*This in no way diminishes anyone’s personal difficulties*
Pick up a DSM (diagnostic manual of mental disorders) and read some of it. You notice that pretty much all the diagnoses are characterized by behaviour. Behaviours are changeable; they can be modified and altered until they reach a desired outcome. Behaviours are not fixed or permanent, they are not biological or genetical, as the “disease model” would like you to believe.
The field of psychology is about change. Its entire purpose is changing the way we behave and think in order to live better and healthier lives, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Taking the disease model and applying it to psychiatric issues defeats the purpose of psychology. While an individual’s genetics or biology plays a role, behaviours are much more powerful and can be used to change unwanted or abnormal behaviours (or disorders).
I’ve been diagnosed with maybe eight or nine disorders — so far — some of which I disagree with, and some of which I don’t “have” anymore. For the disorders I don’t “have” any longer, where’d they go? What happened to them? Side note/rant: you don’t “have” X disorder. Where do you have it? … “I have depression.” Well, can I have some? Your behaviours and symptoms *yield a result consistent* with X disorder. Important semantic that influences our thoughts.
Allowing individuals to believe that a disorder, particularly ones like depression or anxiety, is a disease that will remain with them until death is not only crippling, but untrue. Further, once an individual is said to be “abnormal”, all of his/her behaviours will be coloured by that label and misinterpreted. The expectation will be that that person will always behave a certain way. This leaves us with a sense of powerlessness and inadequacy.
Let’s take, for example, substance use addiction. Is it a disease or is it based on environmental factors? For years, we’ve taken addicts and punished them, thinking that would make them stop being addicted. Everything you know about addiction is wrong. Johan Hari explains: “If I break my hip and end up in a hospital, I’ll be given lots of diamorphine (i.e., heroine) for a long period of time. If what we believe about addiction is true, then everyone who has ever been given diamorphine should have ended up addicted. But this is not what occurs.”
Hari then shares a study conducted on rats that were put in a cage, given one bottle of water and another bottle of water mixed with cocaine. The rats almost always chose the cocaine water and ended up killing themselves. Naturally so. Another study then compared these rats, with other rats that were placed in a “rat park” – which included cheese, coloured balls, tunnels, friends, etc. They also had both the water and water mixed with cocaine available. In this case, none of the rats drank from the drug water a lot, compulsively, or died from it. This was tested on humans with similar outcomes.
“What if addiction isn’t about your chemical hooks? What if addiction is about your cage? What if addiction is an adaptation of your environment?” This addiction can be applied to other aspects, such as gambling, pornography, etc. Watch the video, very informative.
Let’s take another example: seizures. Seizures are a medical condition, and yet, research has shown that individuals who experience seizures are able to control and lessen the frequency of them occurring.1 Important note: this can only be conducted through concepts like the self-fulfilling prophecy, fake it ‘til you make it, etc. If we are able to control and reduce seizures, can we not also control our depression, anxiety, mood swings, stress, etc.? This gives power back into our own hands. We are in control.
And sometimes.. Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe nothing’s wrong. Maybe ADHD is a failure of the school to find adequate stimulation. Maybe those with dyspraxia don’t need to be “fixed” but supported. Maybe autism can teach us more about happiness than what we know. Maybe you just walk to the beat of a different drummer. These are all “disorders” that are now being viewed as neurodiversity – they are respected just as any other human variation.
Research has shown for a long time now that diagnoses are not useful — especially with the prevalent view that all disorders are diseases (under the disease model) and, therefore, incurable — nor are they reliable. Research has also shown that we can barely differentiate between “normal” and “abnormal”.
To those dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction etc. – you are more in control than you think. To those dealing with autism, ADHD, dyspraxia etc. – labels solve nothing. Embrace your uniqueness and use it to your advantage.
Embrace the cognitive and behavioural diversity found among mankind.
Some saints/patrons/patroness and mental health issues
Saint Dymphna – nervous disorders
Saint Teresa of Avila – ADHD
Matt Talbot – alcoholism, addiction
Moses – communication difficulties
St. Therese of Lisieux – OCD
St. John of God – bipolar, severe anxiety, depression
Brother Juniper, Leonie Martin, St. Joseph of Cupertino – autism, behavioural difficulties
Joseph Labre, Clara Isabella Fornari, St. Ignatius – depression, emotional disorders
Jeremiah – loneliness and insecurity
Struggling with mental health does not make an individual any less holy. It does not void one’s identity in Christ.
- Nagai, Y., Aram, J., Koepp, M., Lemieux, L., Mula, M., Critchley, H., . . . Cercignani, M. (2018). Epileptic Seizures are Reduced by Autonomic Biofeedback Therapy Through Enhancement of Fronto-limbic Connectivity: A Controlled Trial and Neuroimaging Study. EBioMedicine,27, 112-122.