Is Mental ‘Illness’ Actually the Brain Trying to Protect Itself?


From Emergent Divergence: “People hold on tightly to the idea that they are mentally ‘ill,’ and understandably so. The deficit model of mental health has been pushed on us quite successfully, but what if it’s not the person who is ill?

Consider depression. A person experiences a traumatic event . . . and starts to feel as though nothing goes well for them. They withdraw from their environment and isolate. Is this an illness, or is this the human brain doing its best to protect itself from trauma?

Now consider that the cultures [we] live with, particular in Western society, actively punish people who have experienced trauma. There is a lack of welfare benefits, inadequate and under-resourced wellbeing services, and let’s not forget that humans are effectively judged by whether or not they make the right amount of profit while performing a neurotypical display so as to not make others uncomfortable.

To me it seems clear where the suffering is actually stemming from, and it isn’t the person.”

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  1. Actually, I can add, that although I do not believe in the label “mental trauma” (there are no radiographies for a “fractured” personality or any of the many analogies found in mental trauma discourse), following the analogy I can add that when you have a broken bone, an injury from a wild animal, a fall that hurts during your work, foraging, agriculture, etc., actually one probably would seek the safety and protection of the family and community. And the community, historically, there being resources, is obligated and “happy” to protect and bring that individual to “reparation”, protection and confort, seems instictual in many species. The historical record, as far as I know proves it.
    Which to me is way different to “mental trauma”.
    And, I don’t think society is sick, I think that is just learning and using a wrongfull, hurtfull, even ilegal (I am no lawyer), approach to such analogy. Society, to me is not expressing a disease of itself, is expressing an error, a negligence, or bad faith. Just plain “dumbness” and prejudice, without me trying to be offensive.

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  2. A slightly more sophisticated idea is that what is seen as “mental illness” is the person’s mind trying to protect themselves, but doing it in ways that backfire and cause more problems. Like a person who is betrayed or hurt by people and then socially withdraws but this backfires by leading to having no friends, low social skills and being more vulnerable. And then stuff way more complex than that, but the same principle.

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    • I’ve had similar thoughts. The body really only has one immune system and there isn’t as much difference between physical and mental illness as we think. If we think of depression is it really much different from how people act when sick from a pathogen or injury? My personal experience is that some of the weirder side effects of psych drugs tend to involve processes like body temperature, appetite, or circadian rhythm.

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