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Mental Health, Art or Science?

Guest GingerSnap

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Guest GingerSnap

It seems from what I have been reading that the line is very fine between a personality type (we all have them) and personality disorder. So, unless your personality type (usually a combo of different ones) is causing you a dysfunction over a period of time, it isn't a disorder the way I understand it. It seems like mental health is more of an art and physical health more of a science. I know that I have been trying to draw a distinction between a sexual fetish and a sexual preference and at what point something becomes an addiction. So, I guess if it isn't causing you or someone that matters to you a problem or the law, of course, than you're OK?

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The essence of science is that something can be reliably measured, and then manipulated so as to see (via measurement) how things work. The model of how things work (a theory) is based on direct observation, and refined over time by repeated direct observations and explorations of parts of the model that don't fit well with observations.

By this definition, mental health care is quite scientific these days, both in terms of medicine (although there is fraud there too) and in terms of the development of psychotherapy formats, for instance, cognitive behavioral therapy.

The distinction you are referring to - whether someone has a "disorder" or just a personality style - is certainly a judgment call to make, but there are pretty good working definitions that clinicians use to make those calls. It's not really a personality disorder unless the problem is so rigid that the person cannot act otherwise in situations that clearly call out for a different manner of coping, and unless it causes a problem socially, or occupationally, for the person (or for the people who have to live with the person). A true narcissist doesn't think he has a problem, but everyone around him does.

the conduct of therapy is both a science and an art. I've written about that in some essays from a few years back - Try out this one for size about the art side of things:

The Non-Judgmental Witness

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