A Psychosocial Understanding of Personality Disorder: the historical problem of Moral Insanity

Jones, David W. (2009). A Psychosocial Understanding of Personality Disorder: the historical problem of Moral Insanity. In: Day-Sclater, S.; Jones, D. W; Price, H. and Yates, C. eds. Emotion: New Psychosocial Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 212–226.

Abstract

Various terms such as ‘psychopath’ and ‘antisocial personality disorder’ have been used at different times to describe individuals who act, with no apparent remorse, with great callousness causing disruption and distress around them. Despite being formally described within medical texts for many years the status of these diagnoses remains highly contested both within and outside of psychiatry. It will be argued that a psychosocial perspective can firstly help us to understand why this and related categories of mental disorder have been so contentious and secondly may also point us towards more useful ways of understanding the phenomena. Two points about a psychosocial perspective are raised in this chapter. Firstly, consistent with the premise this book there is the engagement with the social and cultural significance of emotion. Secondly there is the need to cross disciplinary fissures; not only trying to bridge the most obvious gaps between the psychological and the sociological, between the individual and the cultural, but also most notably in this case the analysis benefits from historical context.

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