Medicalization describes a process by which a non-medical problem becomes defined and treated as a medical problem, usually in terms of illness and disorders. Medicalization used to be focused on deviance, now it focuses on a range of human problems. Medicalization is increasing as technology advances. There are many things that have become medicalized such as Alcoholism, mental disorders, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, etc. There are three degrees of medicalization.
1. Fully medicalized, example would be severe mental illness. 2. Partly medicalized, example would be menopause. 3. Minimally medicalized, example would be sexual addiction. The factors that affect the degrees are the support of medical profession, available treatment, and medical insurance. In the end medicalization has increased the profitability and markets of pharmaceutical and biotechnological firms. Many factors have contributed to the rise of medicalization. For instance the loss in religious, the increase of faith in science, rationality, progress, increased prestige and the power of the medical profession.
The medical profession and the expansion of medical jurisdiction were prime movers for medicalization. Medicalization has also occurred through social movements. Doctors are not the only ones involved in medicalization now, patients are active collaborators in the medicalization of their problem. The Vietnam veteran movement medicalized PTSD; AIDS treatment was done by the gay and lesbian movement, and PSM with the woman’s movement. There are both positive and negative consequences to medicalization.
With everything being medicalized, some people have a better chance functioning well in society. If they are really shy, they will be diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, and will be medicated to interact efficiently in society. People are no longer depressed, disoriented because of medical intervention, for example, menopause and anorexia. It can really improve the self-esteem of some individuals. Those were some of the positive consequences of medicalization. There are a few negative consequences as well. For instance, medicalization transforms human differences into pathologies.
Example, a child with a different learning size will be accused of having a learning disability or having ADHD. By transforming all of these differences into pathologies, it will diminish our tolerance for and appreciation of the diversity of human life. Eventually every person will be labeled as sick. In the Dr. Jarvik article, the speaker demonstrates how old age is being medicalized. It isn’t acceptable to age, because one should stay young. Medicalization has brainwashed people into thinking that somethings aren’t normal when really they are.
As people age they are pushed to take all of these medications to stay young and feel good, when it should be socially acceptable to age. A good example of a way medicalization has been resisted would be demedicalization. Gays have changed the definition of homosexuality from illness to lifestyle. Same thing with masturbation, it used to be considered an illness, now its something natural that most people do. These examples contradict medicalization since they have been demedicalized. Disabilities went from medical problem to societal problem.
Childbirth used to have been done in a hospital under drugs. Now woman have many options on how they would like to give birth. Parents have refused to give children medication for their ADHD because they belive it wont benefit them. One example from the article would be the “ana is my friend” website that they mentioned. It is a website that helps anorexic people learn to live an anorexic lifestyle. They don’t promote it they just help anorexics adjust. In the end, Medicalization plays a huge role in todays society. It will keep on expanding from here, and along will come its consequences.