Authors
Sofia M.I. Jeppsson
Umeå University
Abstract
Psychiatric patients sometimes ask where to draw the line between who they are–their selves–and their mental illness. This problem is referred to as the self-illness ambiguity in the literature; it has been argued that solving said ambiguity is a crucial part of psychiatric treatment. I distinguish a Realist Solution from a Constructivist one. The former requires finding a supposedly pre-existing border, in the psychiatric patient’s mental life, between that which belongs to the self and that which belongs to the mental illness. I argue that no such border exists, and that attempts to find it might even render the felt ambiguity worse. Instead, any solution must be constructivist; the patient should deliberate and discuss what to identify with or not. I further argue that psychiatric patients need not see their mental illness as wholly distinct from themselves to avoid ‘identifying with their diagnoses' in a problematic way. Finally, we can excuse problematic behaviour by mentally ill people–in fact, we can do so in a more nuanced and constructive way–while rejecting the view that the mental illness is wholly distinct from the patient’s self.
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DOI 10.1080/13869795.2022.2051589
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