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Offlinethe_phoenix
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The Myth of Mental Illness
    #4118897 - 05/01/05 04:00 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

This is an essay I wrote for school. Thought people here might find it interesting.

The Myth of Mental Illness

Mental illness has existed since the dawn of humanity, but has since been perceived and understood in various ways. This essay will examine the contemporary definition of mental illness and how the definition is shaped more by the contemporary society that creates it rather than by real experience and understanding of the state itself. Unavoidably, this examination of a largely misunderstood subject leads to an investigation of the societal and philosophical influences causing the misunderstanding. Indeed, since the subject of mental health and illness is inextricably and directly related to the nature of reality, the nature of mental illness must be considered not in isolation but in conjunction with the nature of reality.

Contemporary understanding of mental illness is exemplified by the first two results obtained from a quick search of its definitions on www.dictionary.com. The first definition comes from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, and the second from The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary:

"Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma. Also called emotional illness, mental disease, mental disorder."

"Any of various disorders characterized chiefly by abnormal behavior or an inability to function socially, including diseases of the mind and personality and certain diseases of the brain. Also called mental disease, mental disorder."

These definitions of mental illness are very revealing. The first definition explains mental illness through contrast with ?normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning?, and the second labels it as ?abnormal behaviour?. Of primary relevance to both definitions, therefore, is what supposedly normal behaviour is considered to be. Society?s understanding of mental illness, in other words, is contingent on its understanding of mental health, of sanity.

Schizophrenia is a prominent and widely misunderstood type of mental illness. Again, its definitions in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary are revealing:

?1. Any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances. Schizophrenia is associated with dopamine imbalances in the brain and defects of the frontal lobe and is caused by genetic, other biological, and psychosocial factors.
2. A situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities: the national schizophrenia that results from carrying out an unpopular war.?

?Any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances. Schizophrenia is often associated with dopamine imbalances in the brain and defects of the frontal lobe and may have an underlying genetic cause.?

Thirdly, the Merriam-Webster?s Medical Dictionary defines it as follows:
?a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as in hallucinations and delusions), and conduct called also dementia praecox?

If schizophrenia is withdrawal from reality, then what constitutes reality? What constitutes logical patterns of thinking as opposed to illogical ones, and what constitutes beliefs that are firmly rooted in truth as opposed to delusion? And with regards to the third definition, what is meant by ?everyday life?? Again, the understanding of schizophrenia accepted in mainstream society is defined by mainstream society?s understanding of what schizophrenia isn?t and of what ?everyday life? is.

Essential to the proper understanding of mental illness, the question is therefore what society?s definition of normal living and normal mental health is. More to the point, what is the nature of society, what is the context within which sanity is defined? Society, after all, is not something natural but something arbitrary and human-made, whereas the workings of one?s mind are fundamentally natural as the end result of natural evolution. In other words, it appears at first glance that a natural function is being defined through contrast with and under a framework of human sociological convention.

What is meant by ?society? is society and its metaphysical context?its stereotypical conceptions and beliefs of reality that have such a great influence over the daily actions of most people. These stereotypes result from human civilization, because as environment changes from natural to artificial, one?s mode of thinking and living must obviously also shift from something natural to something conventional that fits with the environment civilization sets.

Therefore, society?s mainstream understanding is conventional in nature, as is the aspect of the human psyche that society acknowledges and reinforces, namely the ego. The ego reinforced by society and one?s normal natural mode of thinking may therefore constitute ?the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities? that defines schizophrenia. To put things in perspective, consider this citation:

?An anguished Ted Sloan asks (1996), ?What is the problem with modernity? Why do modern societies have such a hard time producing adults capable of intimacy, work, enjoyment, and ethical living? Why is it that signs of damaged life are so prevalent?? According to David Morris (l994), ?Chronic pain and depression, often linked and occasionally even regarded as a single disorder, constitute an immense crisis at the center of postmodern life.? We have cyberspace and virtual reality, instant computerized communication in the global village; and yet have we ever felt so impoverished and isolated??

