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The Concept of Mental Disorder: A Proposal


During the last years, there has been an important discussion on the concept of mental disorder. Several accounts of such a concept have been offered by theorists, although neither of these accounts seems to have successfully answered both the question of what it means for a certain mental condition to be a disorder and the question of what it means for a certain disorder to be mental. In this paper, I propose an account of the concept of mental disorder that, if I am right, provides satisfactory answers to both of these questions. Furthermore, this account (unlike other accounts presented in the literature on the subject) meets the requirements for achieving a crucial goal underlying the project of sorting out the concept of mental disorder, namely the goal of allowing the existence of a dialogue between mental health professionals of different theoretical orientations. To achieve this goal, the account herein proposed is not based in any particular theoretical framework, but in both ordinary and technical theory-neutral concepts. In the last part of the paper, I argue that it follows from most accounts of the concept of mental disorder that the disciplines concerned with explaining some mental disorders are not branches of medicine, and that the treatment of some mental disorders is not a matter of medical intervention.