‘Isn’t Everyone a Little OCD?’

The Epistemic Harms of Wrongful Depathologization


  • Lucienne Spencer Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Havi Carel Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom




Pathology, Epistemic Injustice, Mental Disorder, Psychiatry, Stereotypes, Pathophobia, Willful Ignorance, Trivialisation, Stigma, Psychiatric Classification, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


This article develops the concept of wrongful depathologization, in which a psychiatric disorder is simultaneously stigmatized (because of sanist attitudes towards mental illness) and trivialized (as it is not considered a “proper” illness). We use OCD as a case study to argue that cumulatively these two effects generate a profound epistemic injustice to OCD sufferers, and possibly to those with other mental disorders. We show that even seemingly positive stereotypes attached to mental disorders give rise to both testimonial injustice and wilful hermeneutical ignorance. We thus expose an insidious form of epistemic harm that has been overlooked in the literature.


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How to Cite

Spencer, L., & Carel, H. (2021). ‘Isn’t Everyone a Little OCD?’: The Epistemic Harms of Wrongful Depathologization. Philosophy of Medicine, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.5195/pom.2021.19



Original Research Articles (philosophy of psychiatry)