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Sharing – Is Mental Illness “Abnormal” If It’s Super Common?

Whether or not you believe the numbers from the study noted below, I think this is a really interesting way to view mental health issues:

““I don’t buy the argument that if lifetime prevalence is high for mental disorders, it must mean we’re medicalizing normality,” he said. “We don’t apply that kind of logic to physical health problems.” He used the example of a common illness like the flu. “Lots of people will get the flu,” Schaefer explained, “but that doesn’t mean that diagnosing and treating that condition is ‘medicalizing normality.’”

Schaefer is on firm ground when he compares common mental health conditions like depression to physical ailments like the flu. He and his colleagues have shown that results from previous studies were almost certainly under estimates of the lifetime prevalence of mental illness. The actual number is closer to 83 percent; a full five out of six people in Schaefer’s research met criteria for a mental health diagnosis by age 38.”

I like this comparison to the flu, because the flu is something we all deal with in one form or another, and most people struggle with it for a time, and then get better. Some get treatment, and get better. Some get treatment, and don’t get better. Some have it worse than others, some let it linger without treatment and it becomes a more serious problem, etc. And some people, just don’t get the flu much at all, for some reason.

That sounds a lot like the diverse ways many of us deal with mental health struggles. Some are more dangerous than others, but many, many people end up dealing with it, even if just for short time.

Perhaps, if we viewed depression, anxiety, as something closer to the flu, as opposed to something to be kept secret at all costs, more people would have minor cases that are treated and recover quickly, as opposed to letting them fester and become more complicated. And the folks with more complex issues, akin to pneumonia, would not be told to just suck it up because it’s all in their head. They’d get the treatment that their illness requires, because we all recognize that mental health issues are easily as common as physical health issues, and there’s no weakness associated with them.

Alas, this is not where we are yet, so we continue to ignore what are essentially very common issues, because no one wants to admit to being one of the other people, even though there are more of us than there are of them.

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