Post No.: 0270
There are so many different types of mental health disorders or illnesses with many different types of symptoms. So prejudging all mentally disordered or ill people as having, for instance, impaired intelligence, is as erroneous as prejudging all physically injured or ill people as having, for instance, broken spines(!) It depends on which specific parts or functions are damaged or impaired, for which the brain has many different parts and functions.
It’s thus wrong to assume that a person with a mental disorder has all of the mental disorder symptoms one has ever heard of! This thinking is just like assuming that someone with an impaired function in his/her legs must have impaired functions in his/her arms and other places too. This person’s arms will likely work normally – just like a person with depression won’t necessarily have a lower than average IQ. In fact, people with a higher risk of depression tend to be highly conscientious and (over)think and use their brains to perform a lot of critical thinking, including being perfectionist and overly critical of themselves – they are arguably the opposite of absent-minded but ‘happy-go-lucky’.
People who rely more on their intuitions (system one) may be more suggestible but they tend to be happier due to seeking cognitive ease. People who rely more on critical thinking (system two) may be more vigilant but they tend to be more stressed. Ignorance can therefore be bliss, but ignorance often leads to errors. Thinking takes effort, and cognitive strain is stressful and mentally depleting. A mind at ease leads to a happier feeling – but easing one’s mind can be easier said than done for some. Woof.
Some mental and personality disorders are probably not suitable if someone wishes to take the role of state leader or military general, for instance, but some are fine – so one must not stereotype what it means to have a mental or personality disorder. The less people understand, the more they tend to generalise with unrefined stereotypes – so people need to learn more about mental health disorders and illnesses to refine these unrefined generalisations about the mentally disordered or ill. Post No.: 0254 looked at dispelling some assumptions regarding mental health and criminality.
Losing the use of one’s legs usually means using one’s arms more thus making one’s arms stronger, and losing one’s eyesight will usually heighten the keenness of one’s other senses, so impairment in one brain function might even hypothetically result in enhanced functions in other areas in compensation? Even if this doesn’t happen, the brain is not a single homogenous mass with one binary ‘on or off switch’ that means that it either works completely or doesn’t work at all. In a way, every single person ever is uniquely mentally imperfect because no one has a perfect brain (whatever that is), so it just depends on what we culturally deem as being imperfect, how and to what degrees we’re all individually imperfect, and how society accepts or accommodates these imperfections. Forgetful people have alarms to help them remember things, people poor at mental arithmetic have calculators, physically unfit or lazy people don’t need to chase or hunt prey for food in this modern world and they also have cars to help them get to the shops or they could order takeaways, short and long-sighted people have glasses, etc. – so, morally speaking, why shouldn’t everyone with an imperfection have their imperfection compensated for rather than stigmatised?
A person may suffer from depression, social anxiety or autism, for instance, but that doesn’t mean he/she is stupid and shouldn’t be listened to for wisdom or information. Even having selective mutism doesn’t make a person stupid, even though such people don’t speak. The rest just need to be smarter to find ways to help them communicate with others.
One can have good or neutral moments within an episode of depression too – one can have moments of fun like any other person, between the seriously dark moments. (However, we must watch out if hard partying and drinking are just futile attempts at escapism that ignore trying to deal with the root causes of one’s pains or problems.)
Behavioural disorders aren’t black-or-white but exist on a spectrum and are often syndromes (a collection of signs and symptoms that co-occur and characterise a particular health-related cause). They involve multiple additive genes (polygenicity), and environmental factors play a key role too. Technically, we may all therefore be carrying varying numbers of risk alleles or gene variants for schizophrenia, for instance (like we all carry varying numbers of genes for ‘tall’), and so we’re all essentially on the spectrum of ‘schizophrenia’. For instance, we all experience weird dreams now and again, which are akin to hallucinations, except most of us will recognise that they were just dreams rather than reality; and lots of us hold delusional beliefs and illogical irrationalities, and have derailed or gone off on tangents during conversations before. And then the environment (culture, how we’re treated, life events, etc.) plays a major role in whether we each become clinically schizophrenic or not too i.e. whether our particular combination of risk alleles and environmental stressors manifest towards problematic symptoms and behaviours for the current environment/culture (like nutrition, gravity and other environmental factors play a key role in affecting people’s heights too).
