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Author Topic: What is mental illness?  (Read 6083 times)

Offline Dimi

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What is mental illness?
« on: 18/11/2009 00:17:38 »
Hey all,

Anyway, but why - almost everyone I know has a 'disorder', because we are labeling things as disorders - are we thereby encouraging people should THINK they need to live with this illness? Or is there a real thing such as a mental illness.

Is it just me, or is it more noteable that teens/adolesence currently have more mental illnesses than in the past?

I am not looking at statistics, but I hear of so much teen/adol in pain, or with mental instability.
I mean, I know ALOT of people who have been classified WITH a disorder. It just makes me think, is it an excuse to encourage people to live with this label and let it control their lives, is mental illness really something constructed by the persons thoughts, or is it entirely a physical chemical imbalance issue?

I hate to put it down to chemical imbalances, I suffered from depression once - It has never happened again because I choose not to let it happen, I feel I have a very strong control over my mental state, I choose what to feel, how I should react; if it suits me in the end :P - perhaps I should be an actor.

As you can see, alot of my posts are to do with the mind :P

.. I still have alot of unanswered questions.
« Last Edit: 26/11/2009 04:40:02 by chris »


 

Offline SquarishTriangle

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #1 on: 18/11/2009 03:58:27 »
I think the ‘labelling’ of a condition is not so much about giving focus to blame for one’s differences or reason to give in and live with them, but it’s more about helping to communicate and understanding about the condition. To some, it may help to know that there are others out there that are experiencing and dealing with similar things. Having said that, sometimes it seems the meaning of a certain conditions gets a little lost in the reporting of the statistics. An increase in the reported numbers of cases of ‘mental illness’ could be due to a number of things. Firstly, there could really be an increase in the number of people with these conditions for whatever reason. It could be due to an increase in the number of people that are willing to seek medical attention for help due to raised public awareness. There could also be a growing trend to increasingly diagnose and name a condition as ‘disease x’.

To some extent, this ‘labelling’ may encourage acceptance of a condition, but that may or may not be such a terrible thing. A particular condition may very difficult or impossible to treat, or the person may continue to be predisposed to functioning in a certain way. I think in that situation, it can indeed be useful to accept and understand the condition as what it is.

Giving a name to a condition can help simplify what can often be a complex and lengthy list of symptoms and physiological processes into a more concise and familiar term. From a scientific or medical point of view, it would allow doctors, researchers and the like to describe to each other a condition without listing the entire group of signs every time it needs to be mentioned. (I suppose it’s like if we didn’t have a word for say ‘photosynthesis’ and you needed to describe the whole process each and every time you wanted to talk about it.) From the point of view of the patient, I think it would help them and those around them to understand what is going on, find out more about how to manage it and perhaps, if necessary, modify their expectations.

Of course, there will usually be a spectrum of variation within an individual ‘disorder’ and people will experience different severities of each symptom. So by identifying a person entirely by the ‘label’ they carry would perhaps be over-simplistic and unrepresentative of what they are going through. You would hope that someone who finds themselves with any sort of condition would have a support network that looks a bit further than just the name of the disease the person has been given.

I find it hard to imagine someone and admitting defeat to a condition just because it now has a name. I’m not sure. Maybe that’s just my perspective. In my mid to late teens, I too had a number of major struggles to deal with. I wasn’t coping but I wasn’t accepting it either. In the end, I just decided I didn’t want to be like that for the rest of my life and put a stop to it. It wasn’t an easy task and it took a few goes. I still may have tendencies to feel certain ways, but then I’m incredibly stubborn how I want to be. I’ve learnt what makes me anxious, what stops me being anxious, when to walk away from something and what buttons I can and can’t press. I know that I need to get enough sleep to prevent anxiety and cope with things, exercise to take the edge off, and to keep myself continuously entertained just to give my brain something to do. It can hard work, but for me (and you, from what I can tell), possible. I don’t know if you can say the same for everyone.

(Can anyone tell I'm on holidays?)
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #2 on: 18/11/2009 05:27:44 »
personally i think that labeling  can potentially be dangerous. Something of a self fulfilling prophecy could occur with the individual identifying themselves as being defined by it and how others may perceive them as being defined by it (who may project/give an identity) , leading to reduced self esteem and behaviour that confirms the environment makes sense ( which the psych needs to do) etc. (does that make sense?? haha) What i mean to say is....

