The Myth of Mental Illness

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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現代人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...
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