We are all arguably at least a little bit ‘mentally disordered’ then, but for most people, this diagnosis is not very useful or correct because their particular combination of factors doesn’t cause them a real practical or emotional problem in their lives. (As a side note, it is or was considered that schizophrenia might actually turn out to be several different (sub) disorders or diseases all grouped as ‘schizophrenia’, just like breast cancer is actually several different (sub) diseases all grouped as ‘breast cancer’?)
The key point is that we may all be carrying genetic risk alleles for various conditions, but how we were and are treated, plus the environment we were and are in, play a major role in how we ultimately turn out – a person with fewer risk alleles but experienced an unhappy and bad upbringing may turn out worse than someone with more risk alleles but experienced a happy and good upbringing. It’s seldom a pure genetic fate. How we treat people and how we’re treated frequently plays a pivotal role in how each of us ultimately turns out; and it may not even be about changing their behaviour but changing our own tolerance of it. For instance, one time in history (and still in some parts of the world today), homosexuality was considered a mental disorder that needed treating, but homosexual people didn’t actually need to change but society’s tolerance and accommodation for them did i.e. we don’t have to blame people’s genes and we don’t always have to even change the behaviours of the disordered or ‘disordered’ – we often just need to change the environment/culture, such as our education, exposure and accommodation for people who are different but are really doing no genuine harm to themselves or other people.
And because multiple additive genes are at play for many mental disorders and we all highly likely carry at least some risk alleles (but not in a high enough ratio of risk to non-risk alleles for it to be a problem for most people) – the status of one’s spouse’s and one’s own mental health may be absolutely fine, but this won’t guarantee that one’s offspring will therefore definitely be fine (an offspring will inherit 50% of the genes from each of his/her parents, but which 50% from each parent? Most of their combined risk alleles or most of their combined non-risk alleles?) And vice-versa – two parents with expressed mental health disorders that involve multiple additive genes, or even dominant-recessive gene inheritances, won’t guarantee that their offspring will definitely become mentally disordered too (it’ll again just depend on which 50% of genes from each parent the offspring inherits, such as two recessive genes, and any chance mutations during the gene replication process too). And all this is without considering any environmental factors and the complex interactions they’ll play with whichever unique combination of genes an offspring may end up with too.
So possibly, in some cases, in the same way that two brunette-haired parents could have a blonde-haired child – two parents with similar mental disorders can have a child who grows up to have no mental disorder, and vice-versa. Genes are only part of the story and we cannot always be sure which genes a child will inherit from each of his/her biological parents anyway. Gene expression is also not necessarily constant throughout one’s life, which is why the hair colour of some kids can change (usually from lighter to darker) as they grow up. The different permutations of possible genetic inheritances from one’s parents are why non-identical twin siblings are genetically different (they share, on average only 50% of the same direct copies of genes – so flip a fluffy coin for each gene).
It’s also not as simple as taking out these risk alleles via gene customisation technologies – many of these genes may be beneficial for other functions even though they may add up to be potentially undesirable in other ways. It’s like removing the wing mirrors of a car might improve the aerodynamics, but it’ll make the car harder to drive safely. Lots of genes affect many different functions rather than just one (pleiotropy). We don’t yet know enough in the majority of cases to play god with such surety and detail.
Physical distress risks acute or chronic physical injury, so it should be no surprise that mental distress (e.g. via loss, trauma, poverty) risks acute or chronic mental injury. The state of living, of life, is low entropy/high order, so it should also not be surprising that achieving some level of relative disorder in the brain is easy, and common – just like it’s much easier to mess up or spot imperfections on a hand-drawn straight line than a hand-drawn squiggle. The more advanced an animal becomes, the more that can go wrong and the more that small deviations from the expected norm will stand out. Sophisticated machines (for which complex organism brains and bodies are) are more likely to have imperfections or errors that impact their performance at least somewhere and at least some of the time, and this therefore applies to all of us.
Woof! So no one is perfect and no one can practically guarantee that his/her own children will never risk a mental health disorder or illness in their lives. Mental health is something that likely affects, or will likely affect, all of us in one way or another (especially the older we live) and so we must learn to not stereotype the ill, and we must increase our education and accommodation for people who are different but aren’t reasonably doing any harm to themselves or others. And well, logically, if we were to wish to harm people who are merely different to us then we’d be the ones who are doing the harm to others and thus maybe we should therefore be the ones to be stigmatised and restricted as a result, if so?!