I cant remember exactly but i think the way it goes is that if self identity is different from what the environment shows, this causes psychological distress/discomfort. Therefore, people seek out to confirm what they believe. It makes sense, based upon this, that if one really believes they have a problem, or if people treat them as if they do, then they may behave in a way that confirms it (please note this is MY assumption :P )

On the other hand it could do the opposite, enable one to detach themselves, their identity from it. As someone once said to me "don't give your emotions too much credit" its just a bunch of chemicals, you can see it as something 'outside of yourself' so to speak,  that you have to do battle with....
Quote
I hate to put it down to chemical imbalances, I suffered from depression once - It has never happened again because I choose not to let it happen, I feel I have a very strong control over my mental state, I choose what to feel, how I should react; if it suits me in the end :P
I think it can be both. medication is pretty much never (i think) given without therapy, some form of counseling eg CBT needs to be given simultaniously (yeah i cant spell  :P ). My doctor once told me that medication does not solve the entire problem, it makes it easier for the individual to solve the problem. Id imagine that if the chemical issues are extreme, it would not  be possible to use 'power of the mind' to much effect.  But yes people can certainly make choices about how they wish to perceive their environment, eg negative or positive, in certain circumstances.
« Last Edit: 18/11/2009 05:50:59 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline Dimi

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #3 on: 18/11/2009 06:40:52 »
Aye, SquarishTriangle that is all true (Except my mental state is fine ;) ). However, after a few times I hear from people that they suffer from X condition(s), it just makes me think - what does it mean to have a mental illness?

I suffered from depression ONCE but this is when I was around 15 years old. I do not suffer from a mental illness (Or maybe I do? Doesnt bother me). Perhaps my original wording is just bad, I am just not great at being clear sometimes :) (Would you argue thats a mental illness? LOL)

My current perspective is that Anxiety, Depression, Paranoia is just the fault of bad thinking patterns. I refuse to accept that it is due to a chemical imbalance, but rather - the results of negative thinking cause the imbalance. And this works for me. I have even been able to get over stage fright.

I have a friend, who says he is suffering from anxiety, but the true reasoning behind it was a bad experience which took him ages to get over, when he gets anxiety in the stomach - it was all because he was thinking of a certain event.

I have gone as far (well even further) to view everything subjectively, I no longer see negative being negative or positive being positive, I choose how to interpret whatever comes my way.

This goes back to a philosphical concept that I've grasped; everything is just a state of energy; I apply my concepts that I have learned to give it a shape and form. I alone will apply my knowledge on something and that knowledge is what gives it a shape.

If I was viewing my perspective from another animal, their take on the world will be much different - but no less real. :) (Thats to say, my truth is not the same as anothers truth)

Or are we going to say this is way of thought is a mental illness? :P It definantly gets the job done. (Also, I do not need it to be proven, I am very comfortable with my philosphical views)

@EatsRainbow,
Quote
personally i think that labeling  can potentially be dangerous. Something of a self fulfilling prophecy could occur with the individual identifying themselves as being defined by it and how others may perceive them as being defined by it
I agree with this statement I was hoping this point would be brought up! I would of put it in my OP but I could not think of the right wording, I hope I touched it with my vagueness :)


 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #4 on: 18/11/2009 09:40:02 »
Quote
My current perspective is that Anxiety, Depression, Paranoia is just the fault of bad thinking patterns. I refuse to accept that it is due to a chemical imbalance, but rather - the results of negative thinking cause the imbalance. And this works for me. I have even been able to get over stage fright.

Biochemistry is the mould, the environment is the oven. If the mould has gone so wrong you'll never get something you want out of it.. there's a real big difference between biological and environmental depression.
 

Offline Dimi

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #5 on: 18/11/2009 11:50:23 »
That makes sense I suppose.

Then what causes the mould to go wrong? Is it a change in lifestyle? Faulty genes?
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #6 on: 23/11/2009 02:18:12 »
When you say 'lifestyle' well that would fit under the environmental category would it not Dimi? (thats rhetorical by the way  :) )  I think that most definitely there can be environmental triggers that cause mental illness to show itself, ie a person can be already prone and a 'trigger', an event that occurs can set them off. Mental illness can also be genetic i think, you can see it running in families... or it could perhaps be 'caused' by perhaps drug abuse that upsets the chemical balances in the brain.

