Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Mental Health Excuse

The American Psychiatric Association will be releasing an updated of version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The things that are being considered to be added as psychiatric disorders are overeating, gambling and compulsive sex acts. These are to be added to give “better diagnoses and treatments.”

I don’t like to get too personal with my blog. But I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I have had symptoms of depression since my freshman year in high school. It has radically changed the trajectory of my life. I have lost friendships and relationships due to my problems with depression. For the longest time it was misdiagnosed. Once I finally got the proper diagnosis and was put on medication, things greatly improved in my life. So needless to say I have great respect for the psychiatric community. It literally has saved my life. There is no doubt in my mind that had I not gotten therapy I would have committed suicide in my mid twenties. In my early thirties after my first bout with cancer my downward spiral started again. I was put on medication that again probably saved my life. I have been told that in my case it is genetic, and there are other people in my extended family that have suffered from severe depression problems.

My life is no different than anyone else’s in many respects. I have had both good and bad times. I have had financial problems, medical problems, and have had heartbreaks. My issues have been that they are a little harder for me to bounce back from. Overtime I have learned how to recognize when I am having issues more quickly which allows me to make the proper decisions about what I need to do. This is due to the mostly good medical help that I received over a ten year period.

I also truly believe that if mental health issues were more directly dealt with in this country, many social ills would be reduced. Many people that have underlying mental health problems commit crimes, become addicted to drugs and alcohol. There is a great deal of frustration involved when you have mental health problems. Society at large is not very accepting. There is still a stigma to admit that you have problems. I knew a girl who was suffering from schizophrenia; she did some very strange things before being hospitalized. She purposely hurt close friends and became destructive in many ways. After she was finally diagnosed many people still didn’t forgive her. Which I found very sad, she did not do those things on purpose. She needed help.

While I will be the first to say that compulsive behavior has some underlying pathology involved, it certainly doesn’t explain all behavior. These types of diagnoses have hidden dangers. These are the type of things that affect your life insurance rates, your health insurance rates, can be used in job related discrimination if they show up in background checks, and ultimately be used as yet one more excuse to justify bad behavior. Some people are addicts because of weakness. Some people overeat because they have no self control; people cheat on their spouses because they are selfish.

We need to be careful before we start giving a diagnosis to every ill in human nature. Not every human weakness should be attached to mental illness. At some point we need to admit that humans are flawed. We do things without thinking about the affect we have on other people, not because we have a mental illness. It seems that we are constantly trying to justify bad behavior and find some sort of quick fix to explain the problem. By giving a diagnosis to every little thing we are taking away personal responsibility from our lives. How much further do we go down this road? The most important question is where does this road lead? At this rate, we will just have people that do whatever they want, and take no responsibility whatsoever for their actions. That is not something that we should be promoting. 


American Mom said...

Very interesting post conservative girl. I'm sorry to hear of your struggles with depression in the past but it sounds like you are in a really good place now. And I happen to agree with you. Our society has somehow come to a point where we are unwilling to accept that a) society isn't perfect and neither are individuals b) sometimes bad things happen (both to bad people and good people) c) not everything can be easily explained, labeled and/or categorized. Progressives are so committed to their vision of utopia they seem to forget that human nature, imperfect as it is, must come into play and not everything can be explained, fixed, or cured.

Opus #6 said...

I have learned that it is much harder than one would think to "get off" in terms of being declared too legally insane to undergo a criminal trial. Which is good news for the justice system. On a certain level, you could say almost any murderer has a bit of insanity, at the very least, because normal people can't conceive of doing that. On the other hand, if they know it is wrong, and taking steps to cover their tracks indicates that they do, then they are able to undergo a trial. Where to draw the line between bad character and mental illness will always be more of an art than a science, in my opinion.

It is so very hard to deal with mental illness in close relationships. I know. It is hard to know where to draw boundaries in a relationship like that, especially when the behavior crosses the line to verbal and emotional abuse.

I have always been impressed by your ability to empathize with others. So if it is any consolation, all of these seemingly negative experiences/trials/struggles, such as cancer and mental illness, present us with a learning experience on a very deep level, such that we emerge with an understanding of the struggle and the human condition.

In other words, whatever got you to the wonderful point that you are at, for after corresponding with you these years online I can say that you are one of my absolute favorite personalities (not having met you in person I only know your personality as expressed by your writing), and I think whatever happened up till now must have been just the right thing. I hope that makes sense.

The Constitutional Crusader said...

The mental health excuse has been the order of the day since the early 90s. I will never forget the moronic scientist that tried to pin obesity as a "virus". These days it seems that people are willing to tack on anything as a mental health issue just to avoid having the person avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

I pray the scientific community gets a healthy dose of sanity soon.

Just a conservative girl said...

American Mom, yes we too often use excuses and it needs to stop.

Thanks Opus - I really don't look at my life as being any different than anyone else's. That was not always the case, but I have let go of the thought that I am some sort of victim or being somehow immune to the happiness that I saw other people having. My life has greatly improved as I have gotten older and I do look at my experiences as a plus. Thanks for the nice words and thoughts.

CC - I wouldn't be looking for the healthy dose of sanity anytime soon.

hometown guy said...

again, well said!

right now it looks like gambling addiction is the only one that might have a chance of making it in.

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