The ego is symbolic in that it is an individual perspective through which reality is understood, and the world model it projects is reflective of true reality. Many people live entirely in this world model and don?t stop to question if and ensure that it is accurately reflective of how reality truly is. The conception of everyday life that society promotes is widely accepted belligerently, yet it is highly discordant with true reality and subsequently leads to feelings of impoverishment and isolation.

The average citizen in contemporary society lives a life externally founded on symbolism and internally on the ego. They observe fictitious people on television, in film, and in literature lead adventurous lives, compete, indulge in their possessions and extravagances, and pursue selfish and egotistical desires. Then these events are main topics of conversation in the real world, a world where most people act the same way people do on television. In other words, society promotes a symbolic experience of life in which people timidly watch and discuss from a safe distance how others live rich and adventurous lives.

But if the media portrays reality and everyone considers and lives only this portrayal, then nobody is left living true reality. Symbolism has replaced reality and has deviated from what reality once was. These days people are constantly busy with their respective routines necessitated by sociological institutions such as work. People spend their lives working to maintain a lifestyle that reveres the symbol of a reality long-lost. As contrast to lives that are work-based, free time is labelled leisure time during which egocentric desires can be pursued, as is done on television. Society?s portrayal of reality promotes false values that people spend their whole life working for, and to realize the hollowness of these pursuits is not easy, for it is to acknowledge the pointlessness of a lifetime of misguided labour.

Philosopher Terence McKenna offers a succinct explanation as to the relation between ego and society: "Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member of a neurotic culture [society] against the facts of the matter. And culture, which we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviours are acceptable." The ?facts of the matter? society suppresses regard how society is founded on a lie, on symbolism that entirely misses the point of life. The extent to which thought and emotion are tied to this symbolism is the measure by which emptiness fills one?s soul and external reality, shaped to accommodate society?s misguided desires, is perverted and destroyed.

In this light, the true nature of mental illness becomes more apparent. Some people more than others possess naturally open minds and can see through the stereotypes of society to the grim reality of the matter. They possess deep understandings of the true nature of reality (to some extent) on one hand, while on the other hand their egos are constantly reinforced by society and their understandings are labelled as delusional. The ego in its contemporary societal state is not natural, and people born into a society that worships it are often mislabelled as mentally ill when they insist on thinking freely for themselves.

Put otherwise, people labelled as mentally ill may, quite the opposite, possess a greater sense of awareness than most people, one in touch with the true discordant state of affairs. However, having never been exposed to the perspective this essay and many counter-culture currents promote, they misunderstand their own predicament and believe, as society tells them, that they are insane. Perhaps they are not sane by society?s distorted standards, but the negative connotation society attaches to their ?insanity? is entirely mistaken. The normal, ?everyday? behaviour society uses to define mental illness through contrast amounts to belligerently following the standards, routines, and boundaries society sets. Philosopher Celia Green considers this complex dilemma in an even larger context:

"Sanity may be described as the conscientious denial of reality. That is to say, the facts of the situation (apart from a few which are judged to be harmless) have no emotional impact to a sane mind.

For example, it is a salient feature of our position that we are in a state of total uncertainty. Possibly the universe started with a ?big bang? a few aeons ago, or perhaps something even more incredible happened. In any case, there is no reason known to us why everything should not stop existing at any moment. I realize that to my sane readers I shall appear to be making an empty academic point. That is precisely what is so remarkable about sanity.

The sane person prides himself on his ability to be unaffected by important facts, and interested in unimportant ones. He refers to this as having a sense of perspective, or keeping things 'in proportion'."

The speculations schizophrenics spout as to the true nature of reality are not delusions so much as speculations distorted by misunderstanding of their own mental condition. The direction of their inquiries as to the realness of reality is valid, and points to deeper philosophical questions that should concern everybody. Themselves deemed crazy by the societal stereotypes in place, their strange beliefs often take on an air of craziness for they believe they themselves are crazy.

What, then, is the true nature of reality, and how did society arrive at the state it is presently in? Originally humans didn't have egos and were one with nature. They lived fully in the Now#, and when they saw a tree they saw God. They didn't see a divine spirit within the tree because they made no distinction. The emergence of the ego was the first step back from reality, the first flicker of consciousness that denies the current reality, that isn't willing to buy it all up front and openly accept it without investigation. So reality is put on pause, it's frozen in time, and the first detached observer is created.

