Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Medicalization is the process by which nonmedical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually as illnesses or disorders. This process can occur on multiple levels: a conceptual level, with the development of a medical definition of a problem; an interactional level, where the physician applies a medical diagnosis to a nonmedical problem and administers treatment; and the institutional level, where organizations advocate a medical approach. One area drawing considerable attention is the medicalization of deviance. Behaviors once considered “badness” became viewed, through the process of medicalization, more as “sickness.” Here, medicalization diminishes individual responsibility, since experts now look at the behavior as something occurring outside the control of the individual, though often in the person's physiology. Some examples of med-icalized deviance include madness, alcoholism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), addictions, and infertility. Another area of medicalization is everyday life processes including childbirth, menstrual discomfort (premenstrual syndrome, or PMS), ...