• Agustino
    11.3k
    Please read the instructions carefully before posting.

    As some folks know, I have a total distrust and scorn for book-worm psychiatrists and psychologists. Now this thread is about trying to understand the definition and relationship of mental illness and mental strength with philosophical discourse. I really don't care how much psychiatry/psychology books you have read, and I'm not interested to hear you recite or vomit that stuff in this thread. If you are very well read in psychiatry/psychology, or if you've read nothing about it, you're still welcome to contribute to this thread. Think of it as street psychology/psychiatry that's going on here. The defining criteria is that your thought has to be original - strive to break out of what already exists and explore possibilities while engaging your mind in critical thinking. Vomiting theories from other sources should have no place here. That may get you a degree and a pat on the back, but not from me. Originality is more important here - if you say something original, even if it's false - that's more important than repeating something already said even if it were to be true. Obviously this isn't about saying nonsense either. You have to aim for truth, but be free to use your whole being while you aim for it. Don't let what others have told you or your fear of being wrong constrain your thinking, but rather use your own experience, your own feelings, and your entire being - including what you have read - to come up with something authentic - something that represents your own understanding.

    The other criteria you should take into account is that ultimately this should be practical psychology/psychiatry, which helps you understand those around you better, as well as navigate your own environment better. Understanding each other is essential to our harmonious co-existence, and more important than ever in today's age. I think that a lot of the popular sources of psychology/psychiatry that we encounter makes us mis-understand each other, and be rather judgemental, instead of being open to the complexity that inheres in the world.

    Each posting has to be focused through at least one question. You have to list this (these) question(s). It can be a question someone has already asked, or it may be a question you have decided to ask. In intellectual discovery, what question you ask is often more important than what answer you give. So think about it carefully.

    By philosophical discourse I understand the capacity of the human animal to linguistically reflect upon itself (and its environment), and use that reflection as a means of (1) orienting itself in its environment, and (2) moving itself to act or not act.

    Your post(s) don't have to be complete. You can ask any number of questions in a post and continue your own exploration through time by making new posts or starting from different angles if you want. Your posts can build upon other's posts, or upon your own posts, or they can come from an entirely new angle. So long as you are exploring mental illness, mental strength and philosophical discourse, then it's fair game.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________

    Now let me begin myself:

    Definition of Mental Illness: Incapacity of non-physical origin (non-genetic, non-inherited, non-aquired from accidents/diseases) which prevents one from successfully navigating and prospering in one's environment
    Definition of Mental Strength: The exact opposite of mental illness.
    Comment: The definitions allow the classification of all possible conditions of the mind as either being mental illness or being mental strength.

    1. Can any animal suffer of mental illness or is it only language-using animals?
    There exists evidence that animals in the wild don't suffer of mental illness pretty much at all. This accords with our intuition that mental illness is (mostly) a human disorder. Humans are the animals who can experience mental illness.

    However, cases have been recorded of animals, whether in an arranged park, or in a zoo, or otherwise in captivity, which do suffer of mental illness. The defining factor in many of these cases is the intelligence of the animal. More intelligent animals, seem more predisposed to suffer of mental illness, and our intuitions seem to be roughly correct - the intellectual, not the peasant gets depressed.

    There have been semi-successful attempts at investigating whether animals can use language. It seems to suggest that they quite possibly can't, however, they nevertheless have some form of conceptualising - especially the more intelligent amongst them. They use some form of language - although it is limited, and they cannot, on their own, extend the use of the language. Like a human having and knowing only 4 words. There's a limited set of thoughts one can have with just 4 words.

    Hence I'll say that conceptualising and using language seems to correlate with the possibility of mental illness. Moreover - the higher one's skill in concept-use the higher the risk of mental illness. This is also noticed in the fact that more intelligent people (measured by IQ, which does to a large degree measure one's concept-using abilities) may be more likely to suffer of mental illness than otherwise. I add my own anecdotal experience, finding for myself that my own intelligence rendered me more susceptible to mental illness than other less intelligent folk I know.

    It would seem that intelligence can predispose one to mental illness at the moment when one stops being centered or rooted in their body, but rather remain rooted in the mind - and the mind goes on, on its own, without relation to the situation of the body. The schism between body and mind generates mental illness - or inability to navigate one's environment. So long as one is rooted in the body, one always remains capable of navigating the environment.

    2. Should hearing voices, seeing apparitions, and the like always classify as mental illness?
    I believe psychiatrists are wrong to conceptualise these as necessarily symptoms of mental illness. They can be, but not necessarily. They are only so when they prevent successful navigation and adaption in one's environment as per my definition. I remember my mother telling us of her experience seeing the devil next to her while sleeping over the dinner table. Something she described as a dark figure staring over her, which disappeared only after she intensely prayed. There's many other such experiences such as folks claiming to have seen ghosts, demon possessions, and the like. But most of these people aren't actually suffering of mental illness. They are perfectly capable of navigating their environments - despite having the equivalent of what psychiatrists would qualify as hallucinations. There's other people who claim to be able to speak to spirits and so forth. Now I'm not concerned here with whether you believe in demons, ghosts, and the like. It's the experience of those people that's under discussion. I don't believe in those things, but I grant their experiences as real. For them, they really do see, feel and experience those things. And yet most of them are not mentally ill, despite the fact that a psychiatrist would likely qualify them as such.