It's concluded that what's divine isn't the tree itself but something symbolic of it. That makes sense, since only a suspended animation of the tree was examined, not the actual living thing. To worship this symbol as the tree is relatively accurate in that the symbol points back to the tree, to the source; but the divine spirit within the tree is not the tree.

Symbolism arose as a recognition of the divine. As humanity progressed, the tree's spirit became farther and farther removed from the actual tree. It evolved with other similar symbols into the concept of nature, and in turn nature and all other symbols have been assimilated into the contemporary conception of an all-encompassing God. The problem is, this infinite entity is completely separate from reality, the original source of divinity.

The metaphysical realm of concepts is indeed separate from reality. It's a way to understand more than the five senses can register in the physically limited Now, and it is a creation of the ego, the first observer. When conceptual understanding is applied back to the Now, back to reality, then the divine can be understood better than ever. It's just a matter of finding a conceptual framework that fits, of building an accurate world model. This is the spiritual journey, allowing beliefs to be tested against experience of the Now and adjusted accordingly.

The ego can be observed by living in the Now and associating with the non-egocentric self. This self is the real "you", the natural and innate self that used to live directly in the now like an animal. But with the creation of the ego it became an observer. The self and the ego observe one another and the world around them, and the primary observer is whichever has the most awareness focused on it. If a person focuses exclusively on one, then they only ever see through its perspective. Some people focus greatly on the self and are considered "level headed" and firmly rooted in the present moment. Others focus more on the ego and may seem "spacey". Too much focus on the self leads to thoughtlessness and "dumbness", whereas too much focus on the ego leads to delusion.

Focused in the Now, the ego and all a person's beliefs are understood internally if they do not contradict the present experience of the Now. Misalignments will inevitably surface in the Now for if they cannot reside internally then they must somehow manifest. A person's perspective of the Now is therefore always influenced by their misconceptions, as everything they perceive and create/do relates back to what they need learn. These influences lead to a biased perspective and ultimately delusion if repressed, or personal growth if accepted and learnt from.

People diagnosed as mentally ill?and, accepting their diagnosis, defining themselves only by their egos?often confuse the source of such influences as something originating not from deep within their psyche beyond the ego, but from an unknown and potentially threatening external source. Such influences are meant to be internalized and followed back to their roots so that their lesson can be learnt and personal growth achieved, producing valuable insights and realizations. Yet they aren't deeply internalized if thought to originate externally and as insights in-and-of themselves they are distorted and incomplete, thus explaining the distorted nature of strange beliefs mentally ill patients often carry.

Mental illness, as it is defined by society, is thus actually a product of society?s symbolic superficiality and its attempts to conceal this fact. The harm misconception of this point inflicts upon many gifted ?schizophrenic? individuals today is great, and only worsened by the mind-numbing anti-psychotics society prescribes to them. No better are society?s emotion-suppressing antidepressants prescribed to those who are conscious of the sad state of civilization enough to feel very depressed about it. From my personal spiritual perspective, mental illness is spiritual crisis and must be regarded as such to be overcome. Perhaps once the nature of mental illness is better understood, then positive change of society as a whole will ensue.

Works Cited
Green, Celia. The Human Evasion. The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension. 22 April 2005 <http://deoxy.org/evasion/toc.htm>.
Guevara, NietzsChe. Seduced by the Image of Reality. The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension. 22 April 2005 <http://deoxy.org/ct/reality.htm>.
Hoffman, Michael. Ego Death and Self-Control Cybernetics. 1985-2005. 20 April 2005 <http://www.egodeath.com/>.
Metzner, Ralph. The Reunification of the Sacred and the Natural. Eleusis. August 1997: Ed. Giorgio Samorini, Green Earth Foundation Inc.
Zerzan, John. Running on Emptiness - the failure of symbolic thought. The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension. 28 March 2005 <http://deoxy.org/failure.htm>.


