I’ve mentioned before my diagnosis of depression, and that two of my three children have their own struggles with mental health conditions. This was my inspiration to read as much as I could about Depression, Anxiety, Autism, and anything else I thought would give me insight into what my children and I were going through.
Mental illness is the subject of much research and discussion, in the criminal, political, medical and social arenas. Nearly every person will at some stage feel sad, some have and will claim to have been abducted by aliens, and as stated in a 2007 study by Rossler et al, 18% of surveyed Swiss adults claim to have had thoughts that “weren’t their own.”
This raises the question; Where is the line between normal and abnormal? Where is the delineation between criminal and eccentric behaviour, or mental illness?
The three criteria used to assess whether a person’s behaviour is considered abnormal are known as the three D’s.
- Deviance: Behaviour, thoughts or actions that could be considered to diverge from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behaviour. According to this criterium, people can be described as abnormal if their actions or behaviours can be considered unusual, or disturbing enough, to violate social norms.
Statistical infrequency, or things which could be considered rare or unusual, deviating from what is considered normal, could also be considered as deviance. This in isolation is a poor criterium, as it would also include statistically rare qualities, such as creative genius, or world-class athletic ability, as deviating from the norm.
Another thing to be considered is that societal norms vary across cultures, and sometimes sub-cultures, and even between eras within these cultures. What is considered abnormal in one part of the world, might be perfectly acceptable in another.
- Distress: also considered as personal suffering. Distress, despite being the criterium that people most often use to decide their problems are serious enough to require treatment, is in and of itself not sufficient to be considered abnormal. For example, some people may not experience distress as a result of their psychological disorder, if the disorder has impaired their ability to recognise how maladaptive their behaviour is.
- Dysfunction: or impaired functioning. This criterium involves having difficulty in fulfilling expected and appropriate family, social and work-related situations. Everyone gets sad sometimes; it is when their sadness begins to impact on caring for their children, or holding down a job, that it begins to be seen as abnormal. Again, in and of itself, dysfunction is not sufficient for a person to be considered abnormal; dysfunction can be caused by something other than a psychological condition, and some people with psychological conditions can still function reasonably well at school, work or home.
At my worst, I ticked all three of those criteria. I was displaying deviant behaviour, I was certainly suffering from personal distress, and I was having impaired functioning in home, social and work environments.
In February 2017, I posted these memes to a social media account:
It appears someone was concerned enough to send some mutual acquaintances around to check on me, and I ended up being taken to Royal Perth Hospital, then transferred to a mental health ward at Bentley Hospital. I spent two weeks there.
I mentioned before that the medication that I was prescribed was not working for me. That’s not to say that medication won’t work for you. Medication can be extremely useful, and in some cases an absolute requirement to getting back to normal.
One of the orderlies at the hospital recommended I look into cognitive-based therapy (CBT). Mindfulness turned out to be a huge stepping-stone to walking my way back to normal.
My next post will discuss CBT, especially mindfulness, and the techniques I used.
Thanks again for reading.
Rosseler, W., Reicher-Rossler, A., Angst, J., Murray, R. et al (2007). Psychotic experiences in the general population. A twenty-year prospective community study. Schizophrenia Research, 92, 1-14