The Biopsychosocial Model Applied to mid-20th Century American Literature




Hartley, Angelina

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The biopsychosocial model emphasizes that biological, psychological, and social factors should all be considered when treating illness instead of only focusing on eliminating physical symptoms. In mid-20th century American literature, the female protagonists from Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neil, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath are treated for their mental disorders by society solely to eliminate their physical symptoms. However, this treatment from their communities has the opposite effect and leads these women to more suffering. The only time the women experience relief is when a character comes along and tries to truly understand them. These empathetic characters are important because they show that the key to effectively treating psychiatric illness is to use the biopsychosocial model. Applying the biopsychosocial model to these works of American literature brings to light how the female protagonists and their communities perceived and responded to the protagonists’ symptoms. It also demonstrates how their disorders were complex and easily stigmatized unless approached with a willingness to understand their afflictions. The application of the biopsychosocial model to the protagonists’ stories demonstrate that compassion and holistic treatment are needed when treating mental illness because the people afflicted are more than their symptoms.



American literature., Biopsychosocial model., Mental health.