Shannen O’Connell – Module SSC302: Dissertation

Shannen O’Connell – Module SSC302: Dissertation 1024 1024 Chevron College

Untangling Drug Effects from Placebo Effects in the Treatment of Depression: A Study of Biomedical Hegemony

By Shannen O’Connell

Shannen O'Connell

Shannen O’Connell

I initially entered this course because I thought I wanted to work in social care. However, through an interaction of my studies on this programme and my experiences of working in the field I realised that frontline social care work was not the career for me. This realisation showed me how broad this degree programme is, and this new freedom allowed me to focus on the aspects of health that really were of interest to me. I was most interested in mental health and particularly criticisms of the bio-medical model and the insights offered by the critical psychiatry movement. By stage 3, I had a clear idea of what career path I did not want to followI was free to choose a dissertation topic that truly reflected my own research interests.

This is an example of my course work that I have submitted for module SSC302: Dissertation.

Untangling Drug Effects from Placebo Effects in the Treatment of Depression: A Study of Biomedical Hegemony



Modern medicine has done an excellent job in curing certain illnesses, where the disease cause is well understood and where objective examination of the physiology can take place. However, treating the discomfort and psychological trauma associated with multiple diseases such as depression, chronic pain and anxiety has proven difficult (Wager and Atlas, 2015). This dissertation focuses on research on how the placebo effect has been traditionally regarded as deceptive and misunderstood (Newman, 2017) despite evidence that suggests it is extraordinarily effective.It explored whether placebo effects are clinically useful in the treatment of depression, with the aim of critically evaluating whether current literature supports the evidence that placebo effects might be partially accounting for antidepressant effects in depression. The study thoroughly evaluated the findings of previous studies to answer the research question. The researcher adopted a constructivist approach to analyze the results in relation to arguments that the bio-medical method of treatment has gained cultural control over many of the healthcare systems.The research findings indicate that the latest generation of antidepressants produced just minimally better outcomes than the older ones that were below the current prescribed criterion for clinical relevance (Kirsch, 2002). Further, research reflects how important studies have been hidden from the public by drug companies and the impact of this on individuals’ health (Turner and colleagues, 2008).By researching the relationship between the placebo effect and depression the researcher discovered that the challenge of determining the placebo effect is always a controversial one (Freisen, 2019). A better understanding of the physiological, neurobiological, and genetic effects on the placebo effect is important for assessing medical treatments and can allow health providers to customize and personalize therapies in clinical environments in order to improve treatment outcomes (Kirsch, 2009) 


Please contact the programme leader if you would like a copy of Shannen’s dissertation to read.

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