I’ve been musing on why depression and anxiety are considered lesser-than mental illnesses, whereas schizophrenia and bipolar are considered hardcore mental illnesses.
Everything exists on a continuum. What’s weird, though, is that with schizophrenia, you never hear about someone being “a little schizohprenic,” whether or not such a condition exists. (Who knows? I guess anything is possible.) You can be “a little bipolar” if you have cyclothymia, which (to the best of my knowledge) is mild bipolar patterns. It’s considered rare.
But with depression and anxiety, everyone and anyone can be “a little depressed” or “a little anxious”. It’s all based on normal everyday experiences. Suppose you really need to pass the test you just took. Well, you’ll be a little anxious! Suppose you just got some bad news. You’ll be a little depressed!
And so both of those concepts: worrying and sadness, respectively, can become mental illnesses if they’re higher on the continuum, like if you’re worrying all the time, for example, or if you’re clinically sad (for lack of a better way to put it) all the time. And/or if your feelings of worry or sadness are severe, like you’re worried about that test so badly that you’re having a panic attack that lands you in the hospital.
So, the continuums we have are:
So just stop for a minute and fill in the blank below with the lower end of the continuums!
__[insert a normal human emotion here]__—————-Schizophrenia
__[insert a normal human emotion here]__—————-Bipolar
You see the problem. One thing I think that happens is that people hear that someone’s depressed and/or anxious, and their dismissive internal response is, well, sure, I’ve felt that way, but I got over it, which is an invalid reaction if you’ve only been on the “sadness” and/or “fretting” end of the above continuum(s). I mean, of course! We’ve all been there! But people who minimize depression and anxiety have never been farther right on the continuums, and they’re mistaking their previous experiences of the normal emotions with mental illnesses. That never happens with bipolar or schizophrenia! No one ever reacts to those diagnoses by thinking, I’ve felt a little schizophrenic or bipolar in the past, but I got over it.
I know my own mental illnesses are dire, but I’m exceedingly grateful that I never get depressed or anxious because I hate-hate-hate those experiences. It’s hard to worry or feel blue! It makes me miserable! I’m better able to tolerate paranoia! Go figure! But I don’t have the belief that my mental illness is more extreme or severe than depression and anxiety, except inasmuch as everything’s on a continuum that varies from person to person, and a lot of my issues are blessedly well-medicated.
For example, I take antidepressants, but not for depression. I take them for obsessive thoughts and irrational behaviors. (If only they worked better!) 😀 But since I’ve got them in my system, it just becomes unlikely that I’d ever feel depressed. So I’m the happiest paranoiac I know. Go figure!
Meg, you’re the only paranoiac you know.
Right, but I’m very happy! When I’m not acting irrationally.
[Snort.] I won’t argue with that, Meg.