Physical and Mental Illness, and how we treat them differently

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I am currently laid up with a physical illness. Nothing serious, so don’t fret, but it reminds me again of how differently we treat physical and mental illness. Here’s a little compare and contrast:

    1. In physical pain, we seek to find the cause and solve it. In mental pain, we try to suppress it.

    2. In physical pain, the one in pain receives sympathy and care. In mental pain, the sufferer is avoided because they are somehow tainted or weird.

    3. In physical pain, the congregation prays for the afflicted. In mental pain, the afflicted suffers alone because mental pain is never shared.

    4. In physical pain, the assumption is that this is not the sufferer’s fault. In mental pain and illness, the assumption is that there is something wrong with the person.

Those are my initial comparisons. What’s on your mind?

-DMR

15 thoughts on “Physical and Mental Illness, and how we treat them differently”

  1. This is not a problem that exists solely in the realm of mental illness, medicine and culture has a tendency to treat anything not clearly understood in this manner. Look at fibromyalgia, PMS , chronic fatigue, polycystic ovarian syndrome, food allergies. many people suffering from these – which involve real pain, real problems, are told it is all in their heads because it is not textbook.

    I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. My body behaved as if it had it WELL before the numbers on the tests indicated I did. I was gaining weight unexplainedly, mood swings, anxiety, depression, acne, miscarriages, infertility, body hair where it shouldn't be. Yet my FSH and testosterone were 2 points from being abnormal…so no diagnosis. My insulin was too high, but the doctor had apparently not read the journal articles that indicated that >10 was too high for women, while >18 was too high for men. So, it was ignored that I had a whole list of symptoms that weren't normal, until the test said what they wanted it to.

  2. This is not a problem that exists solely in the realm of mental illness, medicine and culture has a tendency to treat anything not clearly understood in this manner. Look at fibromyalgia, PMS , chronic fatigue, polycystic ovarian syndrome, food allergies. many people suffering from these – which involve real pain, real problems, are told it is all in their heads because it is not textbook.

    I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. My body behaved as if it had it WELL before the numbers on the tests indicated I did. I was gaining weight unexplainedly, mood swings, anxiety, depression, acne, miscarriages, infertility, body hair where it shouldn't be. Yet my FSH and testosterone were 2 points from being abnormal…so no diagnosis. My insulin was too high, but the doctor had apparently not read the journal articles that indicated that >10 was too high for women, while >18 was too high for men. So, it was ignored that I had a whole list of symptoms that weren't normal, until the test said what they wanted it to.

  3. They say there are tens of thousands of people who are hypothyroid (and are probably a part of those depression numbers, but are testing within normal range. Doctors don't recognize that low normal may not be normal for many people. Or that there are disorders where the hormone is made, but there is a problem with converting it so it can be used.

  4. They say there are tens of thousands of people who are hypothyroid (and are probably a part of those depression numbers, but are testing within normal range. Doctors don't recognize that low normal may not be normal for many people. Or that there are disorders where the hormone is made, but there is a problem with converting it so it can be used.

  5. And then there are the attitudes.you mentioned. I'm overweight and have acne. I must overeat and be lazy. But I gain weight because my body cannot efficiently convert carbohydrates. In fact, when I was on WeightWatchers for six months, I gained 15 lbs. on whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lean meat. When those carbs are digested, my cells resist the carbs (insulin resistance) so I make a ton of insulin in order to force it in. That causes other hormone problems, and most of those carbs are then immediately turned into fat. So my cells don't get the energy to exercise easily, and foggyheadedness impairs overall functioning. It's hard to eat right and find time to exercise when you can't think straight . When I do eat right (low carb/high healthy fats), I do better…but it is hard to get there, and the insulin issues magnify cravings.

    I don't think people understand how hard it is to get to a place that is better when your brain and body are not functioning right and all you are wanting is to get through the day. This is the case with a lot of physical syndromes as well as the mental illnesses.

