ON MENTAL ILLNESS: We aren't to blame, plus, falsities of the mind

By Jack Bragen
Friday August 23, 2013 - 09:12:00 AM

When experiencing symptoms of mental illness, some people who suffer from these diseases blame or shame themselves for being ill. And yet, these diseases aren't something we did to ourselves. 

Our parents didn't make us mentally ill. No one else did something to make us ill. A possible exception to this might be symptoms of post-traumatic stress, if people are abused as children, or due to deployment at war (in which case you could blame the US Government). However, I know that my parents did nothing to abuse me, and this probably holds true for most people who suffer from these awful diseases. 

I was a victim of bullying by other kids in the public school system, but so were many others who never became mentally ill. The causes of mental illnesses are largely unknown, but we do know that heredity is a factor. 

A person with mental illness needn't feel guilt about having symptoms. People should not be allowed to induce guilt toward us when they perhaps see us on the sofa doing nothing or believe that we have not made enough progress in life. Such a critic, whether they are a relative, a friend, or someone who doesn't know you, is not aware of what you might be dealing with. 

A person with mental illness has nothing to be ashamed of, and is not to blame for their symptoms--and punishing someone for being ill is inappropriate and shameful. * * * When we have anxiety, mania, depression or delusions, these symptoms give the mind a false impression of the world. It helps when anxious or depressed to realize that this is merely the illness, and it is not accurate to think that things are that bad. If we introduce a bit of this reality into our thoughts, it can bring some level of relief. 

Being paranoid can bring anxiety, and anxiety or fear can cause more paranoia. It is important that we remind ourselves that our minds can lie to us, and can perceive a threat which does not necessarily exist. When we remember that the mind is probably fooling us, this allows us to be fooled a little less. 

It is important to heed the real warnings in life while dismissing the false feelings of being threatened. I'm not going to tell you that everything is "perfect" which some cult philosophies may assert. When there is an actual problem which necessitates action, you should deal with that problem. 

To distinguish between false threats generated by the illness versus the real problems that must be dealt with, there are some things you can do. You could discuss those thoughts with people who know you. You could bring up the thoughts with a therapist, with family, or with close friends. Secondly, medication may help with some of the erroneous thoughts. When you recognize that a thought is probably a delusion, that's half the battle. 

The fact of having recognized one or more delusions isn't an indication of being cured. However, sometimes recognizing a delusion is an indication that you are starting to recover rational thought. If medication is increased and it appears that this has increased one's delusions, it could actually be that you now recognize delusions that already existed undetected. 

If a person with schizophrenia believes that they have zero delusions, it is likely that they are on the verge of becoming very ill. Even while on medication, a person with schizophrenia or other mental illness is likely to have residual symptoms that the medication didn't fully fix. If someone believes they are cured, it is often an indication of impending relapse. 

The perception of a person with psychotic tendencies that he or she has no delusions at all could sometimes mean that the sense of judgment is gone. The ability to judge what is real and what isn't goes haywire when someone is becoming more ill.