Monday, December 12, 2005

Medicine: Prejudice an Illness?

Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis.
The bold text is the key, as it is the disability that separates psychiatric illness from just normal variation among rational individuals. The article demonstrates the point through illustrations of patients who were so racist or homophobic that they were unable to hold jobs or unable to leave their houses.

The article addresses quite a few issues surrounding the pathologizing of bias, most notably that an addition to the next DSM would inevitably lead to conseques with regards to litigation. Now the redneck who ran over the queer with his pick-up truck could get off for just being sick.

Hate crime could be made immune to prosecution.

So the bottomline seems to be that clinicians already know about disorders in which people rigidly hold onto false beliefs. If post-partum depression doesn't have a separate DSM code from plain ole depression, then I can't see why prejudice and hate should be distinguished from other forms of paranoia.

But simply recognizing that hate is paranoia, that hate is fundamentally pathologic, seems like a step forward. Now to just avoid letting loopholes eradicate the small amount of protection that hate-crime laws afford minorities.

No comments: