My research is concerned with investigating and unpacking the premises underlying the psychiatric conceptions of so-called ‘anxiety disorders’. My research begins by assessing the historical trajectory for how we have come to think of anxiety as a psychopathology or a psychiatric disorder that may or may not require psychiatric (medical) attention. By considering how we have come to think collectively of anxiety as a psychiatric disorder (when it could be argued to the contrary), this leads to philosophical problems concerning the validity of the conclusion that anxiety is in fact a psychiatric disorder. To assess validity, I contrast historical turning points, evolutionary theory, usages of language and meaning, and plausible explanations that are in contrast and contradiction to the contemporary psychiatric conception of anxiety as a psychiatric disorder.
Predicated on my conclusions surrounding the validity of considering anxiety as a disorder, I then argue the ethical ramifications of diagnosis and treatment. If it is plausible to state that anxiety as a disorder is not a valid or sound conclusion, then it stands to reason that the method in which psychiatry has developed a system of diagnosis and treatment for anxiety requires an ethical evaluation. In this I pose the question, “could personal autonomy be undermined by the medicalization of anxiety and psychiatric influence?” This part of my philosophical investigation looks at the sheer number of reported cases in recent times of so-called anxiety disorders and the widespread usage of psychopharmaceuticals and other treatments aimed at solving this suggested medical disorder.
Embedded in my ethical argumentation are also assessments of whether or not treatments such as psychiatric drugs or talk therapies aimed at reducing anxiety are not best considered treatments but instead, ‘enhancements.’ My arguments surrounding enhancements envelop problems in social knowledge and ideas of ‘medicalization’ that argue – ‘while people do experience anxiety, it is perhaps our collective perception of what ought to be treated by medicine or what we are influenced to believe are medical problems rather that what ought to be considered something that is simply ‘normal’ and something that could be considered beneficial or adaptive and non-medical. In conclusion to my assessment of whether or not treatments are in fact best-considered treatments and not enhancements, I then consider what are thought of as non-medical or unconventional approaches to anxiety reduction such as talk therapies and concepts for anxiety in Eastern Philosophy such as Buddhism and the concept of ‘dukkha’, which means ‘suffering’, ‘anxiety’ or ‘stress’.
Finally, I attempt to complete the puzzle as I then offer suggestions and solutions as to how anxiety might be re-conceptualized to offer better outcomes and a broader perspective and understanding on the nature and experience of anxiety and what we ought to do or not do when we experience it.