Trudy Dehue, professor of Theory and History of Science, on the impact of the use of labels in psychiatry.
When someone experiences a lot of personal problems, like communication or concentration problems, he or she will probably visit a psychologist or a psychiatrist. This professional may see the problems as signs of a mental disorder – say autism or ADHD. A label like ADHD can be a consolation. But it may also have serious disadvantages, like stigmatization.
In both scientific and popular literature, these labels are discussed as if they are the cause of the problem. They are presented as if they are a reflection of nature itself – not the human categorizations they really are.
Trudy Dehue will argue that this widespread circular reasoning is at the heart of a complicated social process, which leads to an increasing number of people being labelled as mentally ill.
Trudy Dehue (1951) is a full professor of philosophy and history of science. She graduated in psychology (MA, 1983) and philosophy (MA, 1985). From 1995 to 2013 she was program chair of the research group Theory and History of Psychology that is currently led by Douwe Draaisma. Earlier she finished a school for higher vocational education and worked in a child psychiatric institution. In 1990 she gained a PhD (summa cum laude) on a philosophical and historical thesis on the changing concepts of 'research' and 'objectivity' in psychology (published in 1995 with Cambridge University Press). Her book De Depressie-epidemie. Over de Plicht het Lot in Eigen Hand te Nemen [The epidemic of Depression. On the Duty to Manage One's Own Destiny], first published in 2008, discusses the changing meaning of the concept of 'clinical depression' and the social as well as scientific consequences of these changes. Her latest book Betere Mensen. Over Gezondheid als Keuze en Koopwaar [Better People. On Health as Choice and Commodity] dates from June 2014.