Is mental illness a useful idea?

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Cirion Spellbinder
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Is mental illness a useful idea?

Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Mon Jun 25, 2018 4:33 am

I understand the definition of mental illness to be as follows:
American Psychiatric Organization wrote:Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.
The issue I have with this definition is that it seems easy to posit many unrecognized or recently disrecognized mental illnesses because the mental phenomena that may cause stress or social, work, or family disfunction are subjectively determined by one’s friends, coworkers, and families personalities and thoughts. For example, we could conclude that atheism is a mental illness because it is a change in thinking which, in some parts of the world, can lead to social ostracism, work discrimination, and family conflict. Similarly, it isn’t unfair to say that homosexuality is a mental illness because it too reflects a certain mental (and emotional) case which leads to unfair social, workplace, and family conduct. It seems possible to describe any idea or personality trait as a mental illness because it can lead to all four of those conditions in certain circumstances.

One might argue that this is needlessly pedantic and that a mental illness is only a mental illness when it causes these problems in a majority of cases. The issue is that one must still admit that homosexuality and atheism were or are mental illnesses at certain times or in certain places. If one could eliminate the social stress, workplace difficulties, and family struggles of autism whiteout eliminating autism, would it no longer be a mental illness?

Tell me what you think.

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Post by AlexanderVeganTheist » Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:03 am

In authoritarian states political dissent is often classified as a mental illness. So you are absolutely right that using this definition, based on social factors, leads to a level of arbitrariness. Another danger we see in the mental health profession is the danger of reification, i.e. treating a mental illness as if it is a thing, a singular thing that causes all the changes in behavior, rather than a complex system of causes and effects that influence one another constantly. E.g. a behavioral pattern consisting of an initial insomnia, leading to a vicious cycle of tiredness and a flattened emotional state, leading to less physical activity during the day, and a withdrawn social life, causing sadness, perpetuating the trouble sleeping, may be classified as something on the depression spectrum, where the "depression" is purported to be the cause of all these effects, whereas the initial trigger for the insomnia may have just been something completely different happening in the persons life. Many people in certain parts of the mental health care industry, would be all too eager to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs in such a case, with all the downsides that come with it, like making it much harder to find the original cause. That would be my number one problem I have experienced in my involvement as a patient in mental health care: their symptom-treatment approach, rather than a more holistic view of a persons life, and having a wholesale investigation of the deeper lying actual causes of the problems. It's very saddening to me, because it feels like people are basically being discarded and their problems reduced to the symptoms.

To draw a distinction and classify some behaviors as signifying illness, while other ones, will be arbitrary. For example if a person feels superior to others, that is tolerated in society usually, to an extent. If it becomes too extreme and obvious, such a person may be labeled a clinical narcissist. While from an accurate point of view (Gods point of view, we might say), it's the same sin/problem, just to a lesser extent. It's just that certain problems/sins are tolerated, until the level of tolerance is reached, when it will be classified and labeled as an illness. This degree is socially determined and will differ from society to society and country to country. I think to think the categorization that follows crossing this delineation is referring to something 'real', is a huge mistake, since all human behaviors are on a spectrum. So it would be much more useful to think of all behaviors as on a spectrum regarding morality.

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Post by EquALLity » Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:47 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 4:33 am
I understand the definition of mental illness to be as follows:
American Psychiatric Organization wrote:Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.
The issue I have with this definition is that it seems easy to posit many unrecognized or recently disrecognized mental illnesses because the mental phenomena that may cause stress or social, work, or family disfunction are subjectively determined by one’s friends, coworkers, and families personalities and thoughts. For example, we could conclude that atheism is a mental illness because it is a change in thinking which, in some parts of the world, can lead to social ostracism, work discrimination, and family conflict. Similarly, it isn’t unfair to say that homosexuality is a mental illness because it too reflects a certain mental (and emotional) case which leads to unfair social, workplace, and family conduct. It seems possible to describe any idea or personality trait as a mental illness because it can lead to all four of those conditions in certain circumstances.
Are you saying the friends and family are the ones who decide whether or not the subject's mental condition is causing distress? If so, it just states that they are associated with distress. The definition could mean that the psychiatrist and subject determine if this is the case. The definition is vague, but I think that's necessary due to the nature of mental illness.
One might argue that this is needlessly pedantic and that a mental illness is only a mental illness when it causes these problems in a majority of cases. The issue is that one must still admit that homosexuality and atheism were or are mental illnesses at certain times or in certain places. If one could eliminate the social stress, workplace difficulties, and family struggles of autism whiteout eliminating autism, would it no longer be a mental illness?
I think that rather than being pedantic, the definition is vague. It says that mental illnesses involve changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior, not that all changes in these things constitute mental illnesses. Additionally, it says mental illnesses are associated with distress and functional problems, not that all cases of distress and functional problems cause mental illness. As a result, the definition doesn't give a definite explanation of mental illness. I think this is because mental illness is very difficult to define, because it's not quantifiable. You can only quantify the consequences of mental illness, which don't always necessarily mean a person is mentally ill.

