Fascinating topic! Thanks for another excellent and thought provoking post, as usual...

I notice that Thomas Szasz (author of the controversial book "The Myth of Mental Illness") has lately been exonerated for many of his views. A psychiatrist and academic himself, Szasz argued that what we call "mental illness" is really closer to a metaphor, a way of explaining particular patterns of behavior, rather than a physiological "illness" or "disease" as we more commonly use the terms.

Szasz cited the since discarded "illnesses" of drapetomania and hysteria as examples of when society, disapproving of a particular behavior (slaves fleeing their owners and women not bending to a man's will, in the above cases) were not really "illnesses" at all, but simply a way for society to label and diminish one's individual agency and, thereby, better control them. (If you assign a runaway slave a mental "illness," it's easier for society to invoke "civil commitment," for example, to claim that their behavior is driven by some kind of aberrant condition that needs to be treated, even by involuntary hospitalization.)

Nowadays, we generally consider the desire for freedom (from slavery) and individual expression (even if it means - gulp - going against one's partner's desires) as perfectly natural. It's interesting to think of the way society shapes our perceptions of what is and is not acceptable, and the labels used to stigmatize those society disapproves of in order to victimize and control them.

Also interesting to consider the kinds of societies we build, and what types of behavior they incentivize and reward. If we build a society around the ancient Greek concepts of arete (excellence), isonomia (equality before the law) and xenia (hospitality) for example, we might expect an entirely different outcome than if we build one incentivizing other types of behavior... blind obedience, for example, in place of individual virtue and character... or one prizing victimhood in lieu of eudaimonia (the concept of happiness and human flourishing).

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Sep 19, 2022·edited Sep 19, 2022Liked by Classical Wisdom

Evocative question with many volumes devoted to its answer. I’ll attempt a short one.

“REAL” (especially in capital letters 😉) is a tough case to make for any object or idea much less one as inky and controversial as “mental illness”. Nevertheless, after much thought - and 30 years as a practicing psychoanalyst - I will give it a go with the confidence I might be at the level of “justified belief” instead of simply “opinion”.

I’m my view, mental illness is real and can be manifested and known in the subjective experience of unnecessary suffering in a person and/or the others in interaction with that person. When the suffering is mostly located within the person (perhaps like Anya’s new college friend with an apparently unspeakable collection of hallucinations) we see mental illness. In Caligula’s instability and cruelty we more easily see the unnecessary suffering inflicted upon others. Most times it’s a mixture (i.e. agoraphobic terror which torments the individual and gives pain to loved ones). This definition leaves aside all questions of etiology.

Freud described mental health as the ability to “love and work” with only the “misery of everyday life” remaining after a successful treatment. I believe that definition also implies that it is the presence of phenomena which lead to unnecessary suffering which ought to qualify as mental illness.

I believe this definition also marries well with the interests and goals of most schools of philosophy. After all, it’s hard to make a case for the good life or optimal happiness and well being for individuals or groups including any measure of unnecessary suffering.

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Hallo there!

Yes, it, mental illness, is real. It can be based on chemical and therefore, genetic problems. It can also be the product of abuse, especially CHILD ABUSE and indoctrination into the false religions of these days can also leads to mental illness.

Chemical or genetic problems can cause mental illnesses like bipolar disease and depression in people and is quite common.

Abuse can cause PTSD in a person where such a person is plagued with bad memories, which is also of course a product of war and robberies. These in combination with something like depression and bipolar disease can be very devastating...

Belief is also a mental illness.

The suicide bomber community are all believers...

Religion that makes people believe that there is a class of SINNERS, INFIDELS, SUBHUMANS, LOWER-HUMANS and anything of the kind also causes a collective mental illness...

Of course there are no such things such as LOWER-HUMANS (SINNERS) that have IMAGINARY PROBLEMS, or so-called SIN...

Racism, Fascism and Nazism are also based on [this] false beliefs...

Mental disease -- on an individual and on a collective basis -- is very real...

Yours sincere,

Pieter J (PJ)

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Sep 19, 2022Liked by Classical Wisdom

Throughout history people had suspect water supplies. Then they used lead to make the water cups and containers. Wine was produced because it was safer than city water. What a combo lead and alcohol for mental health without age limit or class restrictions. Today we buy bottled water in plastic bottles. We never learn.

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Sep 20, 2022Liked by Classical Wisdom

Some of these old crazies sound very much like some of today's elites, just sayin.

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Sep 19, 2022Liked by Classical Wisdom

The real question is not that a person hears voices, but whose voice they hear. There is such a thing as mental illness as modern medicine has verified. The problem as I see it, is the defining the deference between illness and evil. I know people who suffer from depression to the point that they are immobilized. Some suffer from schizophrenia, most of these can be controlled by drugs. Then there are those who are pathological. It is the latter that I would define as evil. History is full of those who kill, torture, and commit every kind of monstrous evil. As a Christian, I believe in demon possession and in the power of exorcism, not the movie kind, but the ability to expel an evil spirit out of a person through the power of Jesus Christ.

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Sep 19, 2022Liked by Classical Wisdom

"genius and/or insane"? Everyone is some combination. There is really no such thing as normal!

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it came from Dr. B and I thought I was replying to him in asking this.

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did you mute me?

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Oh, Anya!

Great Caesar’s Ghost!!! Doesn’t everyone hear voices???

I’ve been hearing them since I was a small child. And I’ve been a writer since I was a small child. Don’t the two go hand in mouth? Or something? Foot in mouth? Sometimes I am told that…

Virtually everything having to do with consciousness—human and otherwise—exists upon a sliding scale, it seems. Attempting to define boundaries attains a certain field of obnoxious stench at some point. I suppose that, too, exists on a sliding scale. Judgment.

Ask any successful fiction writer or playwright if they hear their characters speaking to them (notice I did not place “speaking” in quotes). Without that cacaphony of voices in their heads they, too, would be speechless. Call them insane and we would be left with game shows. Bad ones at that.

More voices, please.

Alan Asnen, PhD in Voices

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