The Implications of Genetic and Other Biological Explanations for Thinking about Mental Disorders.

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Summary of "The Implications of Genetic and Other Biological Explanations for Thinking about Mental Disorders."

Given the rise of genetic etiological beliefs regarding psychiatric disorders, a growing body of research has focused on trying to elucidate the effects that such explanatory frameworks might be having on how mental disorders are perceived by patients, clinicians, and the general public. Genetic and other biomedical explanations of mental disorders have long been seen as a potential tool in the efforts to destigmatize mental disorders, given the harshness of the widespread negative attitudes about them and the important negative clinical and social impacts of this stigma. The conventional wisdom has appeared to be that because the effects of genes are seen as falling outside individual control, conceiving of mental disorders as caused by genes casts patients as blameless, thereby reducing stigmatization. Indeed, the results of experimental and correlational research have now robustly linked genetic and other biomedical explanations for mental disorders with reductions in the extent to which people are blamed for their psychiatric symptoms. However, research examining the impact of genetic and other biomedical explanations of mental disorders has also suggested that they can have significant downsides. The most consistently observed negative effect of these kinds of explanations is that they can apparently lead to the assumption that mental disorders are unlikely to improve or abate. Genetic and other biomedical explanations of mental disorders can also increase people's confidence in the effectiveness of biomedical treatments (such as pharmacotherapy) but decrease their confidence in the effectiveness of "nonbiomedical" treatments (such as psychotherapy).


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: The Hastings Center report
ISSN: 1552-146X
Pages: S82-S87


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