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  1. #1
    You have a choice! 21%'s Avatar
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    Default Labeling, illness, and the victim mindset

    I've been thinking of this issue lately, though maybe not exactly in the normal sense. A few months ago I was at a huge family gathering. My 3-year-old cousin tripped and fell and was about to cry. Her mother immediately went up to her and picked her up, all the while saying in mild baby-talk "It's ok. It doesn't hurt, right? Nooo, it doesn't hurt at all!" The girl seemed a little confused as she thought about it and decided not to cry. A minute later she was happily running around again.

    This did not use to happen when I was young. I remember the typical adult response to a kid falling was something like "Are you ok? Show me where it hurts. There, let me kiss it. Better?". I could not help but feel that this response, if used with my 3-year-old cousin, would have produced a different effect. She most likely would have cried as she perceived that the 'pain' was 'real'.

    I know this seems a really small matter, but I remember seeing on Dog Whisperer () how a puppy became hydrophobic after he fell into a pool and the owners 'made a big deal out of it' because they were afraid he was going to drown. Instead, if they had done nothing, the puppy's natural instinct would have kicked in and he would have started swimming.

    The human mind is weird in that sometimes "having a name for something" can make it real. Labeling something with a term with a positive or negative connotation can have an effect on how people perceive the matter, e.g. the classic "terrorists" vs "freedom fighters".

    Maybe this has an effect on our health as well. I have perceived a few cases where elderly people who are diagnosed with cancer pass away shortly afterwards, sometimes within a few months. One of my friend's grandpa, on the other hand, was never told he had cancer with only a year to live (according to the doctor), and is still alive and well twenty years after.

    This is hardly empirical evidence, but I think that maybe when we label something as an illness, it really becomes an illness. It can make people panic and think "OMG, I'm so sick and I'm going to die", and that can have detrimental effects on the treatment.

    I think the same goes for mental illness. I'm not saying that mental illness is not real. I believe it is, and people should receive treatment for it. However, I have to say I don't agree how therapists are so easily giving out prescriptions for just about anything. In a way, I think it reinforce the view that they are "sick" to the patients, and might make them start to believe certain things about themselves and perhaps even identify themselves by their conditions.

    I attended a course on neuro-linguistic programming once, and the presenter said he got someone to successfully quit smoking by having her identify herself as being 'a non-smoker who sometimes smokes'. I don't believe this works for everything, but I think it has its merits.

    I don't have any specific questions or specific points to make. This is still quite vague in my head, but I'm starting to think that this may be the key to solving a lot of what we perceive as 'problems'. If we start thinking about 'problems' as 'exciting and challenging things that we get to do', will they actually cease to be 'problems'?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member prplchknz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21% View Post
    I think the same goes for mental illness. I'm not saying that mental illness is not real. I believe it is, and people should receive treatment for it. However, I have to say I don't agree how therapists are so easily giving out prescriptions for just about anything. In a way, I think it reinforce the view that they are "sick" to the patients, and might make them start to believe certain things about themselves and perhaps even identify themselves by their conditions.
    clarify this point please cuz i'm not sure where you stand and I don't know if i should be happy or pissed off.
    In no likes experiment.

    that is all

    i dunno what else to say so

  3. #3
    Senior Member prplchknz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21% View Post
    I think the same goes for mental illness. I'm not saying that mental illness is not real. I believe it is, and people should receive treatment for it. However, I have to say I don't agree how therapists are so easily giving out prescriptions for just about anything. In a way, I think it reinforce the view that they are "sick" to the patients, and might make them start to believe certain things about themselves and perhaps even identify themselves by their conditions.
    clarify this point please cuz i'm not sure where you stand and I don't know if i should be happy or pissed off.
    In no likes experiment.

    that is all

    i dunno what else to say so

  4. #4
    Temporal Mechanic. Lexicon's Avatar
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    I think positive support can positively influence a situation with regard to physical or mental illness [to what degree, however, is debatable]. There've been plenty of studies around hormones like oxytocin - positive interaction with others [not just from sexual contact, which is what we'd likely 1st link oxytocin to] can raise our levels of oxytocin, which is tied to significant stress reduction & even promotes wound healing. And we've all heard how being under constant stress can actually inhibit our immune systems over time. Many maladies are only treated from one angle, when they likely ought to be looked at from every bio/psycho/social level, to promote an overall more balanced, & healthy path for the individual. But ofc, that's just a bit of idealism talking, here.

