Post No.: 0069
Like most, if not all, things concerning good health, it’s about achieving some kind of balance and moderation and not venturing into any extremes or being faced with extreme conditions for too long (a failure of homeostasis).
Now the vast majority of us feel some level of fear or unease around certain insects, snakes, heights, small enclosed spaces or other things, for example, but it only becomes a troubling phobia if it’s overwhelming and severely impacts one’s quality of life – and if one lives in an environment full of these creatures, spaces or things to constantly trigger one’s fears. This reveals to us that a person’s inherent phobia(s) won’t be a problem in their life whatsoever if they simply live in an environment that protects them from or otherwise doesn’t prod their phobia triggers e.g. a person who has a fear of snakes will be largely fine if he/she doesn’t live in a place that has lots of wild snakes; likewise, a person with a high risk for drug addiction will be largely fine if he/she doesn’t live in a place that has lots of easily obtainable addictive drugs. (But not everyone can afford to just move to another place to live, and it’s a vicious cycle if one cannot get a decent job to socially mobilise because of one’s condition.) Our life outcomes therefore depend upon the combination of our personal disorders and the environments we inhabit.
So, with these types of mental conditions at least, it’s not about sufferers being fundamentally different to normal (or ‘normal’) people – it’s just a matter of the extent, one way or the other, of some aspect of human cognition and behaviour that we all share to some degree, that is out of balance or out of moderation/is too extreme. And because they involve both genetic and environmental factors, everybody contributes to the management and well-being of each other because we are all part of the environment for everyone else, as part of the problem or part of the solution, offering risk factors or protective factors, especially towards the mentally disordered and vulnerable, by what we all say and do or don’t say or do (e.g. people contributing to an environment of bullying or an environment of compassion). This connects to Post No.: 0028 about changing the culture or environment rather than (just) the vulnerable person. Woof.
We all essentially fall somewhere on the spectrum of having anxieties, sorrows, ‘crazy thoughts’, ‘wild imaginations’, talking to oneself, obsessions, compulsions, irrationalities and so forth, and we all contribute to each others’ environmental factors collectively – but it only becomes a problem for an individual if some aspect, feeling or behaviour becomes too extreme that it’s negatively-impacting on their life and too frequent or chronic, possibly because of some ongoing environmental stressor (e.g. bullying, a culture of stigma).
This is why we must look out for adverse changes in thinking, mood and behaviour, in oneself and in each other. If something only lasts for a few days then don’t worry about it, but if something negatively impacts the daily and greater function of one’s life in the mid-to-longer term then get it checked out. The criteria of ‘negatively-impacting’ is the same with substance abuse disorders or addictions versus mere substance usage, or not being able to sleep properly night-after-night for weeks despite being in bed and wanting to sleep versus being born with six fingers per hand, flat feet or sustaining a physical scar that doesn’t bother you – if it bothers you enough and for long enough then it’s a problem, and if it doesn’t then it’s not a problem at all. A person can alphabetise everything they own but if it doesn’t consume their thoughts and life in a debilitating manner then it’s okay (and possibly even a benefit or joy for them) – so the difference has got to be whether something produces negative consequences in a person’s life or not, whatever that something is from an ‘externally objective or observed’ sense.
It’s about the negative impact on one’s life more than about a certain level of causal stimuli. It’s just like with a physical injuries analogy – we can’t say whether e.g. 50kg or 500kg on the weightlifting bar is the threshold for causing an injury to a person. It just depends if one does or doesn’t get injured regardless of the objective amount of weight on the bar. Some days you get injuries lifting less than you’ve personally lifted before too, so whether something is too much or not is not fixed or universal – all that matters is if you’ve been injured or not, regardless of the weight on the bar that ‘should’ or ‘should not’ have caused you an injury. It’d be totally absurd for some external observer to think ‘you’re not injured – that was only 50kg on the bar’(!) If you’re injured then you’re injured.
So for mental health – all that matters is if someone’s life is being negatively impacted or not, regardless of the causes or level of stimuli that ‘should’ or ‘should not’ have caused or be causing them mental harm. Hence, for instance, if a person genuinely feels and says that they have a phobia of spiders or have suicidal thoughts and that it’s negatively impacting their daily life and has been doing so for a while, then no one else should deny that with remarks like e.g. ‘you’re faking it’ or ‘you’re so rich and famous you can’t be depressed’. If they feel it then they feel it.
A relatively light resistance can cause a person injuries if they’ve been over-training or over-working too, just like a relatively small incident could send someone over the edge into suicide ideation if they’ve experienced chronic bullying for too long, for instance. So as with a physical injuries analogy again – a sufferer might not be intrinsically weak but simply exhausted or has been beaten down for too long. Therefore having a mental health condition like depression or anxiety does not necessarily mean one is weak of mind.
And all injuries are real, whether considered physical or mental, and must be attended to and treated rather than dismissed – regardless of whether they were caused by 50kg or 500kg, or a chronic stress at work or a bereavement of a loved one, for instance – injuries usually only get worse over time if they’re not.
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