    To be continued.
  • unenlightened
    4k
    Think of it as street psychology/psychiatry that's going on here.Agustino

    2. Should hearing voices, seeing apparitions, and the like always classify as mental illness?Agustino

    I apologise for not following your instructions, but you yourself have said nothing original; there is a long tradition of alternative and anti - psyche out there, and in the context of hearing voices in particular, there is a movement against medicalising such experiences of some standing. I link to their position statement by way of largely agreeing with you without claiming to have invented anything.

    Having said that, or got someone else to say it, I'll pick at the nit of 'incapacity'. It's a weasel word. A pacifist is incapable of the normal function of fighting, a miser is incapable of generosity, an unhappy person is incapable of smiling. More seriously, almost any deviation from current political received wisdom might be called an incapacity.

    And on the other side, very many folks in prison have demonstrated an incapacity of one sort or another, almost every homeless person too. And in these cases, it is a failure to recognise and diagnose that leaves them without help or understanding.

    So how does one spell out the difference between mental strength as conformism, and mental strength as resistance to a mad society?
  • Gooseone
    107


    This would entail the "prospering" Agustino in definition of mental illness,which I wholeheartedly disagree with. I've experienced "seeing apparitions", trouble with these experiences is that I wasn't alone and there's "stuff" which happened which can still be confirmed by multiple others, the main relevance of these experiences for me is that there might be some weird stuff going on which is hard to define, the main practical relevance of my experiences is that I would not necessarily see people undergoing such experiences as "cranks"; where it can become troubling fast if such people take apparitions as a bigger cue then "objective" reality.

    Concerning "mental" illness, I would consider those actual physiological defects in the brain and am of the opinion that a lot of what is considered mental illness at this point in time is rather behaviour which is far from the norm.

    My grandmother from my father's side was a complete nutter, I wouldn't know what she'd be diagnosed with but I wouldn't rule out Asperger syndrome. At one point she was the town idiot and she had the compulsive habit of stealing toilet rolls... My father's upbringing was hampered to a great degree because of this and I feel his autistic tendencies could potentially be explained by his upbringing. As such I would describe him as a slightly autistic introvert who uses "handles" to appear as an extravert, which makes him awkward in most common social interactions and it has hampered his social development.

    My mother was an outlier from a fairly big family and I have strong hunches it was a lack of understanding from her environment which drove her crazy. She has tried to kill herself multiple times and some of her attempts were clear cries for attention but a few probably failed due to her lack of knowledge (even with potent pills (though no barbiturates) it takes quite meticulous planning to actually succeed). She got institutionalized and from the point where I was about 9, maybe 10, she never functioned "properly" again, she was on heavy medication and died recently due to a seizure. My parents divorced when I was about 3.

    My sister and only sibling is three years older then me and, maybe due to her being a female and being a bit older when the "sh#t hit the fan", did not come out unscathed. She underwent hospitalized treatment, suffered bouts of auto mutilation (I have a few similar scars, yet I was "merely" curious and wondered what kind of will power / craziness it would take to do such a thing ...I concluded I could never do such a drastic thing but these slight experiments in combination with a sensitive skin created permanent scars... I'm not particularly happy about that but it was a very worthwhile experiment). She's still on medication but functions somewhat adequately, the idea of "prospering" is as such that she uses it to judge her own experience.

    Myself, well... I guess I'm lucky that the whole ADD / autism hype came just after it could be applied to me (I'm 36). I suffered outbursts of rage yet these outburst were, to my mind, always fully justified. As far as I can remember I always had a strong morality, so strong in fact that I had a lot of issues / frustrations with my own behaviour because it was quite amoral at times (the fits of rage were never amoral in that regard). I'm quite introverted (a term which took me a long time to even hear!) and this was quite troubling for me in my youth. When things went haywire because my mom tried to kill herself it only justified my suspicions in that most people didn't have a clue about what was going on; it justified the doubts and hunches I already had. Psychiatry was tried on me yet my disagreement with such attempts was such that these avenues were not followed up on (fortunately). When I was 18 I volunteered due to pressure form a girlfriend, they prescribed a Prozac like pill without even actually asking me something face to face (the Netherlands) ...the stuff felt like hampering with my brain and I threw the stuff in the bin after 2 days and that was that.

    I finished high school quite easy on a medium level but had no clue what to do for a career while I did have a strong need to become self-sufficient due to erratic environmental influences (juvenile detention, foster homes, child care, a "stupid" father, a mother who had turned into a drunk on top f her medication, etc). I ended up in construction and am still working there, as a self employed skills-men it provides a degree of freedom which I appreciate and you meat a lot of different folk in a lot of different places, which was great for my anthropological interests.

    I've really tried a few times but social "prospering" just isn't for me. "Navigating" has always been my thing though and acquiring the internet was a big deal. If I had known about cognitive science or semiotics 20 years ago, I'd probably had something I could study which would actually interest me. I took a few wrong turns but, all in all, I've been able to develop a heuristic of life which provides me with a great explanatory power towards my own life, and the life I see evolving around me. It helped to confirm a lot of hunches I had and strengthened the conviction that I'm not mentally ill per se.