    I see what you're getting at, I guess. But it sounds oversimplified, in a sense. Certainly though, it's something that needs to be explored more, in the medical community. Unfortunately everyone there is only human, too. Many doctors will just dole out pills. High blood pressure? Here! *writes script, but doesn't suggest the patient make any changes to their diet or activity levels* You're anxious? HERE! HAVE SOME XANAX! - and they don't actually sit down and cognitively take apart the patient's core triggers; the bad programming, etc. People seem to forget that even doctors can grow complacent after awhile. Rinse, repeat. On the same token, these people could die or not be able to function from day to day without certain supplementary medications. External, social factors are only one part of any issue. Heredity, and a variety of physiological elements may also play a significant role. It all really depends on the individual, and the competence of their doctors, I suppose.
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  5. #5
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    A few things:


    The mother in that example was trivializing and denying the problem. For a toddler (or so), getting a boo-boo or losing a favorite toy is a big deal. Reach out to the damn child.


    I think that labeling a phenomenon (mental illness) helps us 'make sense' of it--it provides us with a vocabulary that makes things easier to discuss and to mull about in our own brains.

    This can be good and bad. When we can use that vocabulary to construct some sort of logical framework around such a phenomenon, it's easier to develop a mental model that takes it in some direction or another. For example, if there exists a diagnosis, there's now a 'logical' separation between those with the diagnosis and those without, and so those with it might see themselves as screwed up compared to the norm. In a sense, having a vocabulary helps us develop a structure--whether the structure we wind up building is helpful or not.


    As one who has quite a few prescriptions, I also struggle with determining which medications I should actually be on and which I ought to be able to go without. Are they a crutch? Do they fix a problem in a good way? Do their ends justify the means?

  6. #6
    You have a choice! 21%'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prplchknz View Post
    clarify this point please cuz i'm not sure where you stand and I don't know if i should be happy or pissed off.
    I think right now a lot of doctors are quite 'loose' with giving out prescriptions and will just tell someone with certain kinds of symptoms that they have ADHD or depression without really trying to figure out the problem, because it's just easier for the doctors. I think this is very irresponsible because if someone is just stressed from work and worry a lot and can't sleep for a while, and doctor's diagnosis says they have "anxiety disorder", they might start thinking that they really have anxiety disorder.

    With this going on, there's a lot of exploitation. I know you can get prescriptions for just anything if you know the right 'script'. My bf's friends use this strategy to obtain recreational drugs. And, well, maybe the doctors don't care, because it's more business for them. This isn't just for mental ilnesses. I've seen doctors in other fields do this too. When you're paying money then everything is wrong with you and you need so much 'treatment'. When you're on the government health program and are not paying -- well, just go home and drink a lot of water and rest.

    So, I guess my point is, mental illnesses are real, but lots of people are just too happy to slap the term on anybody who exhibits any sign of unhappiness. So, this sucks for people who really need help, because suddenly everyone is 'depressed'.
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  7. #7
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    I don't believe its right to tell anyone their feelings are wrong. One can help them develop coping strategies, but telling a child that their natural feelings are invalid can lead to all kinds of problems including feeling responsible and personal shame for abuse. This is not an excuse to coddle, but advocating a respectful balance. As far as mental health, it is important to remember that no one's experience of mental illness is exactly the same and that a label cannot contain it. That is why one wonders where self and illness begin, end, and overlap.

    I like how Joshua Wolf Shenk stated it:

    It is inevitable that we abbreviate and simplify. (It is apparent even in this essay that I see no way around the words "depression" and "melancholy.") But it is one thing to use shorthand while straining against the limits of language. It is quite another to mistake such brevities for the face of suffering. Each year, 17 million Americans and 100 million people worldwide experience clinical depression. What does this mean, exactly? Perhaps they all have deficits of serotonin, feel hopeless, ruminate on suicide. But why? What wrinkles crease their minds? How are they impaired? For how long—two weeks? a month each year? an entire life? And from where does this depression come?

