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Am I Mentally Ill?

Recently, Karl Shallowhorn of our Debunking Addiction blog wrote a post called, Am I An Alcoholic? This got me to thinking about another question that people ask: Am I mentally ill?

This is a good question. It’s a good question because, by and large, people don’t want to be considered “mentally ill” so they want to know if they meet the definition.

Who is Mentally Ill?

I’m sorry to say, boys and girls, that if you have a mental illness (diagnosed or not) you are, de facto, mentally ill (although Google here seems to think that you have to suffer from a “severe” mental illness, whatever that means). This is also considered to be, “of unsound mind,” which I disagree with, but that’s me.

So it’s fairly simple to figure out if you’re mentally ill – you just have to figure out if you have a mental illness. Luckily there’s a book for that. More luckily, there are doctors for that.

But I Don’t Want to Be Mentally Ill!

No, I know, no one does. No one wakes up one morning and says, “Hey, I’d like to be a part of a stigmatized minority!

There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Mentally Ill

Am I mentally ill? It's easy to answer this question clinically, but there's more to being considered mentally ill than that.But here’s the thing: There’s nothing wrong with being mentally ill. All that means is that you’re a person with a mental illness and all that means is that you’re a person with a disease of the brain (or mind, if you prefer, which I don’t). All that means is that you’re a person with a medical illness of a certain type. It’s like being diabetic – one with diabetes, or like being epileptic – one with seizures, and so on. “Mentally ill” is just a way of describing a group of people with similar attributes. No more, and no less.

The reason people don’t want to be mentally ill is because of what people read into the words, not because of the words themselves. The words aren’t that scary so stop reading fear into them.

People with Mental Illnesses

Yes, people will decry the term “mentally ill” and say that these are “people with mental illnesses.” Okay, fine, if that wordplay makes you feel better about yourself, that’s your business, but as long as the English language is as it stands today, I’m going to say there’s nothing wrong with being mentally ill.

Because being anything isn’t who you are it’s only a tiny part of you. Even if you are “mentally ill” that only describes a little part of you. Much of the rest of you is yours to choose as you see fit.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

12 thoughts on “Am I Mentally Ill?”

  1. I cannot understand your point of view. If you break your leg you are not considered ill but injured. No stigma no life long query about your ability to walk. It is the same with mental distress it exhibits itself as out of the ordinary behaviour feelings so called symptoms 9 out of 10 times it can be unbundled re-ordered and life goes on just like a broken leg.
    Alzheimer’s is a mental illness there is a huge difference between dementia and distress sadly both cost society a huge amount.

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