Benefits and Limitations of the Biomedical Model

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    • #12317
      Tyler Therron

        The Biomedical Model has revolutionized how we – as a culture – view and treat mental illnesses. Mental illnesses, as defined by the American Psychiatry Association, are conditions that cause emotional, social, and cognitive disturbances to the individual. These conditions are influenced by more than the environment – these influences include chemical, social, psychological, and other influences. The Biomedical Model has helped create the ideology of not laying blame on the individual affected by a mental disorder – such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, or anxiety disorders. Despite 40 years of intense inquiry exploring the chemical nature of the Biomedical Model within the human brain, there are no biological markers that have been elucidated for any one given treatment. Our limited understanding of the neurobiology of mental illnesses has led to large pharmaceutical companies scaling back mechanistic drug development for mental illnesses. These evidence points to the reality that more is occurring within the central nervous system than what the Biomedical Model can provide. Poor patient outcomes, increased numbers of psychiatric patients on multiple medications, and still prevalent stigma are misaligned with the amount of promise put into the Biomedical Model as a means to “cure mental illnesses” if investigated intensely.

        Newer treatments, such as SSRIs and SNRIs are slightly more specific than their predecessors; the biomedical model has helped in understanding the importance of neurobiological factors in mental illnesses. If chemical imbalances were the only means of causing a mental illness, then every single patient should respond in a predicable fashion to the a given dose of SSRI. However, we know that every single person responds differently to the same dosage of medication. This is where the Biomedical Model falls short – some people experience erectile dysfunction, some get severe anxiety with an SSRI, others sleep too much, and people gain/lose weight.

        Our understanding of mental illnesses is still limited despite all of the progress. People living with depression are told by their doctors to trust the medication, and they should. On the other hand, the psychiatrist is not experiencing the unwanted effects of the medication and the patient must be an active participant in their own biopsychosocial treatment. This means taking the prescribed amount of medication while maintaining other activities and social circles that facilitate a well-rounded treatment. Relying on the medication to “magically” cure ones’ mental illness will never occur because our treatments are not designed for that. They are rough corrections to a system that is understood in a limited capacity.




        Deacon, B. J. (2013). The biomedical model of mental disorder: A critical analysis of its validity, utility, and effects on psychotherapy research. Clinical Psychology Review33(7), 846–861.

      • #12319

        Absolutely! The monoamine theory has been well supported as the underlying etiology of depression but the best mental health outcomes are generally a combination of pharmocotherapy and psychotherapy – especially cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal psychotherapy.

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