Pathways to mental health

We must also remain clear-sighted as to how biological, and, for that matter, social and circumstantial factors affect our mental health and well-being. And, again, the alternative to the 'disease model' is already with us. It's already part of our scientist-practitioner model, and already well-established within psychological science. As just one example, in one piece of research that I have been involved in, we used fMRI technology - functional magnetic resonance imaging - to study regional blood flow during a 'self-referential' task. That is, a task in which the research participants were asked to decide whether particular words were good descriptors of their personality. We found that specific areas of the brain were associated with self-referential thinking, and that these areas were more active in people seeking help for depression. So, when we think - in this example - of ourselves, as opposed to thinking of another person, it's abundantly clear that specific neural pathways are involved. Since thought involves neural signals in the brain, it's hugely unsurprising that thoughts of all kinds involve identifiable brain circuitry.

But identifying a pathway to a particular thought process does not imply that a pathological mechanism has been found. In fact, a much simpler explanation is that, if a particular neural pathway is found to be associated both with emotional and interpersonal difficulties and a key psychological process, then this is an important scientific finding that applies to us all, not just those of us unfortunate enough to have somebody attach an 'illness' label to our emotions. This is not a style of thinking compatible with the 'disease model'. Because every thought must involve a neurological process, merely finding a neurological correlate of emotional distress or psychological process isn't the same as identifying a pathology or an 'illness'.

One colleague suggested I was proposing a 'psychobiosoical model'. I quite like that.

 
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