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Naming illness: diagnosis as a mediational means in the everyday construction of meaning of mental illness
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
2011 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Taking a socio-cultural approach, this paper regards diagnosis as a cultural tool for conceptualisation of mental phenomena. Diagnoses are not only an essential element of medical culture, where they are developed and utilised to fulfil certain functions in clinical and scientific practices, these medical concepts also circulate outside of their context of origin and acquire new meanings and come to serve (partly) new functions. Some are incorporated in vernacular discourse, constituting shared cultural resources for understanding and talking about certain experiences and behaviour. Drawing on a study of social representation of mental illness in focus group discourse (Ohlsson 2009), the paper addresses how diagnostic categories of DSM are utilized as resources in everyday discourse by persons who share experiences of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. It is proposed that they do not only serve as a means to verbalise and communicate experience. They are also instrumental in: the objectification of changing and multidimensional phenomena (e.g. comprising behavioural, volitional and emotional dimensions) as a stable underlying disease entity; the reification of abstract phenomena where the ‘mental’ is rendered as something concrete and indisputably real; the legitimisation of subjective, and sometimes contested, experiences; the formation of shared knowledge by collectivisation of illness experience in self-help groups and service user organizations. Diagnosis is, thus, not only employed as an epistemological tool that makes it possible to identify and categorise experience in terms of specific illnesses, but also deals with the ontological status of suffering and difficulties, as well as questions concerning personal identity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
diagnosis, cultural tool, mental illness
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-107509OAI: diva2:747669
BSA Annual conference
Available from: 2014-09-17 Created: 2014-09-17 Last updated: 2014-09-23Bibliographically approved

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ReferencesLink to record
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