  6. And then there are the attitudes.you mentioned. I'm overweight and have acne. I must overeat and be lazy. But I gain weight because my body cannot efficiently convert carbohydrates. In fact, when I was on WeightWatchers for six months, I gained 15 lbs. on whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lean meat. When those carbs are digested, my cells resist the carbs (insulin resistance) so I make a ton of insulin in order to force it in. That causes other hormone problems, and most of those carbs are then immediately turned into fat. So my cells don't get the energy to exercise easily, and foggyheadedness impairs overall functioning. It's hard to eat right and find time to exercise when you can't think straight . When I do eat right (low carb/high healthy fats), I do better…but it is hard to get there, and the insulin issues magnify cravings.

    I don't think people understand how hard it is to get to a place that is better when your brain and body are not functioning right and all you are wanting is to get through the day. This is the case with a lot of physical syndromes as well as the mental illnesses.

  7. #4 There IS something wrong with me; my brain chemistry doesn't work the way it should. The distinction is in the manifestation. I am "normal" so long as I take my Rx; a week without and I go ballistic: the manifestation is behavioral. As to "pain" all of us like to be able to locate pain and then give it a "name": sprain, cut, joint pain, but for a person with OCD, even under "control" (what a joke!) the diagnosis is never "right." That being said there is also the spiritual dimension to deal with and I think it is a MISTAKE to talk to the average pastor. They've taken a couple of counseling classes but they are not experts; neither are they always the best "spiritual" guides-I was offered one and didn't reply. This nonsense about praying to Jesus is also ****for the birds-tell that to someone who is manic or having an OCD breakdown and you'll do more harm than good. We all want to rush to the *&^%ing prayer book or the Bible as if there's some theological pixie dust in there we can sprinkle on ourselves.

  8. #4 There IS something wrong with me; my brain chemistry doesn't work the way it should. The distinction is in the manifestation. I am "normal" so long as I take my Rx; a week without and I go ballistic: the manifestation is behavioral. As to "pain" all of us like to be able to locate pain and then give it a "name": sprain, cut, joint pain, but for a person with OCD, even under "control" (what a joke!) the diagnosis is never "right." That being said there is also the spiritual dimension to deal with and I think it is a MISTAKE to talk to the average pastor. They've taken a couple of counseling classes but they are not experts; neither are they always the best "spiritual" guides-I was offered one and didn't reply. This nonsense about praying to Jesus is also ****for the birds-tell that to someone who is manic or having an OCD breakdown and you'll do more harm than good. We all want to rush to the *&^%ing prayer book or the Bible as if there's some theological pixie dust in there we can sprinkle on ourselves.

  9. #5 With physical pain, you either have it or don't. With mental pain, even those who believe in the condition expect the sufferer to always know what their status is. Changes in opinion regarding previous status in either direction are not allowed.

  10. #5 With physical pain, you either have it or don't. With mental pain, even those who believe in the condition expect the sufferer to always know what their status is. Changes in opinion regarding previous status in either direction are not allowed.

  11. I think it is also harder to understand because it has cycles. There are times when things are going well and the disorder is hardly on our minds and other times when the disorder is so weighed down on us that it's the only thing on our minds. This isn't usually the way that pain happens. It either gets worse every day or it gets better. And that is easier for most people to understand.

  12. I think it is also harder to understand because it has cycles. There are times when things are going well and the disorder is hardly on our minds and other times when the disorder is so weighed down on us that it's the only thing on our minds. This isn't usually the way that pain happens. It either gets worse every day or it gets better. And that is easier for most people to understand.

  13. My experience with people who suffer cyclic pain (such as with fibromyalgia), is that people get almost as impatient with their "episodes," as with cyclic mental disorders. You are right. People like things to be linear.

  14. My experience with people who suffer cyclic pain (such as with fibromyalgia), is that people get almost as impatient with their "episodes," as with cyclic mental disorders. You are right. People like things to be linear.

  15. I have severe Bipolar and a couple of other mental illnesses. The last time I went to a hospital, they lied about a couple of tests they took and they put me in a very small room with a 6 foot five security guard. I was not acting out to the point where I was going to committ sucide or homicide. I was fully aware about what was going on. My physical problem was that I had a parasitic infection that no one could diagnois and they thought I was really psychotic and pernoid. Whenever a doctor can’t find anything physically wrong with me that want me to go to the nut house. Mary

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