If you are talking of situational/environmental depression then it is perhaps therapy such as counselling the individual would need, assistance to change the way they think and talk to themselves, optimistic vs pessimistic beliefs about their environment for eg. If you are talking of chemical imbalance, well something they say about depression is that others can show them love but they will not feel it, they lose interest in everything, they may get some really good news and they do not care, they still feel depressed. This is chemical. Ive also read that a chemical inbalance, when left untreated by medication usually continues to get worse and can actually, in the long run have permanent detrimental effects upon the brain.

Thats what i thinks anyways  :)
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #7 on: 23/11/2009 13:22:54 »
I get the impression that the discussion here is aiming at what might be called "mild" mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, mild OCD etc.), though I don't mean to imply that these feel mild to sufferers and that these are trivial. However, to be clear, there really are very serious mental illnesses too which can lead to extremely abnormal behaviour, damaging to the individual and often to those surrounding him/her too.

I don't think it is fully understood how many of such illnesses evolve, whether by chemical, biological, genetic or environmental means. There are clear associations between some of these milder illnesses and the potential for them to develop into a more serious form so it may be unwise to dismiss these as trivial or that they can simply be cured by the will of the patients themselves. I don't know anybody who has not felt periods of depression but there is some difference between this and, say, bipolar disorder which, if not understood, can lead to self harm or even suicide. Most clinicians would say that one of the worst things you can say to a sufferer of serious depression is "just pull yourself together" for example. It just leads that person into believing that their depression is just their own fault and then feeling guilty, and probably more depressed as a result. Most people who are termed "clinically depressed" would try anything to avoid feeling that way.

I suppose it is likely to be true that awareness will lead to more people seeking help when it may not be required - a sort of mild paranoia :-) -  and this leads to an apparent increase in mental problems from a statistical point of view.

The naming of ailments, especially mental maladies, is always going to be tricky because these are often really the symptoms rather than the cause. When you visit a GP with a pain (say) you would like to know what the cause and cure is and not to just label the pain and be given a painkiller. This is really the level of treatment for many mental disorders and, unfortunately, many of the treatments are no more than palliatives, some of which have their own (serious) dangers.

So whilst I take the point about the labelling of disorders leading to a rise in unnecessary treatment, I do not see that there is an easy solution that would not have the effect of being damaging to those who really need help. The brain is certainly the most complex and least understood of the human organs and it seems to me that many of the drug treatments are crude, though generally not prescribed lightly. I would err on the safe side that it is better that people seek unnecessary treatment than to let slip through those who fear to visit a GP because of some perceived stigma.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #8 on: 23/11/2009 14:06:54 »
I would most certainly agree that there are mental illnesses that must be treated asap! i have two friends that have suffered a psychosis and they both really were not here in reality  in the slightest, talking to birds, being convinced the sun would never rise, thinking your best friend is possessed by the devil.... Medication turned them both back into fully normal, happy people, you wouldn't believe the change!

However, when it comes to something milder, i just wonder about what labels can do to the ego and identity. To make my point, how comfortable would you be in getting to know, or having close associations with someone that had bipolar for eg? Someone unpredictable and irrational... (well bipolar is not mild but i want to make the point of how people react) In my experiences, mental illness sends people running... for an individual to carry this knowledge of how people react i consider to be extremely damaging to someone who is not fully stable and self assured.

Also, I don't think anyone wants to walk around thinking they are abnormal or not entirely sane. Could the belief that one was these things not heighten anxiety and other such symptoms of a condition itself, thereby 'feeding' it and making it worse? Something mild originally getting out of hand by someones belief that they were not ok...?

but as you said Graham, the risk is likely not worth it. Perhaps then its societies views and how much they understand that are in need of improvement...?
« Last Edit: 23/11/2009 14:10:07 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #9 on: 23/11/2009 16:12:25 »
What's odd about talking to birds?? I do it all the time. It's best in their language of course :-) I think there is a huge education issue. Most teenagers grow up thinking they are abnormal because conformity with their peers means so much at that age. However, it often takes years to realise that there is no such thing as perfect normality but that we all are multi-dimensional in a mental sense. The difficulty is in judging when one or more of these "dimensions" exceeds the bounds which are considered acceptable to that person or to others or where mental difficulties turn in to physical problems. Of the people I know who have had mental problems, large and mild, I think they all needed expert medical help and benefitted from it. I am concerned about the side effects and long term effects of some of the drugs used though, even though they seem to have short term benefit.
 

