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Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2008;16(6):352-64. doi: 10.1080/10673220802564186.

Postmodernity and mental health.

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Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, Lebanon, NH 03766, USA.


Contemporary Western societies are characterized by rapid social transformations, the scope and pace of which are unprecedented in comparison to previous eras. This new era is often referred to as "postmodern." Social theory suggests that such transformations influence multifarious processes related to psychiatry, including risk factors, help-seeking behavior, the clinical encounter, and clinical outcomes. I introduce and critically discuss five key themes that arise out of sociological analysis of postmodernity and that may have special relevance to psychiatry: (1) individualization; (2) social roles and self-identity; (3) the culture of expertise; (4) the transformation of intimacy; and (5) future orientation. Although extant work implicitly corroborates the importance of the identified themes as influences relevant to psychiatry, little work in psychiatry has explicitly applied these themes or investigated their impact. Further integration of these themes into research may give a fresh perspective on important issues pertinent to contemporary psychiatry.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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