Student in Languages,

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If one's mental illness could be cured by a single pill, would you choose to do so?

In the talk by Elyn Saks, Seeing Mental Illness, she mentioned that, if a complete and permanent cure was offered, she would take it.
I found this sentiment highly interesting for many reasons. I am a high-funtioning autistic person with Obsessive Compulsive disorder. My symptoms are not debilitating, but they have had a profound impact on the way I live my life. I'm no stranger to social rejection and high-anxiety.
That being said, if I were offered an complete and permanent cure for my condition... I can say that for my anxiety issues at least, I might be interested. However, despite the focus on a cure for autism in the public sphere, I would approach a cure for my autism with extreme reluctance. For myself, there is to deep a connection between what are considered to be clinical signs of autism and what I would consider to be my personality, my "self."
I suppose that this difference in opinion is related to our own individual experiences with the unique manifestations of our conditions. My own condition occationally strips me of control, but never in so stark a manner as discribed by Saks in her talk.
I would be interested in hearing others views on this topic.

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    Jul 11 2012: Why not? If it would make me more productive, I'd give it a try. But I would be wary--you may lose a gift inside of an illness. For instance, Einstein's dyslexia gave him unique ways of thinking. And Lincoln and Churchill's Depressions gave them a keen, penetrating insight into the world that many an overly optimistic outlook would likely have missed.
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      Jul 14 2012: Joel, such an amazing thought and question.

      Leo, you are spot on. Would the world lose out on some of the most incredible minds? I loathe to think of what this world would be like without people who have a spectrum of this, in my opinion a doorway into the mind that most do not have access to. Yes this sometimes comes at a very high price-ones health, suicide, inability to function.
      Thank you to all for sharing your lives and insight.
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    Jul 2 2012: A mental illness is only an illness if the society in which we live, deems it so. This then begs the question of what 'normality' is, and what that society will do to maintain it. One of the ways is to pathologise those conditions that detract from its vision of what normality is, so the condition can be medicalised.

    There is a caveat, as far as I'm concerned; the medical route can never be a cure. I think a cure can only come about through acceptance of self, in the light of perceived acceptance also of others with whom one comes into most contact.

    As a someone who has had moderate to severe depression, I am very glad to have medication there with me to alter my mental state in the bad times, but find that the same medication is an enormous hinderance to my creative abilities and speed/quality of thinking in the good times. I too feel I am stripped of control. To put it another way, the medication improves the condition, but feel also that it colours my personal sense of reality.

    What does this mean? For me, there is a regular internal battle between what normality is, and what it should be. I therefore wonder if, had society been more accepting of the differences in the way people behave, think and interact, whether many mental 'illnesses' would actually be illnesses at all.

    Is the sickness with us, or with society?
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    • Jul 11 2012: are there side effects of Lithium and Seroquel?
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        Jul 11 2012: Yes there are side effects with any medication, but it all depends on you personally react to them. What what person feels may not happen to you. I personally can't take one generic medication, but can take many others with no problems. Others I know can take that same med in a generic with no problem, but for me, I experience every single side effect for the worst.
        • Jul 12 2012: I'm sorry that you have to take these.
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        Jul 12 2012: I am more sorry that they are not promptly improved once these side effects are documented. I grieve when I dissappoint my kids so that illustration brings it home to me profoundly.
        Thank you for answering my question too.
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        Jul 13 2012: Conor, I actually don't take them, my husband is Bipolar, I'm an advocate for him, so I know a lot about medications. It's always important to weight the side effects against the benefits of the medications. In my husbands case, he takes 4 meds, down from 5, but he is much better, stable, and has much better control of his feelings. We refer to his life as "before meds" and "after meds."
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      Jul 13 2012: Interesting conversation. I kept the personal out of it in my initial post, but now that I read yours, I realize I may have been too cautious.

      I think part of a "mental illness" is what you make of it. I went to college, grad school, and wrote two and a half novels. I was pretty much a gung-ho, fun-loving guy who could cook a meal, play jazz guitar, write computer programs in several languages, and spent his free time doing higher math problems.

      I was also able to see, in one quick glance, the entire answer to many business problems. Even when in high school, working in a kitchen of a full service restaurant, I sold the chef on a line arrangement that simplified our work, and made the kitchen easier to work with.