So, unfortunately, I don't think it's possible to define mental illness precisely, but this doesn't mean the concept of mental illness isn't useful. It's important to understand mental illness exists so we can help people who have mental illness.
"I am not a Marxist." -Karl Marx

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:58 pm

EquALLity wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:47 pm
The definition could mean that the psychiatrist and subject determine if this is the case. The definition is vague, but I think that's necessary due to the nature of mental illness.
Sometimes this is possible for the person suffering from the illness to do, too, during periods of lucidity.

It's almost a catch 22, though; in order to know you're mentally ill, you need perspective from another state to determine that.
That's where depression has benefits over other mental illnesses, because you can remember feeling better, you know you don't like things you used to like, and symptoms can wax and wane so you can get a sense of how it works. Delusions are much more difficult to see for those suffering from them.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:31 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 4:33 am
The issue I have with this definition is that it seems easy to posit many unrecognized or recently disrecognized mental illnesses because the mental phenomena that may cause stress or social, work, or family disfunction are subjectively determined by one’s friends, coworkers, and families personalities and thoughts.
What does this mean? Health conditions aren’t deemed mental illnesses because of the subjective opinions of friends and families. They’re deemed illnesses because psychiatrists feel that they are the cause of the subject’s woes, and probably cannot be solved without medical or therapeutic intervention. I agree that the term is very loosely defined, but psychiatrists can probably distinguish those struggling with depression (major depressive order) from those stricken with grief/sadness based on neurological activity and ability to overcome it without medical intervention. That’s why psychiatrists don’t consider grief-stricken people to be suffering from mental illnesses. Although grief can negatively impact everyday functions (diet, communication, sleep pattern etc.) and even motor skills, grief is often a natural and predictable process and usually goes away on its own. After which, the person can resume life as before. Depression on the other hand may never go away, without treatment.

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 4:33 am
One might argue that this is needlessly pedantic and that a mental illness is only a mental illness when it causes these problems in a majority of cases.
For laypeople, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Defining certain conditions as a “mental illnesses” is useful for psychiatrists, who must study them and work to create treatments that improve people’s living standards.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 4:33 am
The issue is that one must still admit that homosexuality and atheism were or are mental illnesses at certain times or in certain places. If one could eliminate the social stress, workplace difficulties, and family struggles of autism whiteout eliminating autism, would it no longer be a mental illness?

This could be true given its rather vague definition, but psychiatrists overwhelmingly agree that homosexuality is a “natural” sexual orientation, and that “treatment” attempting to convert the subject’s orientation generally leads to a decline in mental health and result in depression, anxiety, or even suicidality. This isn't the case for illness like depression, where 80 to 90% of people respond well to treatment (medication psychotherapy, ECT). https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-fam ... depression For these reasons, it wouldn’t be useful to list either of these as mental illnesses.

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm

Lay Vegan wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:31 pm
Health conditions aren’t deemed mental illnesses because of the subjective opinions of friends and families. They’re deemed illnesses because psychiatrists feel that they are the cause of the subject’s woes, and probably cannot be solved without medical or therapeutic intervention.
If we add the idea that mental illnesses can only be solved by medical or therapeutic intervention, then I must concede that mental illness does make sense, but as far as I am aware, that distinction is not explicitly or universally made. Health conditions deemed mental illness are deemed so because of the subjective opinions of friends and families because a subject's woes are determined by them. If those around a subject acted in such a way that met all of his or her needs, only the subject's chemical imbalance would be uncured. I do not oppose modern psychiatry, but I also do not think that woes are caused by something wholly internal.
Lay Vegan wrote:Although grief can negatively impact everyday functions (diet, communication, sleep pattern etc.) and even motor skills, grief is often a natural and predictable process and usually goes away on its own. After which, the person can resume life as before. Depression on the other hand may never go away, without treatment.
If the grief does not go away, they will simply call it depression. It can only be labeled mere grief after the fact.
Lay Vegan wrote:For laypeople, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Defining certain conditions as a “mental illnesses” is useful for psychiatrists, who must study them and work to create treatments that improve people’s living standards.
But for how long will psychiatrists have to cut corners and use weak definitions? Epicycles were once useful for astronomists, but it was a good thing to replace them.
Lay Vegan wrote:This could be true given its rather vague definition, but psychiatrists overwhelmingly agree that homosexuality is a “natural” sexual orientation, and that “treatment” attempting to convert the subject’s orientation generally leads to a decline in mental health and result in depression, anxiety, or even suicidality. This isn't the case for illness like depression, where 80 to 90% of people respond well to treatment (medication psychotherapy, ECT). https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-fam ... depression For these reasons, it wouldn’t be useful to list either of these as mental illnesses.
The issue is that this is an ad hoc response to social change in the west. Mental illness are all "natural" and even if "treatment" is ineffective, that does not mean it is impossible or explain why mental illnesses must be treatable when they are never defined to necessarily be. That is not say that I think this deselection of homosexuality as a mental illness is further from the truth, just that we need a better notion of mental illness to properly remove it from the list.

