Radio/iPlayer: The medicalisation of misbehaviour

Are we too willing to excuse bad behaviour as the morally-neutral symptom of newly-defined mental disorders? A combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Clifford Longley, Melanie Phillips and Kenan Malik.

Listen to the 45min program on the BBC iPlayer here.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible of American psychiatry, is reported this week to be debating whether to recognise ‘sex addiction’ as a treatable medical condition. Private rehab clinics say that more and more clients are seeking treatment for sex addiction. Those who have already undergone therapy for it include Russell Brand, Tiger Woods and Michael Douglas. So should we tear up the seventh commandment and replace it with ‘If you commit adultery you should seek therapy’? We could replace a few more commandments. In place of ‘Remember the Sabbath’, ‘Thou shalt not covet’, ‘Thou shalt not steal’ and ‘Honour thy father and mother’, we could have ‘Recognise that you may be a workaholic, a shopaholic or a kleptomaniac, or that you may have Oppositional Defiant Disorder.’ If any socially-unacceptable behaviour is a symptom of a condition that can be treated with drugs or therapy or both, where does that leave those quaint old moral terms good and bad, right and wrong? Are we nowadays too willing to excuse bad behaviour as the morally-neutral symptom of some newly-defined mental disorder? Or is medical science finding new ways to diagnose and treat the causes of deviance where traditional morality has failed?

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