      Yet, I constantly forgot bills, even though I typically had thousands squirreled away in the bank. And don't get me started on the grief I caught for missed anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

      And then, in my 40's, I was diagnosed with a very severe case of ADHD. On a standardized test for ADHA, the TOVA test, I scored several standard deviations from the norm. I was prescribe Adderall. Which made me edgy, and too serious. My creativity shriveled. And I actually grew "short-tempered" with people, something which had never happened in the past.

      So I stopped taking it. I am again the creative fool. Playing on trampolines with my nephews. Writing again. And contemplating beginning an urban farm for profit.

      Maybe I'll take meds again. They did help me focus. But Adderall did alter my basic personality.
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    Jul 4 2012: If I was asked this question some time back, my answer would have been 'yes' right away.

    Until I experienced some life-changing situations and learned that all experiences we have are sent to us for one reason - to evaluate our belief system and evolve mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    In case of when a child, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, I believe, that an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.

    A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

    When dis-eases enter us in an adult state, instead of looking for external remedies, to tell our body to 'shut up' temporarily we are just delaying the real cure - cure of the cause. Every dis-ease experience, from a common cold to the depression has physical and emotional blocks that need releasing. This is where metaphysics comes in.

    For example, If you are experiencing depression, realise that it is a state of mind to which you retreat in order to escape the feeling of pressure, especially emotional pressure. After reading much material and performing some observations, I have determined that most depressive people carry unresolved issues with opposite-sex parents. This explains why it is common to blame their spouses for their depression.

    So, The most important thing to realise is that the depression is a result of tremendous emotional wounding, when young, on the deepest level. You refuse who you are. You reject yourself and believe you are unlovable and unworthy because of the profound rejection of someone you loved and trusted. We all need nurturing and need to trust someone completely. If you can understand that the parent or loved one that you feel rejected you was coming from their own pain and rejection; if you can learn to see them as fellow human beings and have compassion for them, you will have taken the first step towards your recovery.
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    Jul 3 2012: When I see the pain these people endure, I think a pill is preferable. If they do not want it for their pain, give it to me so I do not feel their pain, discrimination and usually poverty so keenly.
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      Jul 4 2012: I totally agree, it's the smartest answer I've read time ago. OK!
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    Jul 16 2012: I was going to say "ABSOLUTELY!" but you make an excellent point that my mental illness (bipolar disorder) is an intimate and intricate part of who I am. I control it effectively with medications, but I would love a complete cure, however my illness has led me to life experiences that I otherwise would have never had--experiences that have shaped my character and helped me to become the strong and independent woman that I am. I DO NOT WISH IT UPON ANYONE ELSE, however! (except maybe my ex-husband...he needs to be knocked down a notch or two from his high-horse...)
    • Jul 16 2012: Agreed, it is one thing to desire a release from difficulty, but it is another to regret the difficulties that have helped to form the people that we are today. Not very healthy on an emotional level. As much as I dislike being an anxious person, it kept me out of a lot of trouble as a teenager.
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      Jul 17 2012: I believe this world would be boring if everyone’s mental well-being was about the same, I find the diversity in how our brains work, make for a more interesting experience in life. It may be fair to say that a large sum of great thinkers in history as mentally-ill, because they were outside the norm in how their minds functioned, and perceived life. What if mental-illness is responsible for a lot of things that wouldn't otherwise be possible? With the above mentioned thoughts, I would have to reject a cure myself
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    Sarah M

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    Jul 12 2012: Joel you are very brave for sharing. I worked in Mental Health for 5 years. My job entailed providing recreation and Leisure to people with a Mental illness. My clients lived in Licensed Boarding Houses throughout Sydney. These Boarding Houses where private enterprises, where the owner made a very good living off their resident taking most of their pension. My clients in return got poor housing, terrible food and abuse both from the owners/managers and each other. I can’t talk for anyone but I can only assume after ending up in this type of accommodation that they would all have taken a pill if one available
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      Jul 12 2012: Wow. Sarah!
      Thank you!
      It appears to me that hanging with so many brave people in your job has made you courageous too! Thank you for sharing your informed perspective.
  • Jul 10 2012: I have depression, anxiety, and something else that they say may be part of the autism spectrum disorder, and if there was ever a pill to cure it, I personally wouldn't take it for it would take away the parts of me the illness has made Pills I have taken before have taken away the creativity I rely and thrive on.

    A pill to cure the illness might just take away the unique parts of my personality, and who I know I am illness and all.
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    Jul 6 2012: I would take the pill.