    I come in a lot of different place and mix with a great deal of (though somewhat skewed when it comes to social rank) different people and always try to practice what I preach, I could very well be chatting up a stranger a local grocery store and would not necessarily refrain from trying to articulate my inner most feelings. My upbringing has hardened me a bit emotionally yet where some try to blame my lack of social "prospering" to being reserved emotionally, I would rather take pride in that the fact that I'm quite easily willing to put everything on the line where the consequences of falling flat on my face are taking as a valuable learning opportunity.

    I have a fond interest into philosophy, mainly because it helps me navigate existence, yet I find that the same lack which disturbs me in most area's of life is as much present as anywhere; there's a lack of real engagement due to a (nowadays) futile notion of abstract self-preservation. I say this as fact because, even though I don't have a fancy degree, above average intelligence or the "prosperous family" people make out to be some sort degree which makes one able to say something about life, I've put all my knowledge into practice on a daily basis. It's one thing to do so with like minded people but it takes effort to relay thoughts to those who aren't accustomed to thinking and who might cast you out if you don't fit in (luckily I seem to perform as some sort of clown and people seem to appreciate my company due to that).

    I've been able to help my sister to articulate what's actually bothering her (which she then uses to make her therapy more effective ..."sigh"... and, when push comes to shove, those who know me come for advice in crisis situations. Overall though, the strong lack of "prospering" is starting to weigh heavily, if not because the "navigating" has come to a point where navigating further would become a useless intellectual exercise (which I see a lot of here, as well as a lack of actual engagement). Unfortunately my job is quite noisy and busy and this doesn't help when your on the verge / having a nervous breakdown. I need alcohol, to an ever larger extent, to negate the despair I feel in functioning "prosperously". Where I live a lot of people seem able to make use of some sort of welfare to aid them in being able to be "dysfunctional" but like psychiatric evaluation, medication and waving away responsibility are things which seem to me as an admittance to a physiological "defect" which I have spend my whole life to deny ...rightfully!

    Though I don't think I have the willpower, I am working towards ending this whole ordeal abruptly and the main thing which is keeping me going is the idea that I would like to make very clear that doing so would be a rational conscious decision. If nobody is willing / capable of denying my arguments rationally, I feel it's irrational to expect me to keep playing along with a game which is forced upon me due to others' their unwillingness to admit they're being played.

    I'm at the point where I'm actually noticing I'm breaking down physiologically, given enough stress a person will break physically, mentally, nervously, yet the cause of it can be fully rationally explained. Everything I'm writing here (aside from being "odd" in talking so open about it on an internet forum) is not to evoke sympathy (though I could use that from my "real" environment ...if only I could make them understand...) it's the most real (no theory, degree, philosopher cited) way I'm able to relay that a lot of what is called "mental illness" is no physiological defect and, if it's considered a mere "mental" defect, it's something which could benefit from philosophy being put into practice.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Gooseone, your account is of someone who's shown great strength of character to make it thus far. Well done to you. It's never too late to take time out to study, you know, if you can work out a way of paying for it :)
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    We have to say 'illness' to merit 'treatment'. But I'd prefer to say 'distress'. I like it that there are ways that people in distress can get help, whatever the labels. The positives I look for are autonomy and a sense of power - perhaps these are 'strengths'. I quite agree with un that 'incapacity' is a dodgy word. When people lack autonomy, feel powerless in the face of distress - that's when help is needed.
  • Gooseone
    107


    What still gives me a small reason to persist is that there's a role to play where insights from the soft sciences come down to regular folk, along with the new Samsung S8 / Iphone7. I actually think this is crucial in this point of human history with a global macro economy taking prescience over the micro economy which should've been the basis of said macro economy, the way scientism is taking the form of a religion, etc. Just observing my own experience, the effort it took me is a bit too much to expect, if I'd manage to to facilitate taking "up" a study... what good would that do to the average Joe I now meet everyday? Just this topic ...I've met a lot of people who think they have actual "defects"... it might be arrogant and futile at the same time but I've been able convince a few there's nothing actually wrong with them, just a lack of common knowledge able to facilitate their views.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience! You've gone through a lot! Real knowledge doesn't require degrees or books, but just a careful understanding of your own experiences.

    This would entail the "prospering" Agustino in definition of mental illness,which I wholeheartedly disagree with.Gooseone
    We may disagree about the "prospering" but we certainly agree about a lot of other things. Although I'm not sure how you have defined prospering - I would just define it as successfully advancing towards one's goals, whatever those goals happen to be.

    a lot of what is considered mental illness at this point in time is rather behaviour which is far from the norm.Gooseone
    I agree.

    I would not necessarily see people undergoing such experiences as "cranks"; where it can become troubling fast if such people take apparitions as a bigger cue then "objective" reality.Gooseone
    Yes, agreed.

    what is called "mental illness" is no physiological defect and, if it's considered a mere "mental" defect, it's something which could benefit from philosophy being put into practice.Gooseone
    Yes, I also agree here!
  • csalisbury
    2k
    (1)I don't agree with your definition of mental illness.

