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Mind–body dualism, psychiatry, and medicine 

Mind–body dualism, psychiatry, and medicine
Mind–body dualism, psychiatry, and medicine

Michael Sharpe

and Jane Walker

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date: 23 May 2022

Patients usually attend doctors because they are concerned about symptoms. When these symptoms are associated with persistent distress or disability we refer to the patient as having an illness. When assessing the patient's illness the doctor aims to make a diagnosis, on the basis of which management can be planned and prognosis made. The diagnoses available to doctors are conventionally defined as either ‘medical’ or ‘psychiatric’. This division of illness into two types is such an accepted feature of current medical practice that we tend to take it for granted. But is it really the best way to think about patients’ illnesses and to plan their care? In order to answer this question we will examine what is meant by ‘medical’ and ‘psychiatric’ diagnoses and the assumptions underpinning this division. The disadvantages of this dualistic approach will be considered and solutions proposed.

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