Friday, November 11, 2016

Reduce Stigma By Normalizing Mental Health Disorders


I am an avid reader of psychology books and I took a few courses in differing types of psychology while in college.  I spend a lot of time reading the DSM-V and I am also a quiet observer of people.  The DSM-V is the newest version of the diagnostics and statistical manual for mental health disorders.  There are hundreds of disorders in the book with a wide array of symptoms used to diagnose specific disorders.  My question is whether these are all disorders, or if many of them are simply personality traits that have been called disorders.

The more I read about disorders, the more I come to some conclusions.  I am certainly not a psychologist, but I don't think there is a person that I have observed who does not fit the criteria of at least one disorder in the book.  So does this mean that everybody has a mental health disorder?  It would seem so!

Here is how it works.  A psychologist, psychiatrist or a doctor will observe symptoms in a patient, use their knowledge combined with the DSM, and assess based on symptoms and other criteria in the book.  A person does not have to have all of the symptoms to be put into a category of a disorder, but if they meet the criteria stated, they will likely be diagnosed with the disorder after further assessment.  

My education deals with the assessment side of things and I take it quite seriously when I am working with others.  The more symptoms I can observe and classify within a specific disorder, the better I will understand the person I am working with, and therefore can provide better insight into their issues.  The more I do this, the more I learn that I cannot find someone who does not fit into the criteria of one disorder or another.  Even the most seemingly 'normal' people have symptoms that can be assessed as a disorder.

So what does all of this mean.  To me, it means that pretty much every person has a mental health disorder to some degree, but some don't fall as far outside of the social norm as others do, therefore they are not as recognizable.  A simple anxiety disorder for example can be hidden from others quite easily, whereas a severe social anxiety disorder is very recognizable to the public.  

Here is my point, if everyone has a mental health disorder of some sort, then where does all of the stigma come from?  It comes from the judgment towards those who stand out the most.  If you are suffering from a severe bipolar disorder or schizophrenia for example, this can be very recognizable to others, and often the 'others' will judge and point these people out because they are easier to identify, and it takes the focus on their own issues.

Normalizing is a way to remove stress and anxiety from sufferers, especially those who are dealing with more severe symptoms.  If we understand that everyone is suffering from some mental health disorder, whether it is easily observable or not, we understand that nobody should be judging another for theirs.  I am normalizing it by telling you that nobody is better than you.  They may have more material things, power, or money, but this doesn't make a person better than another.

Each day as you suffer, remind yourself that you must have a lot of strength to be able to get up each day despite your issues.  Also realize that everyone else is suffering with their own issues, and when they point a finger at you, they are in essence point the finger back at themselves.  Stop taking the treatment of others personally they are dealing with their own mental disorder and their behaviors are due to that.

End stigma by understanding that we all 'in the same boat together'.  Realize how hard your own issues are on you and that those who have more observable symptoms must be suffering so much worse than you are.  Give them a break and don't judge, be understanding.  If we all have a mental health disorder then the only stigma left is from discrimination.  

All mental health disorders cause suffering to differing degrees.  Don't discriminate against others or you will be discriminating against yourself.  It would be like judging someone for being of a certain race when you come from an oppressed race of people yourself.  Be understanding of the suffering of all others and the stigma of mental health disorders will eventually disappear.

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