    Rather than acknowledge these variations and uncertainties, many react against them, taking comfort in language that raises the fewest questions, provokes the least fear of the unknown. Such is the case with the equation of emotional problems and mechanical failure.

    The intent is not to encourage a victim mentality, but to offer those who are suffering in mental pain a way to not feel like naughty children complaining about something adults know better that isn't real. Its a shame people game the system, but that doesn't make the reality of those suffering any less valid and worth treating.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    I don't believe its right to tell anyone their feelings are wrong. One can help them develop coping strategies, but telling a child that their natural feelings are invalid can lead to all kinds of problems including feeling responsible and personal shame for abuse. This is not an excuse to coddle, but advocating a respectful balance. As far as mental health, it is important to remember that no one's experience of mental illness is exactly the same and that a label cannot contain it. That is why one wonders where self and illness begin, end, and overlap.

    I like how Joshua Wolf Shenk stated it:

    It is inevitable that we abbreviate and simplify. (It is apparent even in this essay that I see no way around the words "depression" and "melancholy.") But it is one thing to use shorthand while straining against the limits of language. It is quite another to mistake such brevities for the face of suffering. Each year, 17 million Americans and 100 million people worldwide experience clinical depression. What does this mean, exactly? Perhaps they all have deficits of serotonin, feel hopeless, ruminate on suicide. But why? What wrinkles crease their minds? How are they impaired? For how long—two weeks? a month each year? an entire life? And from where does this depression come?

    Rather than acknowledge these variations and uncertainties, many react against them, taking comfort in language that raises the fewest questions, provokes the least fear of the unknown. Such is the case with the equation of emotional problems and mechanical failure.

    The intent is not to encourage a victim mentality, but to offer those who are suffering in mental pain a way to not feel like naughty children complaining about something adults know better that isn't real. Its a shame people game the system, but that doesn't make the reality of those suffering any less valid and worth treating.
    I like this post.

    I get what you're saying, but, well, people suffering from clinical depression already have a hard time getting help and reassurance as it is...

    Like so:

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  9. #9
    You have a choice! 21%'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lexicon View Post
    Many maladies are only treated from one angle, when they likely ought to be looked at from every bio/psycho/social level, to promote an overall more balanced, & healthy path for the individual.
    I totally agree. I think this is something that is totally lacking in modern medicine. Physicians will only treat physical symptoms, and psychiatrists will treat only psychological symptoms, while the two are more linked than we might realize. Most of the time, I think a lot of physical symptoms are even more related than we think, but they are being treated as individual problems. Headache? Here's some pain-killers. Not better? Let's do a brain scan -- walk to that department on the 3rd floor please. Blurry vision too? Go see an optician. It's scary how a lot of the time it's the patients themselves who have to identify what is wrong and choose to go the right doctor.

    This is hardly about 'labeling' anymore, but for some reason I still feel it's related. I don't know, maybe there should be someone who is a 'health counselor' who looks at your life and your habits and your psychological state as a whole and help give you advice and refer you to specialists as needed. /dream

    Quote Originally Posted by bologna View Post
    The mother in that example was trivializing and denying the problem. For a toddler (or so), getting a boo-boo or losing a favorite toy is a big deal. Reach out to the damn child.
    To be honest I still don't know what to think about this. I mean, the fall was not bad and there were no scrapes or cuts, and the mother rushed to the child and was holding her lovingly. I'm quite sure if the child was really hurt or if it was an emotional hurt, the mother would have reacted differently. Maybe this is a modern parenting strategy or something.

    I think that labeling a phenomenon (mental illness) helps us 'make sense' of it--it provides us with a vocabulary that makes things easier to discuss and to mull about in our own brains.

    This can be good and bad. When we can use that vocabulary to construct some sort of logical framework around such a phenomenon, it's easier to develop a mental model that takes it in some direction or another. For example, if there exists a diagnosis, there's now a 'logical' separation between those with the diagnosis and those without, and so those with it might see themselves as screwed up compared to the norm. In a sense, having a vocabulary helps us develop a structure--whether the structure we wind up building is helpful or not.
    This is a very good point. It's how we naturally make sense of the world. Even having words at all is a kind of 'labeling'.

