Finally, the other potentially worrying
aspect of psychiatric disorders becoming
‘‘geneticized’’ is, it has been suggested,
an increase in stigma. Of course, just
the opposite could be the case, so that
increasing knowledge about the causa-
tion of disorders may serve to demystify
them and therefore make them, in the
public eyes, something that is more tan-
gible and acceptable. Part of postgenomic
psychiatry’s impact on disorders such as
schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder,
and depression might therefore be to legit-
imize them as ‘‘real’’ diseases rather than,
as is all too often the case, their being seen
as phenomena that result from personal
failing or weakness. AD might be taken as
a good example of how public perceptions
clearly have changed. ‘‘Becoming senile’’
in old age was once seen by many as some-
how morally reprehensible, whereas it is
now acceptable for the families of a past
President of the United States or a famous
novelist such as Iris Murdoch to ‘‘come
out’’ and admit that they suffer from AD.
In the authors’ present view, this could
turn out to be a general effect. Therefore,
rather than an increasing stigma, it is quite
possible that the ultimate effect of genetic
research on the public image of psychiatric
diseases will be wholly positive.
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