    (2) I think most mental illness stems from shame and most shame stems from bad early relationships which ppl grow up to project onto other ppl. Shame has to do with failing to live up to another's standards which, on a deeper level, makes you unsure where you stand in relation to another's love and wrath (i.e their desire) I also think - this isn't my idea but I agree with it, sry - that psychotic episodes result from double-binds where a person is torn between two mutually exclusive obligations (obligations felt on a deep, often unconscious level) and the self/ego is torn apart by the tension (sufferers of acute schizophrenia often literally jettison any stable sense of self in order to become a cosmic battleground or theater)
  • Gooseone
    107
    We may disagree about the "prospering" but we certainly agree about a lot of other things. Although I'm not sure how you have defined prospering - I would just define it as successfully advancing towards one's goals, whatever those goals happen to be.Agustino

    The disagreement here would lie in that "prospering", to me, requires a certain amount of mutual interaction with the social environment, it's the "navigating" put into practice. Though gaining a specific form of feedback from the environment would still be an egoistic ideal, even for the most egoistic ideals to be fulfilled there's still an environment which needs to provide a framework which enables the distinction between other and self, The way in which "I" would see myself prosper depends greatly on the role I would play in my environment.

    It's probably semantics on my part where the one having a goal is one thing, and the actual goal is another. Good thread btw, I feel psychology is where exact science and philosophy meet and where the functionality comes into play.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    The Anna Karenina theory might apply here: All happy people are alike; each unhappy person is unhappy in his own way. It's similar to the Isaiah principle: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turnéd every one to his own way. Except Isaiah is more pessimistic: Tolstoy apparently thinks life works out quite well for a lot of people, even if not everybody. Isaiah find us all wandering into the weeds for different reasons.

    So, what characterizes happy people? Are there commonalities in the ways we go astray?

    My theory is that happy, mentally healthy, successful people are presented with no confounding factors early in their lives that are greater than they can understand and overcome. Unhappy and mentally unhealthy people have, conversely, been presented with confounding factors which they could neither understand nor overcome. Intelligence explains little here, because no matter how intelligent child is, he is too undeveloped to have the insight and information required to grasp his difficult situation. That won't come along for another 20 years, perhaps. By adulthood the unfortunate child has had plenty of time to develop some crazy features.

    this doesn't account for all craziness. People with major mental illnesses (like bi-polar disease) are screwed from the get go, however happy a family they had, and no matter how well they navigated the ingravescent inimicalities of childhood.

    Some of us didn't socialize well as children. We didn't fit into "the group". We were outliers. We were deviants in various ways. Because of our outsider status, (not always outside, but outside often enough to be very familiar with the experience) we failed to develop both social knowledge (how society works) and social skills (being able to move smoothly through society.

    People who are touched by outsider--outlier--deviant status, tend (a tendency, not a rule) to be propelled further outward. They aren't propelled so far that they are actually outside, though. They live altogether within society, but without the full set of skills that belongers, conformers, and central tendency folk have. The outsider--outlier--deviant experience much more social friction than most people do, and this further alienates them, and it might not occur to them what is happening to and around them. Again, this isn't about intelligence, it is about an insufficient skill set, insufficient insight based on poor experience, and the like.

    The resulting stress, sturm and drang, anger, disappointment, unhappiness, job loss, broken relationships, frustration, sorrow, loneliness, et al produce a good share of what is classified and treated as "mental illness". These people aren't crazy, exactly; they're just not very successful at life. Do drugs help this sort of problem? Sure, they help in as much as many of the drugs used for depression have a tranquilizing effect, and the tranquilization of an antidepressant is possibly (but not invariably) safer than any one of several well mixed cocktails--old fashioned, manhattan, martini, gin and tonic, etc.

    We can add chemical abuse, debt, long and taxing commutes, and a lot of other crap that tends to make people feel, if not act like they are, to use a shorthand term, crazy.
  • Gooseone
    107


    That ties in nicely with how I see things, shame is mainly differing from what most people hold as the norm. (though I would go along in asserting that there can be certain objective norms). If these "norms" are never investigated people might feel shamed unnecessarily, feel that way long enough... unable to articulate ..frustration ...forced to comply anyway ...psychotic episode.

    Though I would not want to negate "real" problems, a lot of problems appear to stem from miscommunications due too a lack of awareness
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    The disagreement here would lie in that "prospering", to me, requires a certain amount of mutual interaction with the social environment, it's the "navigating" put into practice. Though gaining a specific form of feedback from the environment would still be an egoistic ideal, even for the most egoistic ideals to be fulfilled there's still an environment which needs to provide a framework which enables the distinction between other and self, The way in which "I" would see myself prosper depends greatly on the role I would play in my environment.Gooseone
    Certainly I think you are right. We are always being in the world - in an environment. Prospering does have to do with an environment, but it doesn't have to do with what the environment asks from you - or expects you to do. I incline to think that prospering has more to do with being capable to organise the constraints of one's environment in such a way that one is capable of achieving their goals in the given environment. Someone's goals can be contrary to the goals of their environment. But still - the achievement of their goal depends on their skill both at perceiving their environment and perceiving, to use a chess analogy, what moves they need to make in order to reach their goals.

    And I think we see this all the time. Two people with similar or identical goals placed in the same environment. One of them succeeds in reaching their goal, the other doesn't. I think the difference is made by a certain practical skill, which has nothing to do with their intelligence, degrees, or otherwise, a skill at navigating their environment. It could be that the more educated one, the one with more degrees, better resources and so forth fails, and the other succeeds. I think it's less about the cards one has, and more about how they're played to put it differently.

    That is why I would speculate that "mental strength" has to do with this practical skill more than it does with the condition of the body or the mind or the environment. Someone can have a mind which is prone to anxiety, and still not be impaired by it. Someone can be in an unfriendly environment, and still not be stopped by it. Someone can have a broken body and not be stopped by it. And so forth. Take for example this man:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kxSrPD__BA

    This is an excellent example of mental strength - in fact an example of exceptional mental strength. He overcame such great odds, he played such a hard hand so well.