    I have _suffered_ through mental illness, and it shows no signs of abating. If I take the right medications, I can allieviate the symptoms somewhat. I have also done many years of psychotherapy, mindfulness, and other therapies. I have a hypomanic state that I get into, and it's not as good creatively or productively as the way I am able to think when I am at my _best_ (so far) - i.e. not hypomanic, manic, depressed or psychotic.

    I hate to think that we need people to suffer because we think we can't live without hypomanic genius.

    I understand that not all people _suffer_ from their illnesses the way I do. Also, I'd like to think that if such a thing were available, that anyone offered it would be given a _choice_ as to whether to take it or not.

    My partner has Asperger's (i.e. is on the Autism spectrum). As I understand it, such people have more interneurons than your average joe. This doesn't seem to me to be something that needs "fixing", even though by having that, some people do suffer.
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      Jul 6 2012: We are pleased that you found us and particularly pleased that you were courageous enough to share your experiences. Please stay and enjoy the camaraderie. I agree that Asbergers is a different case.
  • Jul 5 2012: Without a millisecond of hesitation. What is so frustrating is that for me my PTSD, My Asbergers (think of Shelon in Big Bang Theory and yes I am a physicist who taught successfully for 30+ years) the the pill is one or two doses of MDMA, and here in Canada taking that medicine would be a criminal act. If you doubt me just go too Google There is usually no need for more drugs. I have been on over 15 types and brands of those SSRIs which might as well be poison for me. Besides they are only 2% better than a placebo. and sugar pills do not give you the side effects. . I am not a Schizophrenic but I suffer immensely and worse seem to drive people away so I have no more wife and children who just can't stand seeing the pain.Considering how much it physically hurts I can't blame them. I am not violent but do get very angry at times.
    I am an extrovert who is shunned and exiled by many but a very small number of people who have amazing gifts of compassion, the problem is none of them live less than a full days drive away and am not sure their partners would want me around for more than a few hours at most. Ahh there are I am coming to trust in the Buddhist Sanga I attend

    If there is anyone out there who knows where I could be treated please let me know.
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    Jul 3 2012: There are many in my family who are mentally ill. I have seen the debilitation these diseases cause, and I would not wish them on my worst enemy. CT scans now show lesions in the frontal lobes of untreated Schizophrenics. This is worse than an unusual and creative mind; this is a mind under attack. The illnesses of the mind elude treatment because the very center that we depend on for self-diagnosis, our mind, is affected. The person must take a terrific leap of faith and trust the healers, when their very reality is untrustworthy. Additionally, the medications we have today have significant side effects. I see others have noted the "flat" personalities that result. These medications are not a cure. They are palliatives (except for depression perhaps). I fantasize about the creation of a Nanite tribe that would map a brain, repair connections, and disentangle the terrible neuron loops that trap the ill in delusion. This would be a benevolent Nanite tribe of course, self-destructing in a final act of altruism when their work is done.

    If there were a magic pill to cure paralysis, would we be having this conversation?
    • Jul 3 2012: No, we wouldn't, because that isn't the same thing at all. The conditions and mentalities we define as mental illness are not nearly as simple as physical impairment and disability. They have a wide range of severity, effects, and implications. Not all who are mentally ill suffer. Some are simply inconvenienced; some find only difficulty in the unbending ways of society's baises; still others are happy in their conditions despite their limitations and difficulties. This is not to discount those who suffer and would gladly take a miracle cure. However, the issue is made nebulous and murky for these reasons.
      The reality of our current medications is indeed a sad one. The side affects of these medications are often unpleasant or even dangerous, and one must weigh one evil against another, trading symptoms for side-affects.
  • Jul 1 2012: If you are "deficient" then we are all deficient; there are an infinite number of ways we can be deficient. And if we are all deficient, then the concept becomes meaningless. Just as it becomes meaningless to say that everyone is special. I think you are right when you think it is silly. Unfortunately, many people do not agree, and use this as another excuse to divide us up into "us" and "other".

