ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Effects of Bipolar and Schizoid Conditions on Decision-making and Impulsivity

Jack Bragen
Friday September 27, 2019 - 03:58:00 PM

Don't quote the following as a professional opinion:

OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by itself is not a major mental illness. It is characterized by unusual behavior patterns that are obsessive. People who have this without any additional disorder often do fine without treatment, and some may be very successful in business. However, OCD may also be one of many byproducts of having either a psychotic disorder or an affective disorder.

On the other hand, people with psychosis or mania may not suffer from OCD, they may simply behave obsessively; an important distinction. 

Many people with psychiatric conditions have difficulty knowing when and how to stop a behavior, and of knowing when and how to let go of a person, place or thing. This especially pertains to behaviors that do not serve a good purpose. If a particular behavior made life better, it would not be thought of as sickness. 

If I use myself as an example of someone who periodically has symptoms of psychosis, my decision-making ability is affected. In some instances, decisions, sometimes important ones, are executed erratically. This impacts many things. 

Over the past three-plus decades since my diagnosis, I've made a lot of effort to have compensatory mechanisms built into my thinking. That means that before or soon after a decision is made, far preferably before, I am aware of it when my mind is a bit haywire and of the decision being affected by that. In some instances, I've had to do a lot of backpedaling, when I've obviously made a bad mistake. This doesn't always work to fix a situation that I've wrecked. 

My speaking could benefit from more filtering. I have too strong a tendency to just say whatever it is I'm thinking. 

Although my behavior is likely to be a symptom of the brain malfunction that I've been handed, it is important that I take responsibility for my actions and speech. I can't just make excuses that this is the illness--that's just not good enough. I am accountable, regardless of the internal possible causes of how I behave. If I fail to "own" my behavior, then there is no chance of me being able to make my behavior better. In some instances, this takes the form of accepting the repercussions of my mistakes and doing this like a full-grown adult in his fifties. In other instances, I have learned to remember likely outcomes before doing or saying something, and I've stopped myself, in some cases in the nick of time. 

Another mechanism could be called a "failsafe" mechanism. This is where I've wrecked a situation to the extent that I cannot go back to a person or place. In this case, the failsafe mechanism is like a solid wall that completely blocks any attempts at going back, regardless of how delusional I might become. This mechanism has served me well. 

The alternative to taking responsibility for my actions and speech could be that I would be considered incompetent and would be put under restrictions. This might include being supervised by persons in the mental health treatment system, and it might entail receiving injections of antipsychotics, as opposed to taking pills on my own. I would be absolutely unable to create good conditions for myself. 

Despite having Schizophrenia, Paranoid-type, I have a lot of options in life. I have the option to take steps to better myself and my conditions. I have the option to not let the illness dictate my life circumstances. Mental illness does not mean that I should give up on having acceptable behavior and sound decisions. Bettering life circumstances begins inside, with bettering the thoughts. When thoughts are better, actions and speech are better. Following that, circumstances are better. 

Jack Bragen is author of "AN OFFERING OF POWER: VALUABLE, UNUSUAL MEDITATION METHODS" and lives in Martinez, California.