Work and Dignity   /   Fall 2012   /    Interviews

On the Medicalization of Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Youth


The headlines have come with ever greater frequency in recent years as one study after another documents increasing numbers of children and adolescents using a growing variety of psychiatric medications. This trend, in the absence of evidence that mental illness is actually increasing, suggests the growing medicalization—redefinition and subsequent treatment in a medical framework—of behaviors and emotional experiences, which while problematic are not symptomatic of mental disorder. The long standing concerns about the ADHD diagnosis and stimulant use among children have been extended to other diagnostic categories and other types of psychiatric medication. But many of the key issues remain the same, from concerns over off-label use and long-term safety to questions about whether children are being widely misdiagnosed and medications overprescribed.

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