The 1980s Biological Revolution in Psychiatry: What Really Happened and What Really Happened Next
The 1980s, by common consensus, saw a big and remarkably rapid pivot away from previously dominant psychoanalytic and social science perspectives in psychiatry and towards a so-called ”medical model” foregrounding biology and the brain. The standard understanding is that this happened because, after years of wandering lost in a Freudian desert, the field had finally gained some fundamental new biological understandings of mental illness. The standard understanding is wrong. Revolution was declared back then, but not because there had been any scientific breakthroughs. We need a new and better understanding of what really happened in the 1980s, not least because choices made back then have directly shaped the fraught world of psychiatry with which we live today.