    Many years ago I had a friend whose son seemed different. Rather than stick labels on him, she just told people "This is Adam. Adam is just Adam." Such simple words, full of wisdom.
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    R H

    • +2
    Jul 1 2012: How wonderful for you to take the stand that 'I am me, and have a right to be'. Your debate brings to me such questions of: what is it to be human? who am I, or anyone else, to discount me? what am i if not myself? I am of the camp that everyone, every single person, has something to offer, right where they are. i applaud you for your courage. I believe that we wil find some day that many of those who we thought were 'disabled', had strengths we were unable to detect. You are an example for us all. May your days be most fortunate.
    • Jul 1 2012: I have the perhaps overly-poetic notion that I should be allowed to be as strange as I like insofar as I do no harm and endevor to be useful. I like myself, damaged though I may be, and I would never wish to regret the way I was born or the way that I intrinsically am.
      When the idea of a cure is brought up, I find myself wondering, considering that autism is a variant wiring of the brain with it's own methods of thinking, would I even be the same person if cured? It isn't the same thing as treating an anxiety problem at all.
      Go in peace friend.
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    Jun 30 2012: I highly admire your stand of being "YOURSELF".
    Nothing wrong with that being one's ownself until it become harmful to others....and I assume you are not telling from that point.
    Lot's of taboo around mental conditions even in the most developed socities, which need to be changed. How society defines normal vs special really a big question.
    Regarding treament for cure it's mostly individual choice but choice of cargivers and people around at times becomes pivotal......
    • Jul 1 2012: Well, everybody else is already taken.
      We, as a society, really need to take a long look at the difference between 'different' and 'harmful' when it comes to mental illness.
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        Jul 1 2012: Agree what you said about being "different " Vs "harmful".

        It's not only mental conditions.......our societies yet to be inclusive to "different" gender, look, color, , race, faith etc etc
        I know some will say some societies already accepted that diversity .....yes by law at superficial level they did.....what about practice , implementation ? Discrmination is really very very deep rooted
        • Jul 1 2012: Precisely. Often in debates, particularly in the case of gender roles and sexuality, we get caught up in never-ending arguments about what is "normal" and natural, when in reality, the normality of such things is entirely besides the point. What truely matters is whether these things are harmful, detrimental to individuals or society.
          An example would be behaviours such as social nudity. Yes, it's strange, but that's not where the debate should be.
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    Jun 30 2012: There is a book by Kay Jamieson called Touched with Fire that explores this question with reference to bipolar disorder, which has a strong correlation with creativity. Many people with bipolar disorder make the choice to take medications to mitigate some of the effects of the low times. Among these are people whose symptoms regularly veer to suicidal thoughts or actual suicide attempts but others are those who need to function well enough to take care of responsibilities and children on a consistent basis.
    There are others with less dangerous low periods who resist medications, as the medications for bipolar typical stifle creativity and suppress the high, or hypomanic, parts of this affliction. Some people believe what they experience during the manic or hypomanic part of the disorder is worth the lows.
    And as you have written, OCD has a very broad spectrum, from the somewhat tolerable to a level that prevents function.
    Have you listened to the TED talk by Temple Grandin, who discusses the creative strengths of autistic people and how to cultivate those so that society gains advantage from what autistics can offer?
    Oliver Sacks writes about her (I cannot remember in which book) and about others with gifts connected to their autism.
  • Jul 16 2012: Depression yes, ADD no. There is nothing good about depression, but ADD is what makes me able to multitask and micromanage like a boss, I just need to work with the challenges it also presents.
  • Jul 15 2012: Your right, the line can't be defined. But governments and religions would sure love such a pill.
  • Jul 15 2012: Who's idea of abnormal and what gauge do you use to measure distress?
    • Jul 15 2012: Unfortunately, what is normal and what is abnormal can only be determined by monitoring how the majority of the population behaves. So, normal by the measure of the social scientist.
      Distress on the other hand is entirely subjective and can only be determined by reports by the individual in question.
    • Jul 15 2012: I suspect I'm misunderstanding your meaning. Are these questions perhaps rhetorical? Or is it your wish to point out the difficulty in finding a dividing line between the normal and the abnormal? I would certainly agree that the difference is not always clear, even when stringently defined. However, I do not believe that a stricter definition is needed to discuss this particular question.The thin line between health and illness on a mental level was rather the point.
  • Jul 14 2012: Duh. Of course I would. I mean, your "self" is made of the choices you make, not the ones you don't. Whatever you are hiding on the inside isn't your true self, because you don't think it's important enough to show. Any pill that would improve my brain function permanently? Who would not take that? Haven't you ever seen Limitless? Anyway, back to the true self thing:
    We are what we do. We are what we eat, who we talk to, and what we get involved in. Anything that you feel you want to do and are good at, but don't have the courage to do, might as well not be a part of you. If you don't think it's important enough to show the world, then they will never know and to everyone you will look like a person who does not do that. And guess what? If you don't do it, you're not a person that does it. Your true self is who you are, not who you are meant to be.
  • Jul 11 2012: This is a loaded question.
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    Jul 6 2012: Good Evening Joel,
    It is a pleasure to hear from you at TED Debate. If mental illness has to be cured with a single pill, then there will be a relative decline in hospitals which treat mentally sick people. Every sick person would have a pill and live a happy life. Only if the pill has got a total remedy with appropriate functionality, perfectly tested in laboratories and works efficient, until then I would not choose to do so. I would not want an add-on to mental illness what I am already experiencing. As far as the science has developed till date, different diseases have different cures with various medicines. You must be very aware of this. Science has not yet so much progressed that it can work efficient for one cure for all mental diseases in a person. So, this single pill cure looks a bit dicey.
    • Jul 8 2012: Good evening to you,
      I must admit, I was rather less interested in the feasability of a one-pill cure-all than I was in the reactions of others to the hypothetical situation of a no-strings attacted removal of everything that comes with mental illness, good or bad.
      It would be highly advantageous for everyone if all the people in mental hospitals could be helped to the degree of independence and over-all wellness, but if we are siimply talking about removing all traits associated with mental illness, then the question is somewhat more complex.
      What I am really wondering is whether we regret those traits, as individuals of as a society, that we would do away with them entirely if given the chance.
  • Jul 5 2012: Yes, instantly. I can't imagine what it would be like to be fully free and to live and work and love without mental burden.
  • Jul 4 2012: I like Joel's attitude.

