It is being said that because the definition of mental disorder is always, at least partially, socially constructed we cannot have a ‘value-neutral’ psychiatry. I believe that having a ‘value-free’ psychiatry is tough, if not impossible.
There are some reasons for this belief that I explain in this essay. First of all, most of the mental disorders, as the name implies by itself, are about ‘disorder’ that means a condition in which there is a disturbance of normal functioning. Therefore, to recognise what is ‘abnormal’ or ‘disorder’ we have to know first what is ‘normal’ and ‘orderly.' Here is where society plays its role to define what is standard and orderly and what is not. In other words, society (or better to say, the majority in society) establishes norms and normality and by the same mean who stands alone will be considered to have some mental disorder or illness.
Here it can be objected that society does not define these ‘norms’ arbitrarily, but based on some scientific criteria such as evolution. However, this objection seems to take the science merely as a set of value-neutral practices. This view is a prescriptive one while social facts show that it cannot be maintained. On the contrary, as long as the science is a social practice it cannot be value-free, and not only it has to consider cognitive values but moral values and norms. Therefore, it is essential to science, as a social practice, to involve value judgment that is driven by social norms. The definition of ‘mental disorders’ are not exceptions to this notion. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that we can have a ‘value-neutral’ or ‘value-free’ psychiatric judgments merely based on scientific evidence.