Offline Dimi

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #10 on: 23/11/2009 22:01:04 »
Ah yes of course the dire ones do exist; I consider it as a disease when they can not operate on a functional level. If someone has a condition but they can still work, talk, have fun etc - why put the extra strain of labeling it as a disease?

Why would you pescribe drugs to someone who lost a family member? I think thats disgusting...

Yes, its ego's reasoning that one should have a label - but its also ego's reasoning that some of these labels hurt, and again egos reasoning to have a label to be attached to.
I have always believed that if someone sees a reason to attach a label to themselves, they can truly make it almost real.

I suppose this has all been a tad biased as I have seen TOO many people just make up conditions for the benefit of it!

This just brings up another point - justification of your own actions. When someone has to justify their own actions, I find it is just they aren't even being honest with themselves.

'I said x because I have y/z condition(s)' - Granted there are people who suffer from the REAL DEAL, but - how many people take say a weak/mild condition; blow it out of proportions; and still manage to gain!

I know I did it a few times with school ;)

however, how many times have these labels been thrown around as insults?

Oh! Heres an analogy, you are walking around and you get cut but you don't realise it - but once you notice the cut (After a few hours even), for some reason it just starts to hurt - only cause you know it, and your perception that a cut must hurt - so it hurts when you finally notice it.

Obviously if the cut was alot more deeper it would be noticed!

I don't agree with taking drugs for mild cases. My sister was considered insane - guess why? BECAUSE SHE TALKED TOO MUCH. They even pescribed her drugs! .. She took them for a few days but she noticed a dramatic change that she did not like what was happening - so she got rid of them. But man, those doctors must of never met a female before! From what I can see most females love to talk XD

Perhaps I am just ranting, but I believe I do have a point in all of this.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #11 on: 23/11/2009 23:09:45 »
Quote
What's odd about talking to birds?? I do it all the time.

It was a problem because there was really intense paranoia connected to the fact that apparently the birds could read her mind. I talk to my dog all the time, never picked him as a mind reader, im not too sure he can think far beyond his next meal anyway  :P


Quote
I am concerned about the side effects and long term effects of some of the drugs used though

What do you mean, long term effects? Im aware of short term side effects that various drugs can have, but im not aware of any long term detrimental effect, i thought the idea was to return a chemical imbalance to normal, which tends to imply nothing other than correction of an error.

I have mildly wondered, if someone was on the wrong medications, could this actually do damage by way of interfering with the balance that was actually fine before?
 

Offline Dimi

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #12 on: 24/11/2009 03:52:50 »
Quote
It was a problem because there was really intense paranoia connected to the fact that apparently the birds could read her mind.
That is not a disease, that is paranoia. Based off a supersitious thought paradigm, I don't see any illness anywhere? Perhaps dis-ease is a better term, 'no longer at ease'. If she is comfortable thinking like that, what is the matter with it?

I met an elderly lady who believes Dinosaurs still existed (She thought the Robots were real) - is this mental illness? No. She just didn't understand what the scope of technology is.
« Last Edit: 24/11/2009 03:54:39 by Dimi »
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #13 on: 24/11/2009 05:40:14 »
There were visable physiological changes in this girl ive been referring to, eyes would go all glassy, her face would flush, and the general manner in which she said things was really quite insane. The fact that medication very quickly fixed it kinda proves it anyway!

no idea about that elderly lady. She could have just been really eccentric. Personality disorders are perhaps a good eg of what graham was referring to with regards to:
Quote
The difficulty is in judging when one or more of these "dimensions" exceeds the bounds which are considered acceptable to that person or to others
because a personality disorder is only considered a 'disorder' when it causes the individual distress. So one could apply that to this old lady perhaps? Personality disorders are not chemical anyway i dont think, but they are a problem that need therapy.

Dimi i do see your point, and perhaps sometimes yes, but you seem to be implying that mental illness as a chemical problem more often than not does not apply, i disagree with this. The body gets sick frequently, colds and flues and various other ailments, is it not natural for the brain to be just as prone? of course it is.
« Last Edit: 24/11/2009 23:23:06 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #14 on: 24/11/2009 15:09:10 »

What do you mean, long term effects? Im aware of short term side effects that various drugs can have, but im not aware of any long term detrimental effect, i thought the idea was to return a chemical imbalance to normal, which tends to imply nothing other than correction of an error.

