Why do we misunderstand mental illnesses?

Some people are simply strange

The boundaries of the concept of “disease” in modern psychiatry are extremely vague, and many types of behavior that we are accustomed to consider as disorders have been excluded from the list of diseases.

Women have been suffering for centuries
from the mythical hysteria

Почему мы неправильно понимаем психические заболевания. Изображение №2.

For thousands of years, people believed that there’s a mental illness that affects only women. From a scientific point of view female hysteria started to be investigated about 200 years ago, and before it was considered as the sign of supernatural powers. At some times “ill women” were even considered witches, possessed by a demon and sentenced to death. Victorian period in the UK became the boom of female hysteria. Tens of thousands of women had such a diagnosis, and all had supposedly the same symptoms: convulsive seizures, twitching, back pain, increased sensitivity to touch and even paralysis of the legs.

The cause of the disease was the displacement of the uterus, and effective way to prevent it  ws aromatic salt. Vulnerable to hysteria ladies carried a jar of odorous substances, that were sniffed at the first sign of agitation. This treatment method was described by Hippocrates, but even in the XIX century, despite of the already existing theories about the seemingly obvious connection with nervous disorders of the nervous system, they continued to trust it. Unfortunately, some doctors were supporters of radical treatment of hysteria. Thus, an American Robert Betty removed the ovaries of healthy women.

In XX century, Sigmund Freud was involved in the study of hysteria. He began to attribute it to men. However, the development of science has led to the fact that the views on the nature of the disease were radically changed. In 1980, the hysteria was excluded from the list of diseases. It was seen as a symptom of other mental disorders, such as dissociative.

is not considered a disorder anymore

Почему мы неправильно понимаем психические заболевания. Изображение №3.

The discrepancy between the biological and psychological sex experience more people than we think, the ratio to the rest of the population of transsexuals is from 1: 4500 for men and 1: 8000 for women. These data were presented by Belgian and American scientists in 2007.  The main problem for psychiatrists, who have studied this question, was the method of treatment for people with a non-standart self-perception. One of the areas of work with such people is to help them adjust to life in their own body, despite the fact that they do not feel it at home. Other way is to allow transsexuals to change their body how they need. Some psychiatrists argue that the first strategy may harm the psychological state of transsexuals, who begin to suffer from depression and anxiety attacks.

In the XXI century the dispute of psychiatrists about gender disorders was transferred to another plane. American psychiatrists wondered whether it is possible to consider transsexualism as a mental illness.  In 2011, the Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that transsexuals are entitled to protection from discrimination in the workplace. A year later, the American Psychiatric Association eliminated the gender identity disorder from the list of diseases and renamed it the “gender dysphoria” (in fact, “dysphoria” – this is the “disorder”, but without the negative connotations).

A difficult way of Asperger syndrome

Почему мы неправильно понимаем психические заболевания. Изображение №4.

CLASSIFICATION of Asperger syndrome is one of the most complex issues of modern psychiatry. The syndrome is named after Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, who already in 1944 described the children with difficulties in communicating with their peers. They showed little empathy, were reserved and often engaged into very narrow topics, at which were much better than the other children. That is why the syndrome for a long time could be identified: chilfren with this syndrome almost  didn’t differ from other people.

Officially Asperger syndrome was included in the list of diseases only in the early 1990s, but it turned out to be an intermediate solution. Someone still believed that the classification of such people as those with the disorder was excessive, and other experts did not understand why this disorder was formally considered separately from autism. Parents of children with Asperger syndrome often believed that the disorder is rather good, because it can reveal the talents of the child. In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association decided to put an end to injustice and reclassified Asperger syndrome. Now people with it are considered autistic with high ability to function.

 What do psychiatrists discuss now?

Почему мы неправильно понимаем психические заболевания. Изображение №5.

In September 2014 THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) has issued a document which speaks about plans to exclude several disorders from the International Classification of Diseases. They are mostly related to sexual orientation and gender identity. For example ego-dystonic sexual orientation. This is anxiety of who finds it difficult to aknowledge their sexual orientation, most often not traditional. Officially, this condition is classified as a psychological disorder, but the WHO believes that it is not due to abnormal development of the brain or nervous system, but the social stigma and discrimination which people with non-traditional sexual orientation are still experiencing. The WHO is also going to exclude from the list of diseases disorders of sexual relations among people with unusual sexual preferences.