    But what if I were.......
    Frankly speaking,
    definitely I would.
    I don't want to undermine the value of "my self", and
    I think what Joel's asking is very intriguing, but I have to admit mental illness is an illness--can be very deadly.
    It has to be cured by something.
  • Jul 3 2012: would any of you not take such a pill because someone else thought it unwise, immoral, lazy, misguided, or somehow wrong to do so?

    Can one not know their own truth and be true to themselves?

    Why does it matter if it is mental illness or physical illness? People supposedly flocked to hear Jesus just for a chance to be healed from whatever it was that ailed them. I don't believe in Jesus but most people are mentally ill, the world is a mess, insane even, and we don't need clarity so much as we need sanity.
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      Jul 4 2012: Dear Random Chase (great name btw).
      Did you know that several major psychiatrists have postulated that nations get :sick" and present with symptoms of mental illness?
      • Jul 4 2012: Hi.
        It's Chance by the way, not Chase. The Comorbidity Replication Survey comes out every so many years. The last one I remember reading, maybe five or six years ago, stated that mental illness is now affecting over one half the U.S. population, that it is spreading throughout that population, and is now beginning at or below the age of 11. That's eleven.

        Most go upwards of 20-22 years without being checked, administered to, helped or diagnosed. With a growing population continually becoming more mentally ill and with some or perhaps many, heading towards or into insanity,
        those who try and remain sane, will experience great stress and pressure to become insane or mentally ill, in order to fit it, feel comfortable or not stand out.

        Truly the world is ill, mentally, psychically, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Health care contributed upwards of 1.5 trillion dollars into the GPS in America in 2009. To make or help an economy become healthier, contributing 2 or 2.5 or even 3 trillion to the U.S. economy means a direct decreasing of living conditions and standards for the average person. This leads to more sickness and dying, yet many are yearning, madly, for the economy to get better!! This certainly seems to me to point to mass mental illness that borders on insanity. Sanity won't be gained with a pill. Only the truth will.
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          Jul 4 2012: Great response, thank you, I sincerely apologize for the mispelling of your name. I knew it was Chance but I am typing to recover perfect function in my left hand becasue of the strokes and I hit the wrong key. I do apologize- what a thing to get wrong.
          Mental illness does appear to be expandng but I think we have to be evenmore discerning. While homosexuality used to be a 'mental illness' now depression is ramaging. I think a conservative estimate is that one in ten persons is suffering from mental illness so I am not surprised if one in ten exchanges goes 'wonky'. Knowing this allows me to be more compassionate and more patient. Mood disorders are imcluded in your numbers and we used to just call those persons 'grouchy'
    • Steve C

