The cornerstone of the medical approach to mental health problems is the making of a diagnosis. A diagnosis is only possible if one accepts that there is such a thing as mental illness. The medical approach dominates the practice of psychiatrists.The term “mental illness” implies disease. It suggests that there is something wrong and that there has been a fundamental change from normal functioning.The medical model is applied to mental health problems in the same way as it is applied to physical health problems. The medical model supposes that psychiatric disorders are diseases with distinct pathologies, courses and outcomes and that psychiatry is a branch of medicine.The medical model further supposes that the causes of mental illness are in the last analysis biochemical, though the pathway to such biochemical disturbance may well involve social and psychological factors as well as biological.The medical model holds that the making of a diagnosis, and the prescription of medications based on that diagnosis, are reasonably exact sciences.The medical model has weaknesses and is open to criticism. Proponents of the medical model counter that there is good, though incomplete, evidence for their approach and that treatments based on the model are demonstrably effective for some individuals with mental health problems.
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