    Good thread btw, I feel psychology is where exact science and philosophy meet and where the functionality comes into play.Gooseone
    Thanks for your kind words, I appreciate!
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Some of us didn't socialize well as children. We didn't fit into "the group". We were outliers. We were deviants in various ways. Because of our outsider status, (not always outside, but outside often enough to be very familiar with the experience) we failed to develop both social knowledge (how society works) and social skills (being able to move smoothly through society.Bitter Crank
    I was like that. I was also very anxious, and have had anxiety since I was a child. But I feel that because of being like that I developed more pragmatic social knowledge and social skills - because I simply don't care what others think. While others are afraid to act, I'm not. That's why I think mental strength and mental illness are very close to each other, and very far from normality. I'm not normal. I've never been, and I know I haven't, nor will I ever be. But take one issue on which I've had, let's say a positive experience, and others would have had negative experiences.

    When I was in high school there was no question about having a girlfriend, because my parents (well my mother really) never allowed it. Nor would they allow me to go out at night or anything of that sort. But I knew this. I knew this since I was much younger. And I was patient. I learned my environment. I analysed what my parents allowed and what they didn't. I learned my school environment. I never gave my parents the impression I was interested in girls. They would never see me around any girl - not even talking. Quite the contrary actually! I never went out at night - never even asked them to let me. And so they grew complacent. I soon started dating a girl. When I would go see her, I'd say I'm going to meet a friend. I never even tried to tell my parents. I used technology to keep up with her. Technology that they could never check because they didn't understand it. All in all, I never took a risk to do this - they never found out because they never could. I did it within the constraints of my environment and I was successful. But there were a lot of ways I could've gone wrong. If I had asked to go out at night, they would have become suspicious. If I would have tried to directly fight against them, I would have lost. And my mother was always at home - there was no day when she wasn't in town. And many did, in similar circumstances, choose a wrong path, and thus had a negative experience instead of a positive one. What made the difference between me and them? We both had environments which were out to get us. Why did I succeed? It was this practical skill - patience, waiting, planning, never hurrying, never taking a risk, always acting when things were certain. But most other people, I noticed from my friends back then, weren't like this. They couldn't wait. They didn't trust their thinking. They were put off by the long-term uncertainty and preferred the greater short-term uncertainty instead. They took bigger short-term risks. And so forth. But to give you the end of the story, alas, not even my wits could beat the evil of globalisation, so when my family moved countries - I couldn't outsmart that, and gone was my girlfriend - gone with the winds >:O
  • csalisbury
    2k
    What does hiding a relationship from your mother have to do with exceptional social skills won thru being an outsider? It sounds more like you had strict, intense parents so you learned how to conceal your actions better than kids with less intense parents who had less to fear
  • Hanover
    5k
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience! You've gone through a lot! Real knowledge doesn't require degrees or books, but just a careful understanding of your own experiences.Agustino

    The problem with this thread is your attempt to impose standards inconsistent with this forum, namely that you're to ignore all prior academic efforts to answer your questions but are instead to just share your experiences and offer your conclusions based upon those experiences. It's by definition anecdotal, and it's not a terribly rigorous way to go about answering any meaningful question.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    STOP SIDING WITH THE QUACKS
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    I'm not normal.Agustino

    I'm not normal either, and abnormal children are all weird in different ways.

    My central problem as a homosexual child is that my sexual interest existed in a vacuum of information. In 1958, 7th grade, living in a very small town, when I began looking for information, there was nothing available. I didn't ask, and looking back, this was a prudent choice, given the time and place. I had nothing to go on but some childhood play experiences with the neighbor boys, and imagination. But I had almost no fodder for even a solid erotic daydream.

    Plus, I was nearly blind. I could read, watch movies, etc., but my vision was very poor, and that ruled out a lot of activities that boys in rural midwest small town did--like work on farms in the summer, drive around in their parents car, play sports, do well in phy ed classes (which was whatever sport was in season), and the like.

    There are biographies of gay men my age (70) who grew up in New York City, for instance, and could become worldly wise, even if they all didn't. There are also a lot of guys like me whose bios tell of growing up in rural North Dakota, Kentucky, Texas, California... If one lacked natural gregarious with which to overcome isolation, one stayed isolated, or one got the hell out of Podunk and hightailed it to the nearest more urban city.

    Homosexuality used to be defined as a mental illness. In one way, that made sense: A lot of homosexual men who reached adulthood before gay liberation hit the fan in 1970 were, in fact, kind of crazy because of their not-surprising maladaptation to being the only gay fish they knew in the heterosexual pond.

    The overwhelming conventionality of small town life was another crazy-making element for young guys who were going to build their adult sex lives in a deviant very urban sub-culture. Yes, the wicked, strange, big city was L-I-B-E-R-A-T-I-N-G, but it was also disconcerting.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    total distrust and scornAgustino

    I agree with a theme in your OP. Mental illness is mostly not a physical disease (except that experience is mediated by the physical structure of the brain, and if the physical structure goes haywire...) Much of what is called "depression" for instance, is just a consequence of the ghastliness of many people's everyday life. They need a better life, not better anti-depressants.