      • +1
      Jul 5 2012: "Can one not know their own truth and be true to themselves?"
      Perhaps one has to live long-&-hard before they begin to see their truth. We are surrounded & immersed in an ill-constructed labyrinth. Add to this that the foods we eat, air we breathe, & half the songs we listen-to are tainted.
      Joel mentioned Obseesive Compulsive Disorder; we live in an [pardon-my French-Canadian] "extremely-messed-up" society!! Dr. Phil recently had a show about Tanya Nicole Kach, who spent most of her teenage years abused & locked almost-alone in a small room. She said she started developing OCD. I think it was just her mind desperately trying to hold on to some reality - some control; no one can go through that and stay "sane" as "you and I" know it.
      • Jul 6 2012: Steve C

        I never said that "I know sanity," as you put it, "you and I know it". :) :)

        It has taken me a long time to feel like I am awakening from the insanity that was most of my life.
        This from lies, which I believe (lying) is the main cause of mental illness in humans, other than true organic causes, which we all know do exist.

        Anyone who suffers and can find alleviation, even if with a pill, is all right by me. Who am I to say one should suffer longer, more or in some other way simply based upon my belief?

        I do my best never to minimize another human and their pain, imagined or real. Truly recognizing that another, and their experience exist, can be very helpful and soothing at times, so I try to carry that with me in order to give it away, but, I am not perfect nor very good with it.
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    Jul 2 2012: For over 27 years I have seen and shared in the pain, profound hopelessness, wondrous creativity, daily cycles, intensive care for others, hatred of oneself, etc. that my wife struggles with on a hourly basis. If my wife could define how the complete and permanent cure would present by ingesting that "one" pill I'm sure she would want one. If the resulting cure were to make her flat with now ups or downs, etc. she would not want one.
  • Jul 2 2012: I think Elyn Saks said it all when she said that her demons were so strong that they had chased all her angels away. I would not like to live in a world where demons exist but not angels, so I would take the pill.
    On the other hand, occasional psychic demons may increase creativity, a bit like a moderate dose of adreanaline can make your run faster. So if I had such kind of demons and angel I would write poems :o)
    • Jul 3 2012: Ha, yes, that was my understanding of her position as well. What a painful and terrible world, with more shadows and horror than can be borne. The shadows provide contrast and bring meaning to the light, but they are unbearable when there is no light to be found.
  • Jul 2 2012: With a family history of mental illness, i wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't had taken the long journey of Post traumatic stress syndrome with my mother. Everything happens for a reason (religion aside).
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    Gord G

    • +1
    Jul 2 2012: We're who we are, and the suggestion that there may be an alternate reality of unverifiable normalcy is a fantasy designed to placate our anxieties. Anxieties exasperated by the uncertainties that grip us (Deviation is not deviant).

    We wish to understand the complex interplay of mind and spirit, yet the very nature of intellect separates and wounds.
  • Jul 2 2012: There is not one answer to this question. I would say that if there was a pill that would take away pain that was physical or mental, then yes. Severe depression, crippling OCD, or bi-polar come to mind when thinking of a magic pill.
    The older I get, the more people I meet that are high acheivers that have a link to autism, anxiety, or mild OCD. These people have some social deficits, but are high acheivers in other areas requiring high IQ and high levels of creativity. I wouldn't want to live in a world without the gifts that these people have given to all of us.
    I would want to take away pain, but not take away the abilities that some forms of mental conditions bring out in some people.
    How many of our greatest thinkers, musicians, and artists could be labeled with some form of mental "illness"?
    I would be interested to hear the opinion of someone who has a child with one of these conditions.
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    Jul 2 2012: I can't look at this as deeply as you, but I would probably say yes.
  • Jul 1 2012: Wow. What an interesting and mind boggling question. I'm trying to wrap my mind around this. I have schizophrenia, or much like you, I'm in the higher functioning spectrum but not with autism, instead a psychotic disorder. For me, it's very similar actually. I can remember things in detail from as early as age 2 and a few glimpses of being an infant. I can remember events, what was said. I found the cure for my problems didn't depend on just slowing down my thinking, but managing the thoughts. For instance it was once paranoid schizophrenia, now it's called bipolar, I took the Aspergers test for the DSM and I would have it according to the DSM but I wont bother because I dont see it as a limitation. Sometimes the whole process of diagnosing really confuses me. I know my brain is biologically faster, what stumped or slowed it down is the problem I want to answer. calling it schizophrenia isnt going to solve anything, at least not for me. But I take one pill and it pretty much cured me of the "diagnosed" issues. So yeah, working on relationships on all levels is more gratifying. First, figure out what exaclty you want to cure I guess....I like being different, embracing my being different has been more helpful than most other things.
  • Jul 1 2012: As a fellow "sufferer" of this condition of high functioning autism, I can only say I share your point of view here.
    It is a tough question.
    A question that rears its head -and has done so throughout my life- with irregular frequency. I'll ponder it quite intensely for a period, and then pay it no heed at all for months on end. My answer to it shifting all the while between seeing it as one of the most critical questions of life I could ask myself while living with this condition and thinking it quite an irrelevant, even silly question.
    Wether that last opinion comes to mind because I find it
    - silly to question what is essentially just me, functioning the way I do, and pretty much always will, or
    - silly because it stands beyond any doubt that living with this condition has caused me tremendous setbacks in life, and could be considered a handicap as much as any other without any stretch of imagination
    varies likewise from one ponderance to the next.

