ABSTRACT

GIVEN THAT psychiatry is at a fairly primitive stage in itsdevelopment, some psychiatrists, faced with what appears to be a conceptual chaos, seek the security of a simple operational faith, a pragmatic model to which they adhere with varying degrees of obstinacy and conviction. There are those who insist that all genuine psychiatric disorders rest upon a physical basis and they pin their hopes for ultimate clarification of the present confused situation on discoveries in the fields of neurochemistry, neurophysiology, and psychopharmacology. Other psychiatrists, sceptical about what they consider to be a futile search for non-existent physical pathology, call instead for a radical examination of the values and ethics of society, for a reassessment of personal and social behaviour, and for an attack on poverty, unemployment, inequality, discrimination, racialism, and other social problems which, in their view, not merely affect but cause what is termed mental illness. There are even those who declare that there is no such thing as mental illness at all, but that it is the twentieth-century equivalent of witchcraft and that psychiatrists, in their search for the signs and symptoms of psychopathology in their patients, are the direct descendants of those Inquisitors who vigorously examined their victims for the sinister signs of demoniacal possession.