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The Medicalization and Social Construction of Fear in the Age of Anxiety

  • Sergio Starkstein
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter describes the process of medicalization of fear and anxiety which began in the early twentieth century and continues today. The radical biological approach to fear and anxiety promoted by contemporary psychiatry results in a fundamentalist approach to emotional disorders. Thus, committees of experts decide on new nosologies for fear and anxiety consisting of a limited set of diagnostic criteria accompanied by the design of biological models to explain their mechanism and treatment. A similar fundamentalism applies to extreme social constructionist approaches, which reduce fear and anxiety to by-products of socio-cultural forces, thereby ignoring personal attributes and the complex variability of contexts. As it is argued in this chapter, the dilemma of what counts as abnormal is not empirical but conceptual, and has not yet been satisfactorily addressed, let alone resolved. Thus, the so-called “age of anxiety” gives rise to therapeutic solutions that might better be characterised as part of ‘the age of fundamental reductionism.’

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Western AustraliaFremantleAustralia

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