Being Sane in Insane Places

As you might expect the ramifications of the Rosenhan study are pretty far reaching. If the “experts” really can’t see who is insane then can they really say who is sane? Does this mean then that as with all other forms of deviance we are again profoundly influenced by society’s definition of the event or condition rather than the condition itself?

Example: The misdiagnosis of patients by the “experts” is a symptom of the psychiatric environment as well as their own expertise clouding their judgement. What I mean is that there is a bias towards anyone being examined at a mental institution to be labeled insane because A) if they are sane why would they be in mental institution, and B) People who’s purpose in life is to identify mental illness are going to be more inclined to find it, much like the saying “when you’re a hammer every problem looks like a nail”. Expertise in this field may ironically cause a person to make more mistakes.

Given that every mental illness, and even the labels “sane” and “insane” are nothing more than arbitrary labels applied to certain patterns of thought based on how common they are, then yes, I would say we are more influenced by definition than condition. Rigid definitions aren’t useful in treatment of something as complex and fluid as a persons mental health, so the actual purpose they serve is to be a coded status regarding whether or not a person can fit into the regular patterns of everyday life.

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