I have mildly wondered, if someone was on the wrong medications, could this actually do damage by way of interfering with the balance that was actually fine before?


Look at the possible side effects for one of the most common drugs combatting anxiety disorders, benzodiazepine, or any of the currently popular antidepressant drugs such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Besides the listed side effects that can occur during treatment, there are numerous interactions with other drugs and certain foodstuffs (not to mention alcohol). They have also discovered potential for development of cervical cysts for some of the SSRIs (this is under investigation I believe) and have also now have removed recommendation for use with children because withdrawal can lead to them self harming in some cases. Medical problems can occur with any complex drug but I would be more concerned with the long term changes in brain chemistry - delicately balanced at best. Some of these drugs, and these are for treatment of what I referred to as mild mental illnesses, are akin to trying to fix a computer with a hammer. I am not saying they should not be used, because they clearly work in many cases, but people should be wary of taking such things. I think that most GPs don't prescribe them lightly but I don't think they are miracle cures in any case. Many of the drugs have a preponderance to become less effective with continued usage and patients have to be titrated off them to avoid serous backlash effects.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #15 on: 25/11/2009 05:00:58 »

 I would be more concerned with the long term changes in brain chemistry - delicately balanced at best. Some of these drugs, and these are for treatment of what I referred to as mild mental illnesses, are akin to trying to fix a computer with a hammer.

So my concern regarding upsetting brain chemistry if one was taking medication not needed or not right for them is well founded?  I wonder if you know of research or real life examples that would prove this and just how detrimental it can be?


 I think that most GPs don't prescribe them lightly

Mine seems to! I suggested recently my medication be changed and the response i got was "its your choice" errr....  ???

Ive seen numerous healthcare professionals as have some of my friends and most of us get the feeling that the mind is so complex that its a bit of a guessing game in many cases as to what a persons problem actually is, this concerns me!

Please excise my quoting, im trying to figure it out! gah! haha
« Last Edit: 25/11/2009 05:07:27 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #16 on: 25/11/2009 05:06:19 »
Eureeka!!!!! ;D
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #17 on: 25/11/2009 09:31:53 »
I think your concern is indeed well founded but it is a very difficult judgement for someone undergoing treatment to second guess the experts (drug companies, GP etc). It may be especially difficult for someone who may also mistrust their own ability to make such a judgement. But then I am someone who has to be very ill before I will take even an aspirin. I do have to take drugs on a regular basis to control hypertension and it took a lot of time to settle on to ones that suited. I think it is too often the case that people do not challenge a GP's prescription. Many GPs appreciate the feedback too, though some do not.

I commented on research on SSRIs and the problems that have been found. On the other hand, it is important to be aware that over-reaction to small incidences of reported problems and/or anecdotal evidence can also be damaging and put people off taking drugs that could have enormous net benefit. I know this is not helpful :-) I think the more information, to patients and GPs alike, that can be made available to enable informed decisions, the better. I had a work colleague, a very intelligent man, who suffered from anxiety/stress/depression ever since I have known him (20 years) and have watch him get gradually worse over the years - peaks and troughs but with a slow downward trend. He has been on all sorts of medication that periodically affected his ability to work but he claims that without it he would be much worse. It is hard to say whether he has a dependancy as a result of the medication or as a result of his illness. His personality has changed too, but that may have happened anyway.

No answers really. I know people who say they try to avoid hospitals because so many people go into them and never come out but that is clearly guilt by association: it is only really ill people that go in to hospitals. A similar situation occurs with drugs as the only people you observe are people who already have a problem that needs drug treatment. If they deteriate, is it the illness or is it the drugs? I would guess in most cases it is not the drugs.

On the whole I would rely on the testing that is carried out but I am aware of the limitations of such testing. I would not go on to any medication lightly and would research it as much as practically possible but, overall, I would respect the advice of a GP - at least one who have come to trust and get a second opinion if unsure.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Re: What is mental illness?
« Reply #18 on: 25/11/2009 10:10:02 »
Thanks graham, ill go give that some thought i think  :)
 

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Re: What is mental illness?
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