Book review: Diagnostic Cultures.

first chapter, entitled ‘the spread of diagnostic culture’, starts with the provocative statement that each year in Western countries, around a quarter of the population will suffer with a mental disorder. Should we interpret this as evidence for the progress of psychiatry in identifying and treating mental illnesses that have always existed? Alternatively, might it be the case that modern life somehow creates new conditions, or social pathologies? Brinkmann argues that a third, more fundamental explanation is needed: the development over recent years of what he calls ‘diagnostic cultures’. Increasingly, psychiatric diagnoses have become the lens through which people in Western societies understand ourselves and our suffering. They have substantially displaced religious and moral conceptions, and have also come to play an important role in our bureaucracies and our broader social arrangements. Partly, Brinkmann argues, this has been driven from above by those with a vested interest in these explanations, for example psychiatrists and drug companies. However, he also contends that citizens themselves are increasingly pushing for ‘pathologisation from below’, seeking diagnostic explanations for the various problems that we encounter in our lives.

You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I thought I was clumsy, forgetful, lazy and stupid until I was diagnosed with dyspraxia’

This is the kind of thing that a lot of dyspraxic people won’t talk about, but I think it’s important that people know that just because you see a person who is managing well, it doesn’t mean they’re not burning themselves out just to maintain a façade of normality.’

It takes Elly around one and a half to two hours to leave the house in the morning as it takes her much longer to organise tasks.

‘Once I’ve mentally psyched myself up for the day and dealt with making breakfast, I have to build in at least an extra half an hour for finding things I’ve lost like my bank card or shoes,’ she says.

You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I thought I was clumsy, forgetful, lazy and stupid until I was diagnosed with dyspraxia’