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Laura Strakova (University of Birmingham)

Treating the Untreatable: Conceptions of Personality Disorder in Psychiatric Discourse


This paper examines the concepts of diagnostic validity and treatability as negotiated in two diachronically-organized corpora of psychiatric journals. The first aim is to specify whether a personality disorder is, in the discourse, conceived more as permanent and untreatable or as treatable with a determinable timespan. Early results suggest that for some members of the US and UK expert discourse communities, personality disorders are construed as bona fide disorders only once an effective treatment is found. The validity of the disorder is therefore grounded in its treatability. Other members, in contrast, claim that the disorder is valid irrespective of whether an effective treatment is (ever) available. Evidence presented in this talk should thus illustrate how "underlying ideologies are inscribed in and mediated through the linguistic system" (Caldas-Coulthard 1996:xi), and how these ideologies translate into financial incentives for the medical establishment which in turn impact treatment outcomes for the mentally ill.

Caldas-Coulthard, C.R. and Coulthard, M. (eds). 1996. Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge

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