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The Biomedical model

The biomedical model is a theoretical framework that assumes that mental health problems are caused by biological factors, such as genetic abnormalities, chemical imbalances, or brain dysfunctions (McLeod, 2023). According to this model, mental disorders can be diagnosed and treated in the same way as physical illnesses, using objective methods such as laboratory tests, brain scans, or medication (Mental Health General Staff, 2021). The biomedical model has been widely adopted by psychiatrists and other medical professionals who deal with mental health issues.

The biomedical model has some strengths and weaknesses in relation to mental health. One of the strengths is that it provides a clear and consistent way of identifying and classifying mental disorders, based on observable symptoms and standardized criteria (McLeod, 2023). This can help to improve the reliability and validity of diagnosis, as well as the communication and collaboration among mental health professionals. Another strength is that it offers effective treatments for some mental disorders, especially those that have a clear biological basis, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Medications can help to reduce or eliminate the distressing symptoms and improve the quality of life of many patients (Mental Health General Staff, 2021).

However, the biomedical model also has some limitations and criticisms in relation to mental health. One of the limitations is that it ignores or neglects the psychological, social, and environmental factors that may contribute to the development or maintenance of mental disorders (McLeod, 2023). For example, it does not account for the role of stress, trauma, abuse, relationships, culture, or personality in influencing mental health.

It also does not consider the subjective experiences, meanings, or coping strategies of the patients, who may have different perspectives and preferences than the medical professionals. Another limitation is that it may overemphasize the use of medication and underemphasize the use of other interventions, such as psychotherapy, counseling, or self-help groups. Medications may have side effects, interactions, or dependency issues that can harm the physical or mental health of the patients. They may also mask the underlying causes or problems that need to be addressed in a more holistic way (Mental Health General Staff, 2021).

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Therefore, the biomedical model is a useful but incomplete way of understanding and treating mental health problems. It can provide some insights and solutions for certain types of mental disorders, but it cannot explain or address all the aspects and complexities of human psychology and behaviour. A more comprehensive and balanced approach would be to integrate the biomedical model with other models that consider the biopsychosocial dimensions of mental health (McLeod, 2023).

History of the biomedical model

The biomedical model of health is a paradigm that emerged from the germ theory of disease proposed by Louis Pasteur in the 19th century. It is reductionist, meaning that it reduces complex phenomena to their simplest components, and it is exclusionary, meaning that it ignores psychological, environmental, and social factors that may influence health and illness. The biomedical model has been the dominant force in Western medicine for more than a century, and has led to significant advances in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases (Johnson, 2012).

However, the biomedical model has also faced many challenges and limitations, especially in the context of chronic diseases that are prevalent in modern societies. The biomedical model fails to account for the role of behaviour, lifestyle, culture, and beliefs in the aetiology, prevention, and management of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. It also neglects the importance of patient-centred care, communication skills, interdisciplinary collaboration, and social justice in health care delivery. Moreover, it often creates a mind-body dualism that separates mental health from physical health, and stigmatizes or marginalizes those who suffer from mental disorders (Johnson, 2012).

In response to these criticisms, a new paradigm has emerged in medicine: the biopsychosocial model. This model recognizes that health and illness are influenced by a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors, and that each individual is unique and dynamic. It also emphasizes the need for holistic, integrative, and evidence-based approaches to health care that involve multiple disciplines and perspectives. The biopsychosocial model is more compatible with the current challenges and opportunities of health care in the 21st century, and offers a more comprehensive and humane way of understanding and promoting human health (Johnson, 2012).

An example of how the biomedical model has been applied to specific mental disorders can be seen in the biomedical model of schizophrenia.


McLeod, S. (2023). Medical model of mental health in psychology. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

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Mental Health General Staff. (2021). The biomedical model in mental health. Mental Health General. Retrieved from

Johnson, S. B. (2012). Medicine’s paradigm shift: An opportunity for psychology. Monitor on Psychology, 43(8), 5.

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