Is mental illness a “social construct?”

  1. Pingback: Outliers (#19)

  2. Is mental illness a “social construct?” Yes, it is. While some people are obviously psychotic and crazy acting, there are those with anti-social or strange behaviors that people will not agree on, in defining that behavior as a sign of mental illness.

  3. Lon Spector says:

    Just as criminality is being “streamlined,” so is mental illness. It is often in the eye of
    the beholder.
    If David Duke advocates keeping Confederate war momuments, he is a throving madman.
    If Black Lives Matter protesters chant, “What do we want? DEAD COPS! When do we want
    them? NOW!” That’s laudable CIVIL RIGHTS.
    If the Satanic Bastard Media selectively distorts stories and LIES LIES LIES that’s called
    “Afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted.” If they HAMMER HAMMER HAMMER
    Satan’s agenda to destroy Western civilazation and promote anarchy that’s wonderful.
    And deluded people actually elect this SCUM!
    Yep, it’s indeed true we get the government we deserve. A rapist named Grover Cleveland
    said that. It’s TRUE “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

  4. Mohamad says:

    Quite an interesting blog you got running here. I’m surprised to see a number of Jews on the Alt-right

  5. Mohamad says:

    Lol. Oddly enough my best freind who is Ashkenazi introduced me to the alt_ right. He was a flaming liberal years earlier

  6. SFG says:

    Don’t forget it only gets called a mental illness if it’s maladaptive to the present society. ADHD wasn’t a problem 200 years ago when you spent all day working in the fields and performing a variety of different tasks. Similarly Asperger’s wouldn’t keep you from being a successful craftsman, but now that all jobs involve kissing the boss’s butt…

  7. peter says:

    The late psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, who was instrumental in developing the ADHD diagnosis, admitted that it was a fraud on a few occasions, stating in an interview with Der Spiegel seven months before he died, “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease”. I would add that it’s also a prime example of a (very harmful) social construct.

  8. jacques says:

    Like so much in this vein, the guy’s argument is so bad it’s hard even to identify the mistake. He seems to be assuming something like the following principle:
    “If people have had different concepts of X, then X is a ‘social construct’ (i.e., not a feature of reality independent of our concepts and beliefs and practices).”
    The principle is obviously false. Down the ages we’ve had different and mutually incompatible concepts of matter, mass, time, numbers, life, death, God, nutrition, sex, lightning, water, cancer–and, sure, mental illness! If the principle were true, pretty much everything people have ever thought about would turn out to be a ‘social construct’.

    I guess the fallacy here comes from confusing concepts and the things in the world to which those concepts apply. People can have 2 or 57 different and incompatible conceptions of water, but it doesn’t follow that those concepts are not all being applied to one and the same substance, water (i.e., H2O, regardless of whether anyone realizes that water = H2O). The reference or extension of the concept can be one and the same even when there are all kinds of wildly different concepts (definitions or meanings or criteria for the use of a word). If only people who liked to use these pretentious pseudo-philosophical terms like ‘social construct’ would actually do the work of learning some basic philosophical distinctions: concept/meaning/intension versus object/reference/extension or, for that matter, appearance versus reality. So much dumb Leftism seems to be the result of “a little knowledge”–just enough half-baked philosophy to make you forget your common sense and ignore all the evidence of lived experience, but not enough to make you think critically about your half-baked philosophy. Maybe that’s why “the uneducated” are more likely to support Trump. They haven’t been enstupidated by college courses on ‘social construction’ and the like.

  9. peter says:

    Where is the evidence that those diagnosed “ADHD” are really disordered in any way? The diagnosis is always made on the basis of circular reasoning; “Why is Johnny misbehaved? Because he has ADHD. How do we know he has ADHD? Because he’s misbehaved”. See.

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