We have shed a lot of the barriers associated with things like skin color and physical handicaps. And although we still have not fully recognized the selective advantages of the mental diversity, a reconceptualization is emerging thanks to brave people with bold symptoms and beautiful minds. Here are three of the most common, controversial, and misinterpreted mental disorders.
Bipolar disorder (or manic depression) is a serious mental illness that affects at least 1% of the population; it is characterized by an ongoing shift between a hypomanic-euphoric mood and a manic-depressive mood, which causes psychoactive extremities in the character of the affected person. During the highs of the hypomanic stage, one acquires an increased perceptual sensitivity, intellectual focus, and sense of spirituality. This newly found energy reinforces one’s euphoria, productivity, and confidence. But as the condition progresses, the flip side becomes devastating, causing increased irritability, irrational behavior or speech, risk-taking… total burnout characterized by symptoms of psychosis (paranoia, hallucinations, and unrealistic fantasies about power)… and social dropout characterized by broken relationships, long-term unemployment, substance and alcohol misuse, poor quality of life, violent behavior, and even suicide. On the other hand, our history has been influenced by giants with manic depression (Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Buzz Aldren, Ted Turner, Patty Duke, etc.). These titans won the fight by channeling their excesses effectively, seeking psychiatric and/or medical assistance, and leading a healthier lifestyle.
Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Mead, Galileo, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Pablo Picasso, and Aristotle are all thought to have had Asperger’s. Author Norm Ledgin adds Thomas Jefferson, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Mozart to the list. Vernon Smith, Nobel Laureate and inventor of the field of Experimental Economics, and Dr. Temple Grandin, a successful engineer, academic and speaker, are self-proclaimed Aspies who believe that their disorder is an asset – even maybe the reason for their success. Aspies view the world differently due to their unusual reaction to sensory stimuli, have highly advanced vocabularies due to their interest in words and puns, recognize new patterns and find erroneous details that others do not, and enjoy long working hours with minimal social interaction. On a more personal note, they seek knowledge and solutions, innovation and perfection, as well as social justice. An Aspie’s major drawback is his inability to identify or express his own emotions, interact socially for a long period of time, and escape a secondary mood disorder. The best way to raise or love an Aspie is to not turn him into a genius, but to rather provide him with professional support, and show him empathy and affection.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD has a selective pattern when it comes to affecting the sufferer’s life. It will throw his mind into a whirlwind of chaos and uncertainty, leave his social life almost intact, and propel his professional life. On the bright side of things, OCD endows people with an abnormal capacity to concentrate, be creative, and complete a task with no faults and great meticulousness – which makes these individuals detail-oriented employees, dependable editors, and perfectly fit for research or accounting jobs. However, this newly found ability is recurrently shadowed by episodes of anxiety attacks, murk and invasive thoughts, as well as mental fixations. Such struggles force the sufferer to perform time-consuming, impulsive, and repetitive behaviors that very soon become pain numbing rituals. Unfortunately, the relief is temporary, and the compulsions only accentuate OCD symptoms with anxiety inflating its discomforts. In the meantime, the extra determined survivors will keep rearranging their thoughts while organizing their pantry room, computing numbers while washing the dishes, and making detailed lists before heading to the market. They will keep tweaking the broken so that they feel fine, more balanced, and accomplished.
If you think you or someone you love has a mental disorder, education is key. Reviewing guidelines set by experienced mental health providers, going to therapy, and reading self-help books will keep you from misjudging those you love or ignoring your own symptoms. Being open to the unpredictability of life, and all the uncertainties that lie within it, will teach you that life goes on after an episode and that depression is a liar. Acceptance can be a voluntary act of surrender that will free you from self-hatred or self-harm, ease your anxiety, promote self-regulation, and create forward momentum.