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InvisiblePsychoactive1984
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: the_phoenix]
    #4119497 - 05/01/05 06:40 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

:handth: :thumbup:


--------------------
"Their is one overriding question that concerns us all: How can we get out of the fatal groove we are in, the one that is leading towards the brink?" Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
"We may not be capable of eradicating the corruption of reason, but we must nevertheless counter it at every instance and with every means." Dan Agin
"Politics is the best religion and politicians are the worst followers."
-It's ok to trip as long as you don't fall.
-Substance over Style.
-Common sense is uncommon.


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InvisibleLysergium
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness *DELETED* [Re: Psychoactive1984]
    #4119915 - 05/01/05 08:08 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Post deleted by Lysergium

Reason for deletion: ...



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Offlinethe_phoenix
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Lysergium]
    #4119994 - 05/01/05 08:18 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Fascinating site.


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InvisibleLe_Canard
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: the_phoenix]
    #4120298 - 05/01/05 08:53 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Hm...I dunno. Imagining that someone is trying to kill you (and really believing it) doesn't seem to me to be a spiritual crisis. I talk from experience here....


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InvisibleIcelander
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: the_phoenix]
    #4120808 - 05/01/05 10:23 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I came to many of these conclusions myself a few years ago. Thanks for sharing this. :thumbup: :heart:


--------------------
"Don't believe everything you think". -Anom.

" All that lives was born to die"-Anom.

With much wisdom comes much sorrow,
The more knowledge, the more grief.
Ecclesiastes circa 350 BC


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InvisiblePsychoactive1984
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Le_Canard]
    #4121260 - 05/02/05 12:22 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

It's not always the case... I'll agree to that, more often then not though, it's just a doctor tossing a solution in the form of a pill that doesn't even work.


--------------------
"Their is one overriding question that concerns us all: How can we get out of the fatal groove we are in, the one that is leading towards the brink?" Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
"We may not be capable of eradicating the corruption of reason, but we must nevertheless counter it at every instance and with every means." Dan Agin
"Politics is the best religion and politicians are the worst followers."
-It's ok to trip as long as you don't fall.
-Substance over Style.
-Common sense is uncommon.


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InvisibleLe_Canard
Danger Man

Registered: 05/17/03
Posts: 93,269
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Psychoactive1984]
    #4121282 - 05/02/05 12:34 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Could be, I suppose. In my case, the pills really help, though. But I do agree that some docs tend to overmedicate....


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Offlinethe_phoenix
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Le_Canard]
    #4121318 - 05/02/05 12:46 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

A complete break from the system is necessary. Embodying the system to parody it to the extreme is noble, but then you despise what you become. Bob is quite the generic name. Your sig is revealing, break away from the system.


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InvisibleLe_Canard
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: the_phoenix]
    #4121338 - 05/02/05 12:53 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Funny you should mention that. I just changed it because I was bored with the old one. But really, you need to learn more about "Bob" and break with the system FOREVER! :eek:


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InvisiblePsychoactive1984
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Le_Canard]
    #4121407 - 05/02/05 01:09 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Eris pwns Bob... :shrug:


--------------------
"Their is one overriding question that concerns us all: How can we get out of the fatal groove we are in, the one that is leading towards the brink?" Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
"We may not be capable of eradicating the corruption of reason, but we must nevertheless counter it at every instance and with every means." Dan Agin
"Politics is the best religion and politicians are the worst followers."
-It's ok to trip as long as you don't fall.
-Substance over Style.
-Common sense is uncommon.


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InvisibleTHE KRAT BARON
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: the_phoenix]
    #4121434 - 05/02/05 01:19 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Very well written man. I am going to take a better look at this tomorrow when I am more awake. Some of the things you said are very well thought out and I like some of your ideas.


--------------------
m00nshine is currently vacationing in Maui. Rumor has it he got rolled by drunken natives and is currently prostituting himself in order to pay for airfare back to the mainland but he's having trouble juggling a hairon addiction. He won't be back for a long while.


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InvisibleLe_Canard
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Psychoactive1984]
    #4121474 - 05/02/05 01:32 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Eris is cool, but "Bob" = k3y....


