Many researchers presently hope to find the cause of mental illness in the biology of the brain. Yet a vocal contingent is discontented with what they see as an overly narrow view: they eschew models that privilege neuroscience, and argue for models that recognize the profound role society and culture have on shaping the development of minds and personalities. Clinicians of course, acknowledge the psychosocial dimension already in the so-called culture-bound syndromes (e.g. koro, and ataque de nervios). And new research in medical anthropology has begun to demonstrate that even the florid symptoms of psychosis, such as the content of delusions or hallucinations, appear to express the wider culture.
Can psychiatry explain—much less treat—the ‘biopsychosocial’ illnesses by reducing them to underlying diseases of the brain? Or must psychiatry make room for perspectives in psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and progress as a humanist branch of medicine?