    For most people (let's say 90%) the terms of their life are reasonably compatible with their basic personality. Part of us is given before birth, part of us is shaped in childhood, and a part is shaped later in life. For some people (the remaining 10%) who they are is incompatible with the kind of person which society attempts to shape and which they are expected to be.

    Back in the 60s and 70s the rate of mental illness was calculated at about 10%. Seems reasonable. At sometime in their life, 1 out of 10 will require medical assistance in coping with mental illness. That's a lot, 30 million people in the US, but 290 million won't require medical assistance for mental illness.

    Sometime in the 1980s the estimates started rising and reached 2 in 10; 20% of the population would need medical assistance for mental illness. My guess is that the estimation rose because there was now an at least somewhat effective drug treatment that could be prescribed. The responsibility of people is to buy the products which will fix them. Besides, somebody had to take the place of all those crazy homosexuals who weren't defined as "sick" anymore.

    The homo's replacements were ordinary, miserable heterosexuals who were unhappy enough that they were becoming significantly less productive (always a problem) or they were acting out at work (even more of a problem), or they tried to kill themselves in a way which went beyond a snivelish "cry for help". Some of them shot presidents (Ronald Reagan) in an effort to impress movie actresses. Was John Hinkley insane? Or had he simply happened upon an ill-advised plan to impress the woman he loved (Jodie Foster)? I sort of regretted that part of the plan didn't succeed - I'm sure he and Ms. Foster would have made a fine couple.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    Contrary to how it's worded, mental illness is not first a failing of the mind, but an often unavoidable disease of the brain. Major depression and schizophrenia, say, should be treated just as cancer and heart disease are - as destructive, physically formed blemishes on an already fallen and frail human body. And as someone who has struggled with "mental" illness before, even now as I am writing this, I'm grateful that not everyone I've met is so quick to dismiss me of my problems.

    I will admit to being offended (indeed, even triggered) by those who attempt to project their own experiences as necessarily being the same for everyone else. I try my very best not to do that. It's a dangerous sentiment to have to assume that because you got over what you describe as "X" problem, that everyone else can and should as easily overcome what plagues them. On a personal and familial level, I know how truly catastrophic and debilitating mental illness can be for someone who once was strong, independent, and of a healthy disposition. And I've never felt or thought about anything more painful in my life than the experience of not being able to help someone who needed me.

    But no amount of patience, love, time, or sacrifice can be enough sometimes, either for another, or for yourself. The isolation that the truly mentally ill often feel stems from not being able to empathize with others. Most people think waving some pom-poms will do the trick, or hearing a benediction in a Church, or receiving a hug and a kiss, but until you've stared insanity in the eyes, and seen someone you love fall into shambles and disrepair, and you can't do anything about it, then you'll understand that mental illness can be gravely serious.

    Anyway, I'm not going to argue with anyone what I've said here, because you asked for experience and anecdote over the gobs of research and findings and studies I could have listed here, so you'll just have to think about what I've said and give me your thoughts. I didn't write this response to get winking/laughing faces, only to give another perspective, which seems your only aim.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    Major depression and schizophrenia, say, should be treated just as cancer and heart disease are - as destructive, physically formed blemishes on an already fallen and frail human body.Heister Eggcart

    Allow me to associate myself with your observations. Anyone who has lived with and loved someone who is manic depressive with deep depression and mania which immediately heads off into psychosis, knows, feels, and has suffered the inability to help the afflicted person. Even with heavy duty major tranquilizers (anti-psychotics), it can take days to suppress the screaming and thrashing of a bad mania attack. Thorazine and a padded cell is entirely appropriate for such situations, crude as they seem. Until something better comes along...

    You know that, understand it, and haven't thrown the baby out with the bath water in a fit of total scorn. On the other hand, my depression went away when my life got better.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    The problem with this thread is your attempt to impose standards inconsistent with this forumHanover
    And? ;) Have you looked what part of the forum I placed this thread in? Probably you haven't. So you should.

    I remind you of the rules:

    Context matters:
    The amount of leeway you get on the above depends to a degree on where you post and what the topic under discussion is. You're likely to have more freedom in the Shoutbox or in discussions in the Lounge, for example, than in the philosophical discussions.
    — Baden
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But I've never denied that what you say is true. I believe it myself in fact. I've witnessed a loved one suffer and die because of Alzheimer, which causes your mental condition to degenerate, to become aggressive, etc. Basically it changes the personality and destroys one's memory, especially of the short-term. You can try a lot of things to help in these situations, except that all help is likely to fail.

    If you read my definition:
    Incapacity of non-physical origin (non-genetic, non-inherited, non-aquired from accidents/diseases) which prevents one from successfully navigating and prospering in one's environmentAgustino
    Then you'll see that such a condition doesn't qualify as mental illness. Alzheimer's, for example, would classify as a disease of the brain, as the brain physically changes. It's a physical disease first and foremost.

    but until you've stared insanity in the eyes, and seen someone you love fall into shambles and disrepair, and you can't do anything about it, then you'll understand that mental illness can be gravely serious.Heister Eggcart
    Me and my family have gone through that. I understand that mental illness can be serious.

