Missing ‘The Psyche’ In Psychiatry

I came across in this Information About Psychiatry blog a post, Origins of the words Psychology and Psychiatry, on the word origin of the specialty beginning with a sentence on psychology.

The word psychology first appeared in the English language in the 17th century and derives from psyche (soul) and ology (study of).

Closing with a paragraph on psychiatry.

Later, in 1808 the word “psychiatry” was coined by Johann Christian Reil. This word means “doctoring the soul”, coming from psyche (soul) and iatros (doctor). This new word allowed psychiatrists to take matters of the soul away from religion and into their own, incapable hands.

It was quite fascinating to think that the second half of the word psychiatry seemed to have the same root as the first half of one of my favorite words, iatrogenic, or doctor caused. Used in a sentence: Psychiatry is the source of much iatrogenic illness found in the world today.

The base of iatrogenic, according to Mosby’s Medical Dictionary.

Etymology: Gk, iatros, physician, genein, to produce.

Soul, in this instance, often translates interpretively into mind, and the word mind in its origins is related to memory.

I know of people who see conventional twenty-first century psychiatric practice as ‘soul killing’ or fostering ‘soul death’. This has to be ironic as the psychiatrist was initially viewed as a person who would be a healer of souls.

Much of this direction away from the original slant of psychiatrist has come with the ascendancy of biological psychiatry. Biological psychiatry sees human problems primarily in terms of brain dysfunction, and it does not tend to look to psyche or consciousness for the source of, or the solution to, those problems.

Re-translating psychobabble into bio-babble certainly hasn’t increased the success rate for the field. In fact, the biological approach to problems in living seems resigned to a belief that subtle birth defects are the source of psychiatric disorders.

One has to point out, time and time again, that there is very little concrete proof for a biological basis to psychiatric problems. There has been, on the other hand, much heavy-handed theorizing and thoroughly biased verbiage expended to bolster such a faith.

Specialty Specialist Word Usage Timeline

psychology 1653

mad doctor 1703

psychologist 1727

psychiatry 1846

alienist 1864

psychiatrist 1890

shrink 1966

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