    The bolded is exactly what I was trying to get at! It's an issue that's hardly ever addressed. In regard to mental illness especially, maybe everyone is 'screwed up' in some way. Labeling something with a name helps people understand it, but once the problem is spotted as real, maybe it's better to just let go of the labeling altogether and start looking at how we can help you as a person.

    As one who has quite a few prescriptions, I also struggle with determining which medications I should actually be on and which I ought to be able to go without. Are they a crutch? Do they fix a problem in a good way? Do their ends justify the means?
    That's what I keep wondering too. Personally I don't think medication is the right approach. I think it helps, but there must be better, more natural ways to achieve long-term effects.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    I don't believe its right to tell anyone their feelings are wrong. One can help them develop coping strategies, but telling a child that their natural feelings are invalid can lead to all kinds of problems including feeling responsible and personal shame for abuse. This is not an excuse to coddle, but advocating a respectful balance. As far as mental health, it is important to remember that no one's experience of mental illness is exactly the same and that a label cannot contain it. That is why one wonders where self and illness begin, end, and overlap.

    I like how Joshua Wolf Shenk stated it:

    It is inevitable that we abbreviate and simplify. (It is apparent even in this essay that I see no way around the words "depression" and "melancholy.") But it is one thing to use shorthand while straining against the limits of language. It is quite another to mistake such brevities for the face of suffering. Each year, 17 million Americans and 100 million people worldwide experience clinical depression. What does this mean, exactly? Perhaps they all have deficits of serotonin, feel hopeless, ruminate on suicide. But why? What wrinkles crease their minds? How are they impaired? For how long—two weeks? a month each year? an entire life? And from where does this depression come?

    Rather than acknowledge these variations and uncertainties, many react against them, taking comfort in language that raises the fewest questions, provokes the least fear of the unknown. Such is the case with the equation of emotional problems and mechanical failure.

    The intent is not to encourage a victim mentality, but to offer those who are suffering in mental pain a way to not feel like naughty children complaining about something adults know better that isn't real. Its a shame people game the system, but that doesn't make the reality of those suffering any less valid and worth treating.
    Very good quote. The question is what can we do then? I think my main gripe about the whole issue revolves around using prescriptions to cure mental illness. Too much emphasis is being put on saying people are ill and feeding them pills so that they can function and become docile (and hopefully productive) members of the society again.

    There are other kinds of treatment other than medication and I think these are more important. If someone just lost a job and is about to be evicted from their home, they are going to be more prone to depression. It is not enough just to identify them as depressed and needing treatment. Their living situation needs to be improved as well, and that should be part of the 'treatment'.

    I know this is probably not feasible in real life. There is no way to create such a system. It's sad, really.

    Amazingly there is so little resource on how others can help people cope with mental illness. Normally it's just "Be there for them and encourage them to get treatment", but very little is said about how exactly to help while keeping a balance in your own life so that you don't get discouraged too. I think people around us have more insight about us than doctors and therefore should be the ones who are best equipped with how to help us.

    I guess I don't really have a point
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21% View Post
    That's what I keep wondering too. Personally I don't think medication is the right approach. I think it helps, but there must be better, more natural ways to achieve long-term effects.


    Very good quote. The question is what can we do then? I think my main gripe about the whole issue revolves around using prescriptions to cure mental illness. Too much emphasis is being put on saying people are ill and feeding them pills so that they can function and become docile (and hopefully productive) members of the society again.

    There are other kinds of treatment other than medication and I think these are more important. If someone just lost a job and is about to be evicted from their home, they are going to be more prone to depression. It is not enough just to identify them as depressed and needing treatment. Their living situation needs to be improved as well, and that should be part of the 'treatment'.

    I know this is probably not feasible in real life. There is no way to create such a system. It's sad, really.

    Amazingly there is so little resource on how others can help people cope with mental illness. Normally it's just "Be there for them and encourage them to get treatment", but very little is said about how exactly to help while keeping a balance in your own life so that you don't get discouraged too. I think people around us have more insight about us than doctors and therefore should be the ones who are best equipped with how to help us.

    I guess I don't really have a point
    Just leaving this here:



    Depression can be biological. Willpower alone can't solve everything in those cases. There's a reason it's called an "invisible disease".
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