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Exploring anxiety
Exploring anxiety

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1.1 Different ways of viewing mental distress

Notwithstanding the misconceptions discussed in Section 1, there are different, clinically-accepted ways of viewing mental distress. ‘Physical’ explanations of mental illness are centred around the notions of changes in the underlying physiological systems within the body, the neurobiology of the brain, genetic predisposition and interaction with the environment. Psychological explanations focus on behavioural and cognitive constructs, often reflecting social and environmental influences. Social explanations are based on an understanding of difference and discrimination – societal factors that separate people and may oppress them.

Activity 2 Different ways of viewing mental distress

Timing: Allow 30 minutes

Which, in your view, is more important to an understanding of mental illness - biology or psychology?Read the extracts that follow and reflect on the issues raised.

Extracts from the Telegraph and Daily Mail [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Next, read the following article and address the questions below.

Weir, K. (2012) ‘The roots of mental illness – how much of mental illness can the biology of the brain explain?’ Monitor on Psychology, vol. 43, no. 6, p. 30. American Psychological Association. [Note: CTRL + Right Click on the link to open article in new window]

  • What are your own thoughts and views on the issues raised?

  • Which do you think is more important for understanding mental illness – biological or psychological explanations?

  • Can you offer further or alternative perspectives, drawing on your own previous knowledge or professional experience?

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Now let's take a look at two models of explanation – the biomedical model and the biopsychosocial model – in more detail.