    But then, I think our condition mostly becomes a handicap through expectations we -and society- have of ourselves. Through the situations we put ourselves in, or find ourselves put in. While likewise, through the same factors, it can just as easily be considered a benefit. Allow for excelling where the psychotypical person would have a tougher time.
    Hence the reason I lean toward thinking of our condition more as a variant in psychic functioning, and have always balked harshly at anyone calling my condition an illness of any sort. At labelling the condition a handicap in and of itself.

    Would I take a pill to "cure" me of my "condition"? As likely as I would take one to cure me of myself. Would I like a more selectively functioning one, just "curing" me of my shortcomings in a more social environment? Sure. But I'm inclined to think anyone would say the same about an area they feel themselves shorted in.

    But then, a cloud comes along, telling me "Stop thinking it pretty. You're deficient."

    It's a tough question.
  • Jul 1 2012: Perhaps what is being asked is this: If I judge the outcome to be rewarding enough for the troubles that I have to undergo, is my behavior not worth ratifying? Sure. One orange light though.
    This perhaps could be the silver lining why the cloud becomes beautiful enough to engender poetry. More technically, this could be the libidinal interest that binds the `symptom' into a `complex', which repeats itself and perpetuates. As per Freudian theory, so far as it does not involve expenditure cathexis - of mental energy - for repression, it can be taken as just another form of expression.
    • Jul 1 2012: There is certainly the aspect of weighing pros and cons. One must ask oneself if the benefits are worth the downsides. In this particular case, the question is whether higher-functioning, or simple normalicy, is worth sacrificing one's natural state.
      In Saks' case, her psychotic state provided terrible difficulty and either no benefit or no benefit which justified the difficulty of her other symptoms. For other mentally ill persons, this may not be the case.
      As for the rest of your comment, I can neither agree nor disagree, for I believe I am sadly under-educated in the area of psychodynamics and cannot comment either way.
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    Jun 30 2012: I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but I knew I was going through a kundalini awakening. You see, I had read The "Kundalini Experience:Psychosis or Transcendnce?" by Lee Sannella, MD. [] and had visited a spiritual teacher with that possibility. My kundalini process started and continued, until I recovered enough to go back to work in 6 months. I cooperated with my symptoms to get through them fast. By then, I was familiar with enough mental health symptoms, to write about the whole DSM on my website I now help teach others how to recover, for those willing to change their minds and do the spiritual work. What I learned in that six months changed my whole life and has been answering my questions about life since. The pills the doctors gave me, when I was in process, did not stop my recovery or help and sometimes made it much worse. I do know that strong doses for a long time can damage our neurological systems. My miraculous pill was to go through my symptoms with as much Forgiveness, Acceptance, Compassion, and Trust that I could manage. [FACT] I would take my miraculous pill again, but I would not consider any pill, that would take away my learning experiences.
  • Jun 30 2012: Has it occurred to you yet, that compared to most of us 'sane' people, you are the expert on this topic, and have much more to contribute to this discussion than we do?

    My personal experience is much less intense than yours:

    I have read recently that a portion of the population is somewhat inclined to depression, but it never gets bad enough to be classified as clinical depression. I strongly suspect that I could qualify for that group, and possibly my son too. If I could take a pill to completely cure this condition, I would jump at the chance.