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:12 pm

EquALLity wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:47 pm
Are you saying the friends and family are the ones who decide whether or not the subject's mental condition is causing distress?
No, I am saying that the subjective whims of friends and family are what cause the subject distress and perhaps their mental condition.
EquALLity wrote:I think that rather than being pedantic, the definition is vague. It says that mental illnesses involve changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior, not that all changes in these things constitute mental illnesses.
Right, only if they cause disfunction in social, work, and family spheres, which homosexuality has and often continues to.
EquALLity wrote:Additionally, it says mental illnesses are associated with distress and functional problems, not that all cases of distress and functional problems cause mental illness.
But if the distress and functional problems are caused by something mental or behavioral, then they are. Being black is not a mental illness because even though it can cause problems in the three spheres, it is not a mental or behavioral phenomenon.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:10 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm
If we add the idea that mental illnesses can only be solved by medical or therapeutic intervention, then I must concede that mental illness does make sense, but as far as I am aware, that distinction is not explicitly or universally made.
I admit that my definition is a bit ad hoc. I wouldn’t dare speak for psychiatrists and other mental health experts, but I specified the need for medical/psychotherapeutic intervention because it makes defining certain conditions as illnesses useful. The entire field of psychiatry is functioned around the prevention and treatment of illnesses that inflict tremendous stress the subject, and won’t otherwise go away. Psychiatrists name them, study them, and help facilitate those who struggle to overcome them. As you mentioned, lots of conditions, like atheism, homosexuality etc. can be defined as mental illnesses under a more vague definition. But defining them as such isn’t useful, since medical “treatment” near always leads to a further decline in mental health. http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/ju ... facts.aspx
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm
I do not oppose modern psychiatry, but I also do not think that woes are caused by something wholly internal.
Perhaps all of those schizophrenics are actually being possessed by the devil :roll:
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm
Health conditions deemed mental illness are deemed so because of the subjective opinions of friends and families because a subject's woes are determined by them.
True, but they can also be determined by the subject him/herself. Those struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be fully aware of their own woes when *not* being stricken with irregular bouts of panic attacks, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. In other words, there are points of reference in which you can remember what it’s like not to experience those woes.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm
If the grief does not go away, they will simply call it depression. It can only be labeled mere grief after the fact.
I don’t think this the only criterion on which a psychiatrist would diagnose a patient with depression. But that’s probably in indicator. Also, certain combinations of genes can predispose people to particular illnesses. http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html
If depression has been known to run in the family, this could be a useful indicator for psychiatrists beforehand.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm
The issue is that this is an ad hoc response to social change in the west. Mental illness are all "natural" and even if "treatment" is ineffective, that does not mean it is impossible or explain why mental illnesses must be treatable when they are never defined to necessarily be.
There’s a difference between an ineffective treatment and an unnecessary harmful treatment. Homosexuality, unlike depression or GAD can be dealt with without the use of medicine or “conversion” therapy. What’s more, homosexuals who never undergo these “treatments” actually live happier lives. If a mental “illness” does not need to be treated, then there’s no use in calling it an illness. What's the saying? If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:59 pm
That is not say that I think this deselection of homosexuality as a mental illness is further from the truth, just that we need a better notion of mental illness to properly remove it from the list.
Agreed there.

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:59 am

Lay Vegan wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:10 pm
Perhaps all of those schizophrenics are actually being possessed by the devil :roll:
More like, given the current definition of mental illness, schizophrenia would not be a mental illnesses if a subject's friends and family acted in such a way that it didn't cause them any woes.
Lay Vegan wrote:True, but they can also be determined by the subject him/herself. Those struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be fully aware of their own woes when *not* being stricken with irregular bouts of panic attacks, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. In other words, there are points of reference in which you can remember what it’s like not to experience those woes.
That's very true, but not really part of the current definition. If there was some unifying principle of the symptoms of mental illnesses, we would have our hands on a better definition (which is not to say I don't think there is).
Lay Vegan wrote:I don’t think this the only criterion on which a psychiatrist would diagnose a patient with depression. But that’s probably in indicator. Also, certain combinations of genes can predispose people to particular illnesses. http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html
If depression has been known to run in the family, this could be a useful indicator for psychiatrists beforehand.
Agreed, all of which information could be useful to a new definition.
Lay Vegan wrote:There’s a difference between an ineffective treatment and an unnecessary harmful treatment. Homosexuality, unlike depression or GAD can be dealt with without the use of medicine or “conversion” therapy. What’s more, homosexuals who never undergo these “treatments” actually live happier lives. If a mental “illness” does not need to be treated, then there’s no use in calling it an illness. What's the saying? If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
True, but isn't it also possible to imagine a set of circumstances which would make someone with a major depressive disorder not ever need treatment?

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Post by Jebus » Wed Jun 27, 2018 5:11 pm

Anyone recall the Rosenhan study?
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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