What Makes Mental Illness Bad?


Why is it that some people have a psychiatric disorder and they bounce back and it's not a big deal, while others struggle terribly?

The following originally appeared on our network site Shrink Rap.

So why is it that some people have a psychiatric disorder and they bounce back and it's not a big deal, while others struggle terribly? For the unlucky ones, mental illness defines them.

Here are some factors that affect how much impact psychiatric illness has in a person's life:

(Note to Roy: did I get the effect/affect thing right here?)

1) The severity of the symptoms.

Any way you dice it, mild-to-moderate anxiety can often be hidden and isn't as disruptive as an episode of psychosis with hallucinations and paranoid delusions.

Just to give an example.

2) The duration of the episodes.

So a chronic depression or severe obsessive compulsive disorder may be more disabling than a brief episode of psychosis.

3) The form of the symptoms.

Some symptoms are intrinsically more public than others, or more difficult to bounce back from. In terms of "Can I be a doctor if I have bipolar disorder?," one episode of walking around the hospital naked may be all it takes to get sent home.

Form and severity of symptoms, and the duration of the episodes, are likely to be intrinsic to the disease and not something the individual controls.

4) How responsive the illness is to treatments.

Some people have very severe symptoms that are very responsive to treatment.

5) External support systems: access to good care, chicken soup, and TLC. Job flexibility may enable some people to quietly take time off when the going gets rough. Understanding friends & family-- these are all good things.

6) Individual personality features that support good coping. This is vague and I just made it up, but it's the best I can do--- maybe 'resilience' is another term for it.

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