    Major depression and schizophrenia, say, should be treated just as cancer and heart disease are - as destructive, physically formed blemishes on an already fallen and frail human body.Heister Eggcart
    Not all mental illness occurs in old age though. Consider this for example:
    https://openi.nlm.nih.gov/detailedresult.php?img=PMC3014899_1471-2458-10-745-1&req=4
    Schizophrenia is a disease that regularly and most frequently starts amongst the young, and improves as they age in the intensity of the symptoms. The patients, in other words, learn to manage it better.

    Personally I consider conditions to be worst when they could be helped but aren't. Many of those cases you refer to simply cannot be helped much. But then many of the young who are suffering of all sorts of different mental conditions, many could be helped, but currently aren't helped. I think that's a problem, we should do better for those people, simply because we can do better.

    Overall thanks for sharing your experience, I appreciate it! All perspectives are valuable and offer insights, and the more we have the better a view we can all form of the matters at hand.
  • Gooseone
    107

    I for one would not like to imply that regular medicine / research should be ignored in any way, stuff like anti-scientism and how some views on alternative medicine influence decisions / sentiment badly bugs me.


    But no amount of patience, love, time, or sacrifice can be enough sometimes, either for another, or for yourself. The isolation that the truly mentally ill often feel stems from not being able to empathize with others. Most people think waving some pom-poms will do the trick, or hearing a benediction in a Church, or receiving a hug and a kiss, but until you've stared insanity in the eyes, and seen someone you love fall into shambles and disrepair, and you can't do anything about it, then you'll understand that mental illness can be gravely serious.Heister Eggcart

    Exactly this appears to be an issue, maybe not in modern psychology but in society overall. The sentiment still seems highly behaviouristic; "What makes me happy should make others happy so we'll just advice those who are unhappy to do the things that make me happy". Some autistic children go haywire if they're forced to comply with normal social interaction for too long and they demand a lot of care / attention where it cannot be expected that they can control themselves in a similar manner as regular children i.e: it's morally wrong to hold them fully responsible for their actions. There's a difference in Tommy not liking his dinner and autistic Henry not liking his dinner, we might "force" Tommy to finish his meal properly but that probably wouldn't work out well with Henry.

    Similarly, it's unrealistic to expect society to adapt to a particular individual yet if say, behaviourism (and it's failings), was a concept most were familiar with, there could be some more common knowledge with which more understanding can be generated.

    Also, like how people learn to actually drive their car properly 'after' they get their licence, I would not want to criticise psychiatrist on the whole, far from it. Yet if a psychiatrist leads a good life and is happy and hasn't had much setbacks in life, learns a "trade" and uses a DSM manual in the same way Searle using his operating manual in the Chinese room, there could be a lack of understanding which could be crucial in assessing the actual problem. It could, in cases be beneficial to be able to function as an average benchmark for mental health but if it becomes an absolute benchmark they could be just another social cue which adds to the patient's problems because he / she fails already failed to adhere to such behaviouristic social cue's.

    I wouldn't know how to get psychiatrist more able to really understand, it seems amoral to traumatize them so that have a good understanding of how certain things might feel but actual wisdom seems to be underappreciated. What I'm advocating is that not every mental illness is necessarily a physiological defect. A lot of academic science tends to apply very well in cases where there might be actual physiological defects (where the field is moving forward still ...at speed, and the consensus might not always be, well, justified: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis ) yet it can be hard to distinguish underlying causes which might have similar effects.

    It was almost twenty years ago when I filled in a form with multiple choice questions and that sufficed to get a Prozac like pill, these days family physicians can prescribe them to people without having them see a psychiatrist or psychologist; I find this a bad thing, which is not meant to imply that all these prescriptions are wrong by definition.

    I have a friend with ADD, it was more prominent when he was young yet he took Ritalin far into his twenties. Never was there any medical inquiry if he could potentially phase out his medication. He did so on his own inclinations, while his girlfriend kept nagging because: "he's so busy". They're fine now though.

    My sister is currently undergoing cognitive schema therapy and this seems very beneficial, she's getting more insights into her own workings and is becoming able to see her own sticking points herself instead of an external observer pointing them out for her. It demands a lot of resources though and is not yet common practice for everyone, which is somewhat understandable.

    Though subjective, I feel that even those in the field of psychology would share the opinion that there's much to improve yet that this should not mean that we should negate current functionality. Also, seeing we're talking about psychology,
    It's by definition anecdotal, and it's not a terribly rigorous way to go about answering any meaningful question.Hanover
    the first question you get is probably something along the lines of: "Tell me how 'you' feel".
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    psychiatrists and psychologistsAgustino

    A word on behalf of psychiatry...

    Psychiatrists are, first of all, doctors who get paid through the bossy bureaucracies of insurance companies (at least in the US). How much they get paid per patient, and how much time they can reasonably spend on each patient visit is governed not by their employer, a clinic or a hospital, but by Amalgamated Medicine Corporation, or some such insurance company. The time per patient might be as short as 10 or 12 minutes.

    Some psychiatrists see patients for longer periods of time, (30 minutes per visit), and they can do so because they are in private practice. They may not take Medicare or Medicaid patients though, because Medicare payments are a bit too low.

    Visits to psychiatrists tend to be medication checks. How are you feeling? Do you need a new Rx? See you next month. They literally, and really, don't have time to discuss your life--as much as they might think it appropriate--thanks to Amalgamated Medical.

    General family practices are caught in exactly the same squeeze. Patient time is metered by the minute, and doctors generally don't have a long time to discuss your vague medical problems. They want you to get to the point, show them your throbbing foot, quick diagnosis, Rx, and NEXT!

