All of the following is my own opinion on the cause of mental illness. No facts. No published sources. Just me.

The True Cause of Mental Illness

Let’s talk about survival. Everybody has fight or flight built into them. When a person is confronted with conflict, it’s either fight or flight.

It’s what I call the change cycle. Person A wants to change your behavior, so you are either submissive (flight), or you try to to change Person A’s behavior (fight).

This leads to the circle of death: Person A will interpret your behavior as a conflict, and will respond with their own flight or fight response.

Boom! Now you are on a death spiral which will lead to the termination of the relationship unless you and Person A are willing to look past the fight or flight response and get to the real issue: building a long-term relationship.

So what the hell does all of this have to do with mental illness?

Nothing, you might say.

But the human body has its own fight or flight response. It has nothing to do with emotions.

The Human Allergy

Some people have allergies. Whether it’s peanuts, shellfish, hay fever, pollen, or whatever.

Your body sees these things and reacts. It’s in fight mode. MUST FIGHT! So you have an allergic reaction.

Your allergic reaction might be benign: a sniffling nose that can be cured by some Zyrtec or whatever you want to use.

Others need an EpiPen, which is actually a good call to have on hand if you have a severe allergic reaction.

Mental illness is the same way. The body detects something out of the ordinary and reacts.

So Mental Illness is an Allergy?

Uhm, yes. There are many causes of mental illness. It could be a traumatized childhood. You may have had a gun pointed at your face. You may have had a knife against your throat. You may have been through a divorce. You may simply be under a lot of stress.

Your body recognizes this and compensates.

Some call a mental illness a short-circuit of sorts. The body and brain can no longer tolerate reality, so they do their best to compensate for survival.

So you’re under stress. Your body might compensate by making you manic so you can handle the increased stress (fight). Conversely, it can make you depressed, forcing you to take a break (flight).

Your body and brain are reacting in survival mode, and once that short-circuit occurs, it’s for life. FOR LIFE.

Your body conducts electricity just like everything else. And, as with electricity, your body will take the path of least resistance. And that’s where meds come in.

It takes years to find the right meds that will not necessarily correct this short-circuit; you’re effectively tricking your brain into thinking there is a better path.

Even then, what may have worked in the past may not necessarily work in the future. A constant communication with a good psychiatrist will help you in the endless period of trial-and-error.

The True Cause of Mental Illness

You’ve been through too much that the body is in survival mode. As a consequence, it’s diverted its attention elsewhere. This is a permanent short-circuit.

Medication will help negate that short-circuit and force the brain to look elsewhere for a more efficient path to reconciliation. Think of it as the brain being tricked into determining this path will be better than the other path it naturally chose (the natural fight or flight response).

What to Do If You Have a Mental Illness

In short, you are fucked. For life. Your brain is super smart and will go with the path of least resistance, as with all electronics.

Find a good psychiatrist. It’s hard. VERY HARD. But find one who cares about you.

Research the meds. Research their side effects. Be smarter than the psychiatrist. A good psychiatrist will listen to your input and your recommendation of medications. A good psychiatrist will work with you with, rather than against you. Ask, and you shall receive.

Is There hope?

Yes! Many people with mental illnesses, including bi-polar, schizophrenia, PTSD, OCD, et al., have found hope in meds. You can try to deal with mental illness on your own, but you are just setting yourself up for failure. If you do it on your own, you question reality and feelings, which leads to the wonderful world of sociopathy.

Conclusion

I am not an expert on mental health, but I am an expert on mental illness (Gasp! I have one). I know I have a problem, and I want to fix it. Waking up each morning is a struggle. I’m on so many meds that I can’t sometimes distinguish reality from a dreamworld, but that is a separate post.

Work with your psychiatrist. It takes a while. Find an employer who understands. And recognize that none of this is your fault. Your body is just fighting for survival.

Comments

  1. Hey Ronald,

    Putting mental illness into perspective for yourself as well as others can be useful for all of us. Keep talking about.

    How do you feel about  your choice of careers and how that plays with your metal illness? We’ve never really talked about it. Do you think that being a coder is a better choice than other things you could have chosen? It’s easy to assume that the loneliness and abstraction of tech work would exasperate some illness… the rate of mental illness among the geeks I know tends to be higher than in other populations in my life. But which comes first? The career, or the illness? Any thoughts?

    1. Not a mental health professional, but people with mental illness tend to be introverts. Either 1) due to the particular mental illness itself (think agoraphopia, chronic depression), or 2) the reaction of other people to the manifestation of the mental illness. Many mentally ill people are highly intelligent, but as Ronald articulates so well in this post, dealing with other people invokes either fight or flight, which makes many mentally ill persons ill-equipped for certain careers and professions. Web developers and designers as well as tech support positions provide lucrative employment for brilliant people and allow them to work remotely without daily face-to-face interaction with others who either want to change them (fight) or to avoid them (flight) because they are “different.” It takes some of the pressure off the mentally ill person: You don’t have to act “normal” (whatever the hell that is), around coworkers 40 hours a week. You interact on your own terms and can be more productive. You have much greater control over your immediate environment.

  2. Mental health always comes first, which annoys many employers.

    It’s not a win-win situation here. We’re fighting for survival.

    1. As someone watching you struggle through at least one round of mania – and as an employer – i can say that you’re an awesome fighter. Anyone would be lucky to have you on their team.

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