There is a common refrain that if you looked in the DSM, everyone would have some mental disorder. And in point of fact, many symptoms are fairly generic and can be attributed to many. Fatigue, insomnia, thoughts of death, loss of pleasure and weight loss are part of the depression diagnosis.
But the part no one seems to remember is what’s under that,
The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Mental Illness and Treatment
In my experience no one likes treatment for mental illness. No one says, “please turn down my dopamine; turn up my serotonin,” or otherwise mess with the chemical reactions going on in the most complex part of the body.
So, in my experience, people don’t tend to get, and stay on, treatment they don’t need. The treatment sucks too much. Very few people think, “gee, I’m having a great day, why don’t I pop by the doctor’s for a prescription?”
Why Do People Seek Treatment for Mental Illness?
It’s not enough to just have a mental illness, you have actually want to treat it as well. Doctors don’t arrive at your front door with Prozac. You have to go out and get it. You have to bother making an appointment, explaining your problem to a doctor, the doctor agreeing and writing a script for you, you filling it at the drug store, and then paying for it. It’s a lot of bother. Many sick people don’t want to do that for a whole host of reasons.
Which brings me to a point: no one said you have to get treatment for a mental illness.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, someone will likely try to treat you, but outside of that, you’re pretty much on your own.
Mental Illness is Only a Problem When Mental Illness is a Problem
So then, not only do people have to be sick, want to get treated and go to actually get treatment. Generally they only want this because the mental illness is causing a problem in their life (thus meeting the noted criteria in the DSM). If you happen to see little green men, and talk to little green men, but it doesn’t impair your life, well then I guess you’ve just made some new, green friends.
But that just isn’t what happens with a mental illness. At least, not one that people want to treat. People don’t just see little green men in passing and get on with their day. No, they believe little green men are invading the planet and the only way they can be stopped is to aluminum foil all the windows in the whole world. And typically, people are highly distressed by this type of idea.
People don’t just cry at a long distance carrier commercial and go to the doctor. No, people actively hate their lives, hate themselves, don’t bathe, won’t get out of bed, don’t take care of their children and long to die.
See, that’s when it becomes a problem.
I get why people say the whole world is becoming medicated. I understand people would like to see a decrease in the number of prescriptions written. Personally, I don’t think that would be such a bad idea myself.
But make no mistake, people with mental illness aren’t taking meds because it’s a party in their brain and everyone’s invited. They’re getting treatment because their mental illness was ruining their lives.