    Good therapy takes time. An exceptional clinic I received therapy from did long-term counseling lasting for years, if need be, with 50 minute sessions. Patients who were unable to pay received the same treatment as paying customers. How did they pull that off? An endowment and enough paying customers to balance the books. Plus, they were a training program for PhD-level therapists who worked as interns. Were they any good? They were very good.

    So, how do psychiatrists live with themselves? For one, they tend to have a lot of debt and it has to get paid off. They work according to the terms of the workplace. Two, some of them see patients on psychiatric wards, where they can treat first class insanity. Three, psychiatrists are as likely as the next guy to live a life of quiet desperation.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    My definitions of mental disorders and insanity:

    Mental disorders:

    Relatively unusual mental processes that regularly prohibit their bearer from functioning as they desire, in ways that are physically and pragmatically possible, as well as prohibiting pragmatic ways of functioning that most people can achieve with respect to going about day-to-day affairs such as preparing meals or otherwise acquiring food, performing a job if necessary, taking care of whatever errands are necessary for the person in question, interacting with others socially, etc.

    Insanity:

    Relatively unusual mental processes that not only regularly prohibit their bearer from functioning as they desire, in ways that are physically and pragmatically possible, as well as prohibiting pragmatic ways of functioning with respect to going about day-to-day affairs as above, but that also affect the individual's behavior to an extent where they can't manage to take care of themselves to remain healthy and/or out of legal trouble and/or they can't manage to not put other persons' health/well-being at risk.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Thank you very much to everyone who has shared, listened, and responded in this thread. It seems to be a helpful thing. If doctors have approximately 5.2 minutes to listen to us and try to help... well, we can at least listen to each other. Which is a start, a very good start. We travelers from afar gather at this particular tavern seeking nourishment, rest, and company. If we are politely asked to leave our swords of theory at the door, we may still carry our switchblade of thought with which to carve ideas to share at the table.

    Just my two cents worth. Your (s)mileage :) may vary. (L)
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Shame has to do with failing to live up to another's standardscsalisbury
    What do you think about people who fail to live up to their own standards? Don't you think they are also more prone to mental illness? And if the answer is "yes", does this suggest, to you, that one should have and maintain no standards for oneself? Would this offer a better approach to life? Or perhaps someone should do something entirely different, and if so, what would that be?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    What do you think about people who fail to live up to their own standards? Don't you think they are also more prone to mental illness?Agustino

    Everybody screws up, Agustino. It's how you react to failure that signals your mental health.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    So how does one spell out the difference between mental strength as conformism, and mental strength as resistance to a mad society?unenlightened
    Perhaps I wrongly defined my terms, because they don't account for "normal" behaviour - or standard, average, call it what you will behaviour - neither "mental strength" nor "mental illness", but rather a kind of complacent conformism as you'd say. I would intuit that both mental strength and mental illness have to do with non-conformism of one kind or another. Successful non-conformism we label mental strength - non-successful one, mental illness. What makes for successful non-conformism? What is successful non-conformism?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    It's how you react to failure that signals your mental health.Mongrel
    That's the kind of generality that I don't think can quite help someone in practice. The problem is precisely that some people have a certain reaction, and others have a different reaction to the same issue. Why? Given person X today, he cannot alter his reaction that he will have 10 minutes later when he finds out Y. So he's fucked. If he's ready - if his worldview, self-conception and position are such that he will have a positive reaction to Y, he will achieve mental strength. If he's not ready - and his worldview, self-conception etc. aren't such that he will tackle the situation positively, then he will be likely to suffer of mental illness. So what then are the essential elements of worldview and self-conception, according to you, that enable a positive reaction to failure? Given more time than 10 minutes, person X could use that information to alter his sense of self - or perceive why such an alteration would be beneficial to him.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    social skills won thru being an outsidercsalisbury

    you learned how to conceal your actions better thancsalisbury

    Isn't "learning how to conceal my actions better than" a social skill? Concealing can only be undertaken in a society, and when it is undertaken successfully, that sounds to me like a social skill. And how else can it be learned, except by having to be an outsider and being forced to learn it? The kid who grew up in a rosy environment won't have it. It's never been demanded of him. He's at a disadvantage. If a dictator comes to power, and for whatever reason hates his race, family, religion, etc. and orders all like him killed - then he's likely to die, while someone like me, even though I'm also the target, I'm more likely to survive, because I have a skill he doesn't. My lack of fortune, was actually my greatest fortune. You can say he's living a better life than me, and he's happier than me CURRENTLY. But wait until the shit hits the fan, and then we'll see. And it's inevitable - in this world, ultimately, the shit always hits the fan. That's why you should rigurously train yourself, physically and mentally, to be capable to go through whatever life can throw at you. I have a feeling that by their acceptance of the "rosy childhood is good" theory, psychologists are actually leading to mental weakness, which any day could turn in mental illness. We need a theory which prepares people to face the harshness of life as it is. And life is harsh - Schopenhauer was right, it's like a slaughterhouse, and we're all waiting our time. So to help people, we have to help them become strong, first and foremost, before anything else - psychologically strong.

    I'm with Nicholas Taleb from Anti-Fragile. A stressed organism who responds well to stress is more capable than an unstressed organism to respond to difficult situations.
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