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Psychiatric Disease in Relation to Physical Illness

Epidemiology, The Clinical Conundrum, The Global Burden Of Disease

Formerly, psychiatrists were termed alienists, as though they dealt with strange, alien phenomena that had nothing to do with the rest of us. People with psychiatric disease were either ignored, sometimes tolerated, but more often dealt with by incarceration in large institutions away from cities. The kind of mental illnesses found in these hospitals were the severe variety. Today we call them the psychoses (madness) and the dementias (cognitive disorders). To the public these disorders were undoubtedly strange, but they were studied extensively by those in the mental health movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in North America and Western Europe. The illnesses were roughly classified so that it was possible to make several advances. First, how common these diseases were in terms of type and severity by standard demographic variables; second, how common milder forms of mental illness were (those were not admitted to hospital); and third, how these psychiatric disorders related to the so-called physical illnesses.

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