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                                                  6.   About Mental Illness

     My experiences have convinced me that there is no such thing as mental illness. The expression “mental illness” is in itself a contradiction in terms. The mind is the non-physical entity in man that feels, thinks, and wants. Something that is not physical cannot be either ill or split.  
     Mental illnesses are also not measurable, as somatic illnesses usually are. For instance, whether and to what extent someone has an infection depends not on the doctor's opinion of the patient, but on how many of certain bacteria are present in the body. Diabetes depends on the level of blood sugar, which is measurable, and so forth. Treatment of such diseases is generally independent of insight into the illness. Advice on taking medicines, along with rules about diet, smoking, drinking, exercise, and hygiene are sufficient for most diseases.
     In fact, many doctors consider their authority challenged when a patient reveals some knowledge of his own regarding certain aspects of his illness. In contrast, psychiatric patients are said to lack insight into their illness. This presumed lack is considered part of the illness, not a result, and can be used as an excuse for forced treatment. 
     Thought, sensation, and volition cannot be split. That is different from having mixed thoughts, feelings, and wishes. In my opinion, terms as schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder do not reflect what is wrong with a person. It is probably due to the use of such terms that schizophrenics, according to psychiatrists, deny their schizophrenia.
     Although this viewpoint has been disappearing lately, for many years schizophrenia was considered a splitting of the mind. And the prefix schizo still means split. Many of these terms are extremely stigmatizing, and for that reason alone already fail to contribute to a better understanding of psychiatric patients, but rather form barrier to communication with them. The same holds true for the label mentally ill or (ex)-psychiatric patient. 
     I found that even after having proved in writing that I had been the victim of an incorrect diagnosis, the fact that I had ever been treated as a psychiatric patient, no matter how long ago, prejudiced social services against me. I certainly was discriminated against - although it wasn't always easy to prove - even by people who knew that I was the victim of an incorrect diagnosis. Occasionally I informed the Equally Opportunities Board.
      Mental illnesses cannot be measured. Whether and to what extent a person is considered mentally ill depends on the opinion of a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists can ascribe all sorts of mental disorders to people, while other people who know them well, as in my case, state that the person is “perfectly normal.” In psychiatry, abuse of power and addiction to power is no less prevalent than in the rest of medicine. It is only more difficult to prove.
      In 1994 a well-known psychiatrist told me that most psychiatric illnesses result from organic disorders. I believe this is true. This means that organic disorders are responsible for the mental degeneration of psychiatric patients. But degeneration, physical as well as mental, occurs in every illness that is not properly treated.
      In the past schizophrenia was called dementia praecox, which means premature dementia ( = degeneration). In former times, people with all sorts of diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, syphilis (which also caused delusions), brain tumors, and many other somatic disorders were hospitalized in mental institutions. Homosexuality was also considered a mental illness. Homosexuals were even castrated. There possibly still are people alive today who are suffering the consequences of these views.
      Cold baths and showers were once standard psychiatric practice, as were barbaric gas treatments, which were intended to exorcise socially unacceptable feelings. The damage that psychiatry, through its views, has done to people, must be stupendous.
       As I said, mental illness doesn't exist. The term mental illness has always been used to label that which is not understood as deviant. Deviant behavior, of course, exists, and occurs in all sorts of shapes and measures. It occurs in all living beings. I suspect that only a very small percentage of deviant behavior in psychiatry is caused by brain disorders. It is clear that treating someone whose deviant behavior is caused by an organic disorder as though he had a functional disorder - or a psychosis - is catastrophic for him.
       Deviant behavior can also be the result of unresolved conflicts. They will not be resolved by psychoactive drugs. Such drugs, after long-term use, probably only cause damage. They are often prescribed much too easily for social problems.
       One of the few justifications for involuntary hospitalization is when a person's behavior poses a genuine danger to the environment. But even when that is the case, such a hospitalization should not be a blank check for psychiatrists to shoot the person up with psychiatric drugs. Perhaps it's about time that the consequences of forced medication were researched. The level of a society's civilization is determined by the way it treats its weakest members. Locking up sick people is not a worthy way to deal with them in a decent society.
 
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