Personality Disorders

Because I am simultaneously overly intellectual and always looking for ways to put off doing my homework, I was looking at the DSM-IV, the psychological diagnostic manual, today. I was reading about personality disorders, the kinds of disorders that involve consistent and pervasive "maladaptive" behaviors, just to see what it is that doctors think makes a person crazy.

Now, I'm not a big fan of mental health "diagnosis." I think we know so little about the human brain and even less about the human psyche and to try and make a definitive diagnosis is foolish and often harmful. It's too easy for those kinds of things to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Despite the potential for diagnosis to help in treating psychological symptoms (note I say symptoms not illnesses), I have a real problem with it.

That said, there are ten types of personality disorders; what they are isn't particularly important for my point. The interesting thing, though, is that as I was reading them, I realized that I'd seen at least one Law and Order episode that dealt with each. Or read a book where the main character was or had to heavily interact with someone who behaved as the diagnostic manual was describing.

We are fascinated with mental illness. We glorify people who have these "disorders" because we find them more interesting than those who don't. We want to hear about the latest crazy thing that someone did. We read books about people whose mothers were bipolar or whose father was antisocial. All literature, almost, is about the strange and unusual.

I wonder what effect this has on our mental health community. We are constantly trying to "treat" people who behave in "maladaptive" ways even as we like them better than people who don't. I don't know, it's a strange paradox. I don't know that I can make any conclusions about it, but it's strange nonetheless.


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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