Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Psychopathology vs. Pseudoscience

For the greater part of human history, mental illness has been regarded as a sign of the possession of one’s body by an evil spirit, the Devil or a malicious curse. The most commonly accepted cure available to treat the possessed was exorcism, prison, or if they were lucky - death. What is even more striking is the fact that this view of “abnormality” is still accepted by some even today. Those few are bound to resort to pseudoscientific methods, such as exorcism, to attempt to “cure” the mentally ill. Surprising as it might seem to some, pseudoscience is not a real science (many people fail to acknowledge the meaning of the word), its methods are not empirical, and its effects extremely uncertain. Conversely, psychopathology is an established science that has adopted the scientific method in its attempt to examine, describe, and treat psychological disorders. The driving force behind both pseudoscientific options and psychopathology is similar. It is the innate curiosity to search for and find an answer to the question “What went wrong with a certain person and why?” Humans’ strong desire to uncover the secret behind a mental illness, however, can sometimes cloud one’s ability to reason and make him/her vulnerable to a variety of non-scientific (for lack of a better word) beliefs. Psychopathology attempts to counter such beliefs through advances in research and the collection of evidence to further develop a scientific basis for the comprehension of mental illness. 

Whether skeptics or avid followers, people should realize that the study of psychopathology is both challenging and necessary. It is the science concerned with the study of abnormal and maladaptive behaviors and as clichéd as it might sound, its major goal is the actual improvement of human condition. As any other science it is not able to give us all the answers and is not always certain about its findings. To the best of its abilities, however, by utilizing empirical methods it provides us with an objective view of psychological disorders. And despite all the established theories proven to work, those undergoing the study of psychopathology manage to remain critical of its main tenets, a sign, I hope, that this is a science that rejects dogma and is not afraid to change and adapt.

- K

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