Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Mental Illness: Why do we need an umbrella term anyway?

This post has been prompted by a post from Laura's Soap Box on the term "brain disorder"

It's not a rant. Really it's not (I know it has been in the past) - but this time it's more just thinking aloud.

One of Laura's responses to a comment in defence of the term was that fear of the term should be unfounded as if we would referred to diabetes as a 'pancreatic disorder' we wouldn't automatically attribute the same concerns to that label as we do to 'brain disorder'.

But I don't see that argument as fair.

If you walked into any shopping mall and conducted a quick vox pop on "What does the term brain disorder (or the currently official umbrella term: mental illness) mean to you?" I guarantee you the answers would all follow the same line:
someone mental
someone crazy
someone who walks down the street talking to people who aren't there
someone psychotic
someone who snaps and kills their neighbours with a sharpened fork

...get the picture.

But my big question today is - why do we need this umbrella term at all? Why do eating disorder sufferers need to face the stigma of being associated with psychotic and dangerous people. Don't we have enough stigma being vain little sillys who just want to look good in our skinny jeans??

Lung cancer, emphysema and cystic fibrosis all severely affect the lungs. But we don't lump them all together as lung disorders. So why do we do this with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, BPD, PTSD etc etc. They all have different presentations. Yes, I suffer from anxiety and an eating disorder. But it didn't kill me to say both those things separately - so saving time surely can't be the reason.

And if the reason is to better inform the public - that ain't working either!

Any way - just my thoughts - I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. Do you like the term? Do you, like me find that it is too fraught with stigma to be useful?


C said...

Forgive me if I interpreted your post wrong. But it sounds as though you think of people with an ED 'above' those who experience psychosis and therefore do not want to be lumped in the same category as them. People who experience psychosis however are just people with an illness, same as you. So why the objection to be in the same category of mental illness with them? And by writing that people with psychosis may also be dangerous, you've also subscribed to a stereotype which isn't true. Just because someone has psychosis doesn't at all mean they're dangerous.

PJ said...

Fair point - and no, you probably didn't interpret my post incorrectly. If I'm honest this probably is how I feel.
Perhaps someone needs to campaign for better awareness of the stigma associated with psychosis - but that someone can't be me.
But the heart of my feeling is that I don't want to be 'lumped in' with any other disorders. I don't have bipolar or PTSD either - they are completely different illnesses to mine. I don't see the need for 'lumping' anyone in together. I don't see how it helps.

Madam Bipolar said...

I have never heard of brain disorder. I have heard of a mood disorder before. Mood disorder sounds much better than brain disorder, which sounds like you are missing part of your brain in my opinion. It is just a bizarre term.