Is Mental Illness really “Mental”? – 2

So, the other reason why I don’t like the term mental illness. It’s because calling it that suggests that we have direct control of it and should simply try harder, or know better. And feel bad or guilty if we’re unsuccessful…

I think emotional illness would be a more appropriate term for most of what we suffer from in modern times. Feeling depressed or anxious does not originate in a failure to think the “correct” or “healthy” thoughts in my view, rather that we are caught in a mood of anxiety or depression that is pervasive and engulfing. Repetitive thoughts can reinforce this , though stopping the circular nature of the thoughts is not straightforward or sustainable for many of us.

We can often influence the mood by physical interventions; activities like running, tai chi, breathing exercises, yoga, gardening, expressive arts etc. Although these can be effective we may then find ourselves dependent on regular daily or weekly schedules to sustain the improvement.

Longer term sustained improvement that does not require continued effort may require a spell of psychotherapy aimed at exploring the roots of the issues and achieving transformative change. That means that we look to create fundamental change that is permanent and does not require constant vigilance or continued effort to keep us in a good place. The process of creating such a change is known to psychologists as memory reconsolidation. This is a permanent change that can remove the painful and distressing emotional charge from traumatic or stressful events while leaving the factual recall intact.

I’m sure I have more to say but I will leave that to another time…

Leave a Reply