Psychological Illnesses Do Not Differ from Bodily Illnesses

The advances in neuroscience have revealed brain pathology to be the cause of most mental diseases. The abolishment of the term ‘mental illness’ may be advantageous in removing the stigma attached to it. However, it serves some practical purposes. The best approach would be a holistic, integrated ‘biopsychosocial’ model, which treats diseases on all three levels.

The mind/matter debate has engaged philosophers right from the earliest Greek civilizations and rages even today. In contemporary times, the argument has spilt over into the field of medicine and psychiatry. In his Editorial in The British Journal of Psychiatry (2001), Robert Evan Kendell argues that, in reality, psychological illnesses do not differ in any material respect from bodily illnesses. Kendell states that the commonly held professional and lay perspective, from the time of Hippocrates up to the middle of the eighteenth century, was to consider mental and bodily illnesses as one entity for diagnosis and treatment. This view is encapsulated in Lady M. W. Montagus’ eighteenth-century statement that “madness is as much a corporeal distemper as gout or asthma” (Porter, 1987 cited in Kendell, 2001).

Kendell traces the origins of the distinction between mental and physical illness to the late eighteenth-century philosophy of ‘dualism,’ in which the mind and the body were regarded as separate entities. This influence was strengthened by the shortcomings of medical science at that time: physicians lacked the appropriate diagnostic tools to identify the pathological changes that occurred in so-called ‘mental illnesses’ and their limited repertoires of treatment, such as bleeding and purging, was ineffective in combating the same illnesses.&nbsp.It was at this juncture that the terms ‘mental illnesses’ and ‘disorders of the mind’ entered common vocabulary and lunatic asylums focused their treatment of the insane on moral and religious approaches rather than on the medicinal.&nbsp.&nbsp.