Diagnosing sadness and other questions of academic freedom in health research.
Asking these kinds of questions helps us to obtain better outcomes for those who suffer: explaining how some diagnoses stigmatise, and others liberate; how messages get understood and incorporated; how sick people both resist and assimilate medical direction; and why some diseases generate more attention to research and resources.
However, asking these questions doesn’t necessarily happen without ruffling some feathers. Academic freedom is essential to my ability to question “common-sense” assertions about health and illness. I have studied, for example, the complex social factors that surround our attitudes to body size and shape, and I don’t accept that obesity is a disease. I don’t accept that sadness must be ‘treated’. The expansion of the depression diagnosis holds some back while liberating others. On the one hand, it enables more people to seek treatment, but at the same time, it medicalises sadness, which is arguable simply part of the human condition.
Similarly, I must examine the medicalisation of women’s sexuality via diagnosis. The rising interest in “female hypoactive sexual desire disorder” is, I have argued via my scholarship, the result of the pharmaceutical industry’s pursuit of the “pink-viagra. By challenging the characterisation lack of libido as a physiological defect, I may undermine the potential of powerful companies to sell technological solutions to this problem. However, my line of questioning may lead to a debunking of the normalisation of hypersexuality.
It is my duty, as a critical sociologist, to question the underlying assumptions driving disease classification and strategies for cure. To do so, however, I must have academic freedom to pursue counter-currents, paradoxes and contradictions.
See my work on https://www.facebook.com/DiagnosisInContemporarySociety and on academia.edu