Model Deviance

In Is It Me or My Meds?, Boston College Sociology professor David Karp asks his interviewees about their relationship with their psychotropic medication.  He found that, though some begin their medication career with a bit of trepidation, most “had become wedded to a biomedical version of mental illness.” In the concluding chapters, he becomes skeptical of the growing acceptance of biological psychiatry that has led to an overmedicated society. The skepticism toward embracing a totally medical model of mental illness is, to an extent, understandable.  Karp notes that his issues are with the “confluences of forces that lead doctors to routinely medicate for life distress.” Though my own conclusion of his assessment may not be correct, I got the impression that Professor Karp was a bit wary of wholly accepting the biological model of mood disorders.

Because this book focuses solely on the illness careers of those using pharmacological treatment, obviously it would not address ECT and its patients’ view of self. I’ve come to find that it’s the case in many of the books I’ve read. They all do not discuss beyond the typical illness career that involves wrestling with medication and having to spend time in a hospital. With only about 100,000 patients per year that undergo ECT in the US, I haven’t been able to read up to see a group study of if there’s any personal emotional (or model) transition from having a ‘typical’ illness career to adding ECT to his or her journey. I tend to think that self-identity kind of changes when ECT comes into play.  With just medication and therapy, I think I have some personal ‘luxury’ of accepting or denying ‘my illness as pathology.’  In the case of ECT treatments, I’m not sure that flexibility is available anymore.  It’s a clearly physical procedure, unlike the one I have experienced through the medication buffet. The thought process about ECT, at least for me, has been very different from how I’ve felt about medication. Anyway, the point is that how can one not embrace the medical model of illness and biological psychology when one has consented him/herself to a treatment that directly affects the brain chemistry? I don’t know if I have a choice. What will be interesting to see is if I hold the same self-identity oncethe treatments are underway.

The hospital’s finally settled on my physical exam date of Tuesday, 01.13. There better not be anything that would delay my procedure. Thank goodness the next two days will be occupied by watching copious amounts of football. My little-known love of NFL and certain sports commentators just might help sustain me through the weekend.


2 Responses to “Model Deviance”

  1. I don’t believe that there are necessarily contradictions between chemical/biological or environmentally-caused depression. People getting to the ECT point have often had both. The environmental stressors in large amount at a young age like sexual abuse often accompanied by other traumas and a subsequent upbringing in a toxic environment lead to a depression that becomes wired in their brain. The depression, never mind what its origins, needs far more than a healthy environment (yoga, walks, friends, etc…) to disappear. It may need medication. It may need ECT.


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