FAU Cultural Explanations for Illness Over the Centuries Discussion


  • According to Chapter 5, how have cultural explanations for illness changed over the centuries?
    • Define and discuss cultural explanations for illness, providing 3–4 examples of how cultural explanations for illness have changed over the centuries.
    • In this discussion, give specific details regarding how these changes have occurred and the results regarding illness in society.
  • According to Chapter 6, how would a medical doctor and a medical sociologist view disability?
    • From a medical and a sociological model of disability, compare and contrast how health care providers and medical researchers would view and respond to disability.
    • Provide 2-3 examples of responses to disability, from both the medical and sociological models of disability.

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Over the years there have been plenty of explanations of why people develop certain illnesses. Though, there are still many people and cultures who have their own beliefs on why people are ill. According to the textbook, most explanations defined illnesses as a punishment for sinning and foolish behavior. I know in my family, many of them believe that going out with wet hair can cause a common cold. Now, while playing in the rain may not actually cause a common cold, it may still play a part in why you have a common cold. Scientifically speaking, illnesses such as the common cold, are usually caused by being exposed to germs or viruses. There are many explanations that have changed over the years. For example, in the 19th century most people considered being an alcoholic a sin. Now in 2023, being an alcoholic is look at as a mental illness. There are so many people who are able to admit now that being an alcoholic isn’t okay, but not because it is a sin. Alcoholism is something that truly affects your mental health. Mental health and addiction are taken so much more seriously today than they were in the 19th century. This is very important, because it allows people who deal with metal issues to get the proper help that they need.

Though we have learned so much about disabilities, people still view a disability as if something is wrong that should be fixed. The medical model of disability is when people that of a disability as if it is something that is wrong with a person. While the sociological model of disability recognizes that the problems what a disabled person may face is due to the way society is organized. I personally think that medical researchers and health care professionals should view disabilities as the sociological model. I believe that people with Autism and Down Syndrome are seen very differently when it comes to the medical and sociological model of disabilities. People who are autistic are usually looked at as the problem. Autism isn’t something that needs to be fixed. Though the spectrum is very broad, it just shows what think is “normal” in society. Having Autism doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you, it just means that you are socially different than others. 

In the past, cultural explanations for illness often relied on supernatural or religious beliefs. Illnesses were often attributed to divine punishment or the influence of evil spirits such a theory has allowed healthy people to blame ill people for causing their own illnesses. These explanations often led to stigmatization and marginalization of individuals with illnesses (Weitz,133). For example, western societies used to believe that leprosy was a punishment for sin. Consequently, a religious ceremony would be held for the ill persons to symbolize their “death” afterwards, those individuals are prohibited from entering public places, drinking from another’s cup, touching anything before buying it, and so on. Fortunately, the advancement of modern medicine combined with the growing number of health professionals puts a stop to the discrimination towards people who have been affected with leprosy. In the 20th century an ailment called hyperkinesis is defined as a disorder that causes children, typically above the age of five, to be overactive, impulsive, and easily distracted with no evidence of brain damage (Weitz,139). The popular use of amphetamines used to treat the disorder further increased the market and resulted in the replacement of hyperkinesis with attention deficit disorder (ADD). “Medicalization” is the official process where a behavior is defined as a medical problem requiring medial solutions, the term also refers to the process where an illness is broadened. I feel like this process accurately describes the unique case regarding ADD. Pharmaceutical companies are partially to blame for broadening this disorder because it drugs like Adderall and Ritalin brought millions of dollars in sales. 

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