Saturday, August 17, 2013

Starting Off on Mental Illness

I've been thinking about writing a series like this for a few months now, but with all the posts that I still have in draft form, I figured that I'd just wait 'till I didn't have any drafts left. Needless to say, I've changed my mind; the drafts can wait for later.

There's a concept called the Law of Hammer. Sadly, it has nothing to do with Thor (I love that movie). It goes like this: When given a hammer, everything becomes a nail. Basically, when you learn something that you didn't know about a topic, you start to notice it everywhere and talk about it to everyone. Oh, and you have to use big words that you're sure no one around you understands just to show how much you know. Also, don't forget confidence. You have to talk with confidence, otherwise no one will believe you. You also need to bring the topic up at random points in conversation (big words included) just hoping that someone will ask you to tell them more.

That describes me as a freshman/sophomore Psychology student. We didn't talk much about specifics at the time, but the little we did discuss made me feel like such the expert. I would use words, acronyms, and phrases like OCD, Occam's Razor, Antisocial, and Maslow's Hierarchy as if I were the top practitioner on the subjects. I would watch a particular group of people discreetly but with great intent until a friend asked what I was looking at. YES! Opportunity knocking! I would point out the personality traits and comfort zones of every person in the group (that I had only been observing for 5 minutes) as if I were the personal therapist of each and had known them for years. I could see symptoms of mental illness in someone just by watching them for a couple of minutes...I was sooooo smart.

I was Law-of-Hammer-ing everything.

Then I started taking the upper-level psychology classes--the ones that weren't the general overview. I learned that mental illness is a lot more complicated than I was making it out to be.

I learned what it takes to actually make an official diagnosis of any type of disorder.

I learned that the cause of any mental health issue is rarely as easy as "   x    is what caused all this."

I learned how often many disorders are mis-diagnosed, under-diagnosed, or over-diagnosed by professionals (be it mental health or medical) who actually don't have any specialized training in the specific area.

I learned that many people believe that you can fix a mental illness the same way you can fix many physical illnesses: Just give them the right drug and it will go away.

I learned that many people still feel that counseling is for the weak.

I learned that, even today, many people are convinced that mental illness doesn't exist.

I learned that because many people are convinced that mental illness doesn't exist, even more people are embarrassed/ashamed/afraid to admit that they have been diagnosed with one.

I learned that people fear, shun, dismiss, or just flat out disagree with that which they do not understand.

My next few posts in this series will be addressing different mental illnesses. I will be going over the basics of many disorders in an attempt to clarify what exactly they are, possible causes, possible treatments, and so on. I'll also post a little about diagnosis policies, the ethics behind counseling, and the training involved to do so. I won't be going into any more detail than what I was taught in my upper-level classes in college and what was in my textbooks. Most people don't have access to those two things, so I hope that what I can post will aid in the learning process for those who have questions.

On a more serious note, please remember that having a BS in Psychology does not make me a licensed expert on any of these topics. That being said, please do not ask me if so-and-so might have    x    because he/she has some symptoms that I mention in a post. Official diagnoses can only be accurately made by a professional who has training in that specific area. (i.e. if your specialty is eating disorders, you'd better not be counseling someone who might have schizophrenia.) It's not that I'm not allowed to state my opinion, but I would personally prefer to...not to online; there will always be at least one person who takes it professionally, which can cause a ton of problems down the road. Of course, I always welcome questions, but please understand that I will not answer ones that I am not qualified to answer.

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