As my 18 year old daughter pushes through her second semester in college to become a RN she has come face to face with the fact that there are many psychology and sociology classes to attend. She knows the human brain really fascinates me and she knows I have my own out of the normal box way of thinking, meaning I question everything. Because of my age and personal experiences I tend to have a jaded opinion about my fellow human beings. It makes me hard to talk to at times because I don’t want to talk about “how” I got where I stand today because much of my personal past is still unknown to even the closest people in my life. Simply put, there are things I choose not to discuss, its just the way it is.
Anyway, she had a paper to write about personality disorders versus mental disorders. She didn’t know the “line” between them is often blurred, often confused, often misidentified, and very often a person gets mislabeled. Now, she is familiar with bipolar disorder since her brother struggles daily with it. She had to learn the “disorder” in order to live in peace with her brother in a comfortable manner for both of them. She thought she had this paper nailed until she asked me to review it. Its not that she had it all wrong, because she didn’t. But, because the terms are confusing, it makes the information available confusing. Jokingly, I told her that the specialists who study these and other disorders make it difficult to learn for job security, which is both true and false in every conceivable way. So, I gave her my interpretation, whether it helped or not we will have to see when she gets her grade. Below is how I see it.
Sometimes people confuse two mental disorders, only one of which could be referred to as “common” within the population which is bipolar disorder and then schizophrenia. This confusion has largely resulted from the common use of some of these names in popular media, and as short-hand by people referring to someone who is grappling with a mental health issue. The disorders, however, have little in common other than the fact that many who have them are still stigmatized by society.
Bipolar disorder is a fairly common mental disorder compared with the other two disorders. Bipolar disorder is also well-understood and readily treated by a combination of medications and psychotherapy. It is characterized by alternating moods of mania and depression, both of which usually last weeks or even months in most people who have the disorder. People who are manic have a high energy level and often irrational beliefs about the amount of work they can accomplish in a short amount of time. They sometimes take on a million different projects at once and finish none of them. Some people with mania talk at a faster rate and seem to the people around them to be constantly in motion.
After a manic mood, a person with bipolar disorder will often “crash” into a depressive mood, which is characterized by sadness, lethargy, and by a feeling that there’s not much point in doing anything. Problems with sleep occur during both types of mood. Bipolar disorder affects both men and women equally and can be first diagnosed throughout a person’s life.
Bipolar disorder can be challenging to treat because, while a person will take an antidepressant medication to help alleviate a depressed mood, they are less likely to remain on the medications which help reign in the manic mood. Those medications tend to make a person feel “like a zombie” or “emotionless,” which are feelings most people wouldn’t want to experience. So many people with bipolar disorder find it difficult to maintain treatment while in their manic phase. However, most people with bipolar disorder function relatively well in normal society and manage to cope with their mood swings, even if they don’t always keep on their prescribed medications.
However, schizophrenia is less common than bipolar disorder and is usually first diagnosed in a person’s late teens or early to late 20’s. More men than women receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, which is characterized by having both hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. Delusions are the belief in something that isn’t true. People who have delusions will continue with their delusions even when shown evidence that contradicts the delusion. That’s because, like hallucinations, delusions are “irrational”, the opposite of logic and reason. Since reason doesn’t apply to someone who has a schizophrenic delusion, arguing with it logically gets a person nowhere.
Schizophrenia is also challenging to treat mainly because people with this disorder don’t function as well in society and have difficulty maintaining the treatment regimen. Such treatment usually involves medications and psychotherapy, but can also involve a day program for people who have more severe or treatment-resistant forms of the disorder.
Because of the nature of the symptoms of schizophrenia, people with this disorder often find it difficult to interact with others, and conduct normal life activities, such as holding down a job. Many people with schizophrenia go off of treatment (sometimes, for instance, because a hallucination may tell them to do so), and end up homeless, without friends or family, and sometimes end their life as a plausible solution.
All people suffer, period. No person wants or needs to be a “lab rat” in the discovery of what ails them mentally. But, society dictates we label and judge others based on our opinions, ignorance, lack of understanding, and the pure lack of compassion. I know what y’all are thinking, and yes I do judge people myself in regards to stupidity and the utter lack of common sense. So, I do live the double standard in many ways, I ride that double edge sword like the evil bitch she is. Its one of many of my personal faults. I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, but in my defense I have read about and studied this topic for many, many years because the subject is very near and dear to me. Nor do I claim that what I have interpreted or formed my own opinion on is dead nuts accurate. As with all things, interpretation is the ultimate devil in the woodpile.
We can learn allot by paying attention and observing our fellow humans, but more often than not we choose to just ignore the people around us. We have become dependent on others to guide us in life for some fucked up reason. However, I do know two doctors, y’all know who you are, who take a different approach to medicine, they look at the person first, not the diagnosis. They take into consideration that we a people with feelings, emotions, and look at alternative ways to treat the various symptoms of life. I appreciate my two friends a great deal, one day I would like to shake the hands of Kris and Rexi because they have taken time out of their lives to include me into their lives. They are both amazing women in my opinion and anyone who has them in their daily lives are truly lucky.
Anyway, in closing, helping my daughter helps me more often than not because it gives me a chance to reevaluate the things I think I know well and opens my mind to the possibilities that there are other options. I get pretty set in my damn ways sometimes but my thirst for knowledge will never be quenched as long as I’m still breathing. My dad once told me, the summer he died, that people prey on the closed mind, they prey because the closed mind is that of a victim, and they begin with the upper hand because they know how defenseless a victim is. Is it true? I still challenge myself to this very day not to be a victim with a closed mind. Do you?