It saddens me that there appears to be 6 distinct camps on mental illness’s validity. I am convinced that Camp 1, the APA and their DSM, allow or add so many disorders, and constantly rewrite diagnosis criteria to pump up business. Camp 2: The “worried well” that feed this machine by seeking help for normal human behaviors that disturb them and they request or demand to be “cured.” Camp 3: Big Pharma, encouraging the above 2. (Advertising symptoms to advertise “cures.”) Camp 4: The dissenters , often those who have been misdiagnosed and fed the “cure” only to find out later (or hopefully sooner) that they never needed drugs to alleviate their “symptoms” of their “abnormality. This camp also includes those affected by a loved one’s misdiagnosis and altogether unnecessary “treatment” with drugs. Sometimes these include those who have opinions, but no experience. Camp 5: Those who have experienced the horrors of living with EXTREME and valid symptoms of some abnormality that cannot be verified with any medical tests. Most of these do not seek help, usually because they don’t believe they are abnormal or hope against hope that these “problems with living” will pass and their own form of normal will return and stay. (Normal can and does indeed fall on a spectrum, which often falls far to either pole.)
Let’s not forget Camp 6. The dead due to suicide. They cannot defend or even explain their “stance” on it. The almost MISSING Camp is the balanced view. They (I) take ALL of the above into consideration. I know nothing of any of the many many disorders in the DSM. (DSM 5 is frighteningly LITTERED with old and new.) I do know quite a bit about Bipolar 1, Manic Depression, WHATEVER you wish to label it.. I have 30 years of experience in and out of each camp. Your take on the various symptoms as simply being a result of adults never outgrowing childish behaviors is probably 99% accurate. The other 1% are the only ones that are rarely mentioned, described, or outspoken about the growing controversy.
Let me speak briefly of my own life experience. I am have always been normal by all standards MOST of the time. The EXTREME EXTREMES didn’t begin to manifest until I was 26 and they ranged in intensity so as to assure even myself that I would eventually return to my normal state. The extreme extremes were periodic and came in short or long episodes and short or long periods. I was happily married, had (and have) a great job, many friends and a close knit family. I was marginally shy and relatively serious, but nothing out of the ordinary, normal range. Stress and life circumstances affected my state of mind and emotion as they do among all human beings.
I began to experience excessive displays of severe manic and depressive behavior that was very very noticeable to my family, friends and co-workers. I blew them off because I SO enjoyed the mania that the depressive periods were well worth it. One morning at age 28, after an evening of an essentially good time with friends, I experienced a new form of “depression.” (New friends, as most of the old ones had deserted me out of confusion over my unexpected and sporadic escapades. My weirdness drove them away 1 by 1) I nearly sawed my hands off in what I can only guess was a psychotic “depression.” There were NO life circumstances that made me “feel suicidal” nor had I been thinking about it. I awoke in a medical psych ward to my parents and a doctor, having no idea where I was or why I might be there. The psychiatrist had spoken extensively with my parents, who were well qualified to recount the bizarre behavior over the past several years. I cannot begin to express how relieved I was to hear that I might (they said I definitely did) have an illness, disorder, or whatever you’d like to term it, and that it was treatable with medication. (Drugs. Let’s call a spade a spade. All medications are drugs.)
Over time and despite the stigmas I balanced out and became myself again. Family, friends and co-workers remarked on the difference. Unfortunately, a few years later I decided I was well. I was, for 18 months. Again, not due to any traumatic life circumstances or any reasonable explanation, I sliced and stabbed my arms one afternoon. Back to the psych ward I went. Again I complied with the doctor and yet, again I stopped the medication. But this time I recognized the gradual decline in my behavior and view of reality. I started the medication, but took less and less, trying to find the perfect dosage without my doctor’s knowledge. This went on and on over the years. You see, the TRULY ill, the 1%, do not want to take the drugs. I had no side effects to the latest one and stayed stable on a consistent dose AND YET I would not or could not see the correlation.(My doctor and I jointly agreed that less is better, not treating every “emergence” of situational “symptoms.”)
I have FINALLY, only from repeated experience, accepted that to be is better than to not be. To treat rather than not is best FOR ME.) I wish the parameters that many doctors and the DSM swear by were more stringent and that the public was not intentionally roped into the fads of old and new disorders. I also wish the drug companies and treatment centers were forbidden to advertise symptoms and illnesses so that everyone with daily struggles wasn’t exposed to them and swayed into thinking they “need help!) Thank you for reading, if you’ve even read this entire long post. It’s impossible to see the whole view without a larger look at (much of) the whole picture. I’m grateful I am able to speak as a Camp 6 survivor. My suggestions? Give life time to show you the truth. Trust people close to you for many years to help you see the evidence or absence of true disorder.
Don’t share YOUR truth or brag about a misunderstood illness to the world.
I have not lost my family or my job because both were supportive during these trials and errors. I HAVE lost many friends, but thankfully have developed new ones whom which I do NOT always share any of this with.
“Crazy” is not something people want to get very close too.