Whats in a name?

Labels…us humans love them! Whether that’s a marketers’ cleverly designed label drawing you in to buy another thing you really didn’t need or particularly want. Or a label in order to place the person next to us in a nicely packed box of societal and cultural understanding and expectation and how we then relate to them. Old, young, mid-life (potential crisis), punk, rocker, hippie, boho, artistic, posh and the labels of the varying colours we all exist in. The DSM, or diagnostic statistical manual of mental health is the catalogue of mental health disorders giving us reign to 265 potentials, let alone all the sub-categories within these…then there is the ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders. Between these two, most people will be able to tick some of the boxes of the symptoms occurring within a disorder or maybe a few (a number of symptoms co-occur between disorders)…

In fact Jon Ronsons’  enquiry into psychopaths puts a whole new spin on who is a psychopath and who isn’t and if your conveying that you are not, you are a masterful psychopath and therefore you are and if you are not, maybe you are and just masking the fact…either way in theoretical argument you are a psychopath… https://www.ted.com/talks/jon_ronson_strange_answers_to_the_psychopath_test.

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The creators of the DSM realised (a bit too late) that many of diagnosis’ could be merged, but now people have the labels and can’t be called back in for their diagnosis to be revised, an overhaul of the fifth published edition and the professionals to do a Dawkins and go our theory was wrong! It’s kind of like the Oxford dictionary inventing a word (termed neologism) then going it was wrong (I think dyslexics would be a great recruitment to this work force if they needed some fabulous new words, potentially nonsensical but fun all the same). Likewise the differentiation between the DSM and ICD-10 are interchangeable label-wise but maintain the same categorical diagnosis…for instance, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder or complex post-traumatic stress disorder are interchangeable (between DSM and ICD-10), due to the individual dissociation to the trauma seeming a personality quirk rather than the fact of self-preservation to cope, through dissociation or avoidance. Oh yes! The classic PTSD we hear so much of and the cat memes having a Vietnam flashback (whether your stance is to laugh or find offensive is up to you). PTSD is not subject to just those in war zones as generally depicted, but to us all, whatever trauma we have endured, and that trauma is subjective to you. (Trauma is a whole separate blog altogether, immensely intertwined and rooted in our attachments, upbringing, resilience, personality, our reptilian brains and our ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences.)

Mental health can be viewed as a sliding scale, like most aspects of the conundrum of the human condition…there are some who are clearly and definable in their labels, others are less extreme…we all vary. A lot of mental health are overlapping like PTSD association to stress, depression, dissociation and hypervigilance. Psychosis and psychotic breakdowns can incur in PTSD, whilst also a symptom found amongst schizophrenic and schizo-affective individuals who can have symptoms of mania likewise so can individuals with bipolar who can also suffer depression, fluctuating between manic and depressive episodes. Not to mention obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) associated to autism to name but one (Autism being at one end of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder scale). And there still remains 252, not including the sub-categories, I will talk about some in more detail in future blogs. A number of disorders can co-occur and for some people it’s like a pick a mix of a number of them. It is not clear cut and is often about these amazing experts to ask the right questions and individuals to give answers that articulate their inner mind (easier said than done, due to the shame we feel and what society puts on us to what we should and should not unveil).

The benefits of a diagnosis for some can be the difference between life and death, living to their full and not…enabling them to get the right medication and get the right support reflective of the challenges they face…Counter to this we are a society that labels for the sake of labels, sometimes it is the human condition and rather than identifying it as just that we are diagnosed with depression and given anti-depressants to deal with the death of our beloved pet. I may jest, but you will be depressed if you are grieving whether that’s your pet, family member, loved one or bereaving the end of the relationship with a person you thought was the ‘one’. Our emotions impact our chemical balances, heck stress and our panic button release of cortisol fundamentally changes our brain (again a point to talk about later) and love and sex well that messes up a whole load of chemicals. And at times pills will be the resolve. At other times not. And unlike our physical health of checking vitals and taking bloods to measure the imbalance and were it resides the same can’t be done for the brain. Nope! We cannot stick a giant needle in our brain suck out the fluids and go, Ah! You have an imbalance of serotonin or norepinephrine or dopamine or a whole mix, these triad of chemicals equating to our mood and cognitive function. Even if we could it doesn’t give an idea to our brain structure (evidenced to differ in some disorders, schizophrenia to name one) or our neural pathways, with over 100 billion neurons individual with the potential to connect to up to 10,000 other neurons, mapping the brain is tricky to say the least.

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Mental health disorders can be genetic (if your parents have a diagnosis this increases your likelihood), biological (we are complex beings and during our printing and developing a mistype may have occurred) and environmental (whether one our ACE card(s) or as an adult through stress and, or domestic abuse (another hidden epidemic in mental illness occurring). Increasingly our lifestyle can be bought into question…There is a shift occurring in mental health breaking from the medical model and conventional biomedicine (your-broke-here’s-a-drug-to-fix-it-mentality). Considering at one point homosexuality was a mental illness and masturbation was a warning sign of being mental ill, further dependant on the individual you saw depended on the diagnosis you received (check out ‘Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good,’ by James Davies). Instead an integrative approach is evolving engaging psychological, social, spiritual and biological elements, viewing the body in its entirety (arguably hippy or the West taking a page out of the Easts ancient scripts). The advances in science are also finding new methods to diagnosis mental disorders through electroencephalography and verifying these holistic methods of meditation, yoga and breath (pranayama). The determination of our mental health down to our mitochondrial (our cells power house, my favourite part of the cell) metabolism and our gut microbiota. We are amazingly complex and integral beings…don’t under-estimate yourself.

“Every man has within himself the entire human condition.” Michel De Montaigne.

If you are worried about your mental health talk to a professional and recruit a support network.

For further reading in addition to mention above, ‘A Prescription for Psychiatry: Why we Need a Whole New Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing,’ by Professor P. Kinderman.

Welcome

This blog will discuss all aspects of psychology, mental health and well-being, understanding ourselves in order to thrive as humans not just survive.

A student in psychology and life my studies explore the challenges of being human, the holistic approach to healing and the duality of the mind and body grounded in empirical evidence.

Each blog will discuss a topic and provide further reading and support links for my readers to learn more and access support.

I will also be looking at specific scenarios and I’d like to encourage you to join in the discussion providing a blog that informs, supports and creates a community.

Any topic not covered that you would be interested to know more about please feel free to ask. This blog whilst provides to inform individuals it is not a replacement to therapy or professional support.