Stigmas of mental disorders will disappear in future

July 02, 1999

(Behaviour and genes)

Researchers in this week's BMJ predict that increased understanding of psychiatric conditions will improve public perception and acceptance of disorders such as depression, autism, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Peter McGuffin from the Institute of Psychiatry, London and Neilson Martin from the University of Wales College of Medicine say that improved understanding of the causes and mechanisms of mental disorders is likely to reduce stigma.

In a review outlining some of the basic concepts of the role genes and the environment in which we exist, play in determining human behaviour, the authors explain that by identifying and understanding the basic neurobiology of diseases the development of new and more specific drug treatments should be possible. They also suggest that by being able to predict whether someone will develop a psychiatric disorder may also lead to the development of both effective treatments and preventive methods, which, as yet, do not exist.

McGuffin and Martin report that it has sometimes been feared that 'geneticisation' could contribute to the stigma of mental disorder, and yet to date, experience has been just the opposite. Drawing on the example of Alzheimer's disease, now recognised as a disorder, they conclude that this will be the start of a trend of improved public perception of psychiatric conditions.

Professor Peter McGuffin, Director, Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Kings College London, London


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