Sing it from the rooftops

I was watching the second episode of "This Emotional Life" tonight, and in the middle of one of the segments, the narrator, Daniel Gilbert, said something that I wish everyone could have heard. He said:

Mental illness is the same as a physical illness, except a mental illness causes psychological symptoms.

That's what I wish more people understood, that the "illness" part is very real, and so is the suffering. It's not a matter of willpower, or a character flaw, or a sign that I just need Jesus. I'm not making this up, and I can't just snap out of it. Trust me. I've tried. Having people understand this doesn't make the suffering from anxiety, depression, or anorexia any smaller, but it makes it just a little bit easier for me to get on with my life and getting better.

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Libby said...

If this was Facebook, I would click "Like".

Cathy (UK) said...

I totally agree. People with mental illness have no choice over the development of their condition, and mental illness causes a LOT of suffering - for the individual and their carers.

I get so frustrated when ignorant people suggest that:

1. I developed anorexia nervosa (and all its co-morbid crap) through some sort of 'choice'

2. I enjoyed being skeletally thin and suffering all the physical consequences of anorexia nervosa.

Oh, and it didn't help when people told me I should think of starving people in Africa and in so doing 'snap out' of my illness.

I have utmost sympathy for starving people in Africa, but to suggest that my thinking of them would help me just made me feel more guilty and filled with self hatred...

IrishUp said...

You know, it shouldn't be all that complicated a concept. And it's not like other physical illnesses don't cause psychological issues. UTI's cause dementia and psychotic symptoms in the elderly. Chronic pain from any number of conditions, heck chronic illnesses in general cause depression and sleep disorders.

Most people get the idea that a brain tumor will cause psychological symptoms, yet will balk at the idea that if a part of the brain itself isn't working, then there are psychological symptoms.

FEH, today I am with Harlan Ellison: the two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Agree agree agree!

In my poor English I would say: mental illnes has like physical illnes patophysiological backgound and both "types" can cause physical and psychological symptoms.

We see depressed people with hypothyreosis, agitated people with hyperthyreosis, overeating in kids with Prader-Willi syndrome etc so often and it is somehow more accepted than "just" depression or "her choice"-anorexia.

(Irony-or not- I sometimes wish I got some "physical" illness like diabetes or asthma when I was 15 instead of anorexia.)

Kim said...

What a great, and relieving, statement. As much as I want other people to fully "get" and accept this, I think I have to "get" and accept it myself first. Often, I see my mental illness(es) as character flaws within my control. I think I'm just a weak person. Logically, I know this is not true, but it's still something I'm coming to terms with emotionally. I wonder if this series will be online. I didn't catch the TV airing...

brie said...

Amen, sista.

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

It is about time someone said it. It's only taken centuries.

Anonymous said...

I wish more people understood this, but I don't think it's stupidity that's holding them back. With a few exceptions, our disorders tend to be so wrapped up in our personalities that it's hard to separate out which things are neutral character traits that my disorder is co-opting for its own purpose, which are symptoms, and which are character defects. My tendency toward being a contemplative person is probably a neutral character trait; my tendency toward continuous worry and at times despair is probably a symptom; when I choose, though, to give into that worry by staying home from work, perhaps I've arrived at a character deficiency or sin.
I'm not accusing anyone else, just wondering for myself.

Anonymous said...

Link to view the videos online.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I really do wish people would just accept that it is an illness, just the same as cancer is an illness.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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