Self-Insight in the Time of Mood Disorders: After the Diagnosis, Beyond the Treatment

This paper explores the factors that contribute to the degree of a mood disorder patient’s self- insight, defined here as her understanding of the particular contingencies of her life that are responsive to her personal identity, interpersonal relationships, illness symptoms, and the relationship between these three necessary components of her lived experience. I consider three factors: (i) the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), (ii) the DSM culture, and (iii) the cognitive architecture of the self. I argue that the symptom-based descriptions of mood disorders which eliminate the subjective features of the patient’s illness experience, in conjunction with the features of the DSM-culture and the cognitive biases that guide the patient, contribute to the impoverishment of her self-insight. The resulting impoverished self-insight would prevent her from developing resourceful responses to her interpersonal problems. In analyzing how these factors combine to influence the patient’s self-insight, I distinguish the therapeutic impact of receiving a psychiatric diagnosis, which facilitates patient’s clinical treatment, from its reflective impact, how the diagnosis informs the patient’s reflection on who she is, how her mental disorder is expressed, and how her interpersonal relationships proceed. I substantiate my argument by considering a patient’s memoir of psychopathology.
Keywords self  psychiatric diagnosis  DSM  DSM culture  cognitive biases  self-insight  memoirs of psychopathology
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DOI 10.1353/ppp.2014.0019
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