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Transforming Normality into Pathology: The "DSM" and the Outcomes of Stressful Social Arrangements

Allan V. Horwitz
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 48, No. 3 (Sep., 2007), pp. 211-222
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27638708
Page Count: 12
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Transforming Normality into Pathology: The "DSM" and the Outcomes of Stressful Social Arrangements
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Abstract

The sociology of stress shows how nondisordered people often become distressed in contexts such as chronic subordination; the losses of status, resources, and attachments; or the inability to achieve valued goals. Evolutionary psychology indicates that distress arising in these contexts stems from psychological mechanisms that are responding appropriately to stressful circumstances. A diagnosis of mental disorder, in contrast, indicates that these mechanisms are not functioning as they are designed to function. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, has come to treat both the natural results of the stress process and individual pathology as mental disorders. A number of social groups benefit from and promote the conflation of normal emotions with dysfunctions. The result has been to overestimate the number of people who are considered to be disordered, to focus social policy on the supposedly unmet need for treatment, and to enlarge the social space of pathology in the general culture.

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