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InvisiblePsychoactive1984
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Le_Canard]
    #4121535 - 05/02/05 01:49 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

pffft!

Bob is to organized for my liking.


--------------------
"Their is one overriding question that concerns us all: How can we get out of the fatal groove we are in, the one that is leading towards the brink?" Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
"We may not be capable of eradicating the corruption of reason, but we must nevertheless counter it at every instance and with every means." Dan Agin
"Politics is the best religion and politicians are the worst followers."
-It's ok to trip as long as you don't fall.
-Substance over Style.
-Common sense is uncommon.


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OfflineBloodNOil
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Psychoactive1984]
    #4121653 - 05/02/05 02:25 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Bob just looks so cool.


--------------------
It's like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain!


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InvisiblePsychoactive1984
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Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: BloodNOil]
    #4121691 - 05/02/05 02:34 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

:shrug: I concede on looks.


--------------------
"Their is one overriding question that concerns us all: How can we get out of the fatal groove we are in, the one that is leading towards the brink?" Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
"We may not be capable of eradicating the corruption of reason, but we must nevertheless counter it at every instance and with every means." Dan Agin
"Politics is the best religion and politicians are the worst followers."
-It's ok to trip as long as you don't fall.
-Substance over Style.
-Common sense is uncommon.


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Offlinetomk
King of OTD

Registered: 09/22/04
Posts: 1,559
Loc: PNW
Last seen: 9 months, 6 days
Re: The Myth of Mental Illness [Re: Psychoactive1984]
    #4123355 - 05/02/05 02:43 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

It is true that mental illness is used to enforce consensus reality.

But why the hell would you cite terrence mckenna? Remember, the guy is batshit crazy himself, first of all, and second of all, no one takes him seriously outside of the shroomery. There are lots of psychologists who have written on this better then McKenna, one of them even wrote a book called the myth of mental illness.


--------------------
"I am eternally free"


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Offlinegnrm23
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Last seen: 2 months, 28 days
lifted title from t szasz? [Re: tomk]
    #4127787 - 05/03/05 02:58 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)



--------------------
old enough to know better
not old enough to care


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Offlinetomk
King of OTD

Registered: 09/22/04
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Re: lifted title from t szasz? [Re: gnrm23]
    #4128112 - 05/03/05 04:27 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Yeah, I couldn't remember that guys name, thanks!


--------------------
"I am eternally free"


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Invisiblebadchad
Mad Scientist

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 11,738
Re: lifted title from t szasz? [Re: tomk]
    #4128752 - 05/03/05 07:00 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I'd probably be better able to respond if I had the Cliff notes, but thwta the heck, I'l bite anyways.

It would seem from what I read of these essays, that our inability to label someone as having a "mental illness" is only limited by the absence of objective criteria. For instance, if mentally ill people were conclusivly found to contain abnormal levels of neurotransmitter X, or protein Y the would a diagnosis of "mental illness" be acceptable?

I find the argument that mental illness simply does not exist to be somewhat weak. How then, does one explain extremely abnormal behaviors? What about the person who hears voices? or an individual who (as one article used) thinks he/she is Napolean? I think most would agree that these behaviors are clearly abnormal.

The obvious counter-argument is that "society is subjectively defined" and "who is to say what is reality and what isn't". However, by this same logic I should be able to run around killing people saying the voices told me to do it. If someone says I'm crazy I'll let them know that THEY are the crazy ones, and that they'll soon be in trouble if they don't listen to the voices and begin killing too.

As I said before, i think there are cases where a persons behaviors and thoughts are clearly not normal. Thus, I think the major debate is the labeling of what constitutes a "mental illness".


--------------------
...the whole experience is (and is as) a profound piece of knowledge.  It is an indellible experience; it is forever known.  I have known myself in a way I doubt I would have ever occurred except as it did.

Smith, P.  Bull. Menninger Clinic (1959) 23:20-27; p. 27.

...most subjects find the experience valuable, some find it frightening, and many say that is it uniquely lovely.

Osmond, H.  Annals, NY Acad Science (1957) 66:418-434; p.436


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