    Mentally, I seem to have a talent to look at situations from many points of view. This has definite advantages, but many people do not share this talent, and completely misunderstand it, so it has social disadvantages. Another disadvantage is that it makes me seem wishy-washy, even to myself. It can be very difficult to fully jump behind a cause, and support it with passion. Would I take a pill to cure this? No. But I can imagine taking this condition to an extreme level, it could make a person completely dysfunctional, unable to take any action. In that case, a pill would probably be welcome.
    • Jun 30 2012: Admittedly, I may have given the idea a little more thought in comparison to the average person. :)
      Due to my condition, I find it difficult to understand others' viewpoints completely; however, empathy, like anything, is something that can be, to an extent, learned. The strain to give all possible perspectives proper consideration can be breaking. One eventually begins to lose a sense of self in the struggle.
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      Jul 1 2012: As someone who does suffer from clinical depression I can answer this very simply.


      In a heartbeat.

      Nobody WANTS to feel this way, and there are times that remembering what "normal" (a word I despise, specifically I mean my OWN normal) feels like. Depression attacks you from the inside. It doesn't help shape your personality, as Joel's condition has, it squashes it. It pushes what drive, and ambition, and hope, and joy a person may once have felt down to the extent that they simply cannot feel those things any more.

      A pill to fix that? Sign me up.

      That said, there ARE pills which ease the symptoms, with time, and an understanding doctor and the willingness to keep trying different treatments until you find the one that works for you life can be better. I'm still never "normal" but when I feel the gremlins of my lesser self closing in, and if I can motivate myself to do something about it in time (not always the easiest thing with depression) it can be better. The depths need not be quite so deep.
      • Jul 3 2012: Well put. I don't know about other illnesses, but as a fellow sufferer of depression I agree. This struggle has cost me dearly, including a marriage. Asking if I would like an instant cure for the pain in my heart is like asking if I'd like to have a broken leg healed. I'm not going to say, "no, no, life is more interesting because I hobble around in pain all day". When I'm at my lowest point I don't create great work, I sleep all day or sit on the couch and stare out the window.
        I've had only bad experiences with medications, but therapy has helped me manage. It's not an easy illness to live with but I wish you all the best in your fight.
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    Jul 26 2012: My heartfelt thnaks and deep appreciation to the many here speaking in the first person about their own experience with diagnosis and treatment. In a larger sense the issue that you raise could be applied to any serious illness and the question ultimately is "Is the Medical Establishment seeking patient wellness" ? Is curing a particular disease, like cancer, my disease, an achievement if wellness is not achieved, if you are more or less permanently disbled from the side effects of treatment?

    That broader question is at the heart of modern medicine where there is never adequate awareness of and attention to the final state of the patient..their final well being.

    Living a productive fulfilling life withf a mental illness like schizophrenia, bi polar disorder, Aspergers. or OCD, Depression and so many other debilitating and highly stigmatized illlnesses is a huge challenege..every moment requires courage and forgiveness, patience and hope.

    I have three people in my life I care deeply about who face this challenge every day..two with depression and one suffering bi polar disorder. The right medicine just doesn't seem to be there and I am beginning to wonder if we know enough about the complex bio chemistry of the brain to design a drug that can deliver wellness in the complete sense you point to Joel. It is really not any more humane or well targeted than the once popular pre frontal lobotomy. or the original versions of shock therapy.

    I am very hopeful about the new discoveries concerning MRI treatments which actually do seem to deliver something closer to complete wellness..

    In the meantime..any patient who is asked to take pharmaceuticals for any illness or asked to undertake radiation therapy know or should know that even if the disease is cured or eradicated, what is left for them may not be wellness..not ever again.

    And that is not something we should just accept.

    Wellness has to be the standard.
  • Jul 26 2012: In my case: no, for the same reason some others have already stated (interestingly enough a lot of people, who actually have problems in that area). For many years I have suffered from depressive episodes and quite a few psychosomatic symptoms. With therapy and a lot of thinking and dealing with my problems on the count of how they affect my daily live (instead of always going back to points in my life, where all this might have come from), I was lucky enough not to need medication (although I thought about it one or two times) and to just accept this as the way I am. I can say today, that I am (in most cases) stronger and better off then I would have been, if I had taken a magic pill. I have made a lot of helpful experiences that might one day also be helpful to others, because my insights help me to understand other people and their problems as well. But I do realize that I was lucky, since there are a lot of other disorders that have way more consequences on people’s lives.
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    Jul 25 2012: NO! i would not take it because before you are not sure that what type of mental disease you are having for eg:- you may be having a simple headache and you are taking a pill to recover your pain, instead you could have used alternatives like drinking lots of water or something else to regain oxygen level in your brain. SO, it's very important to know what kind of mental illness are you having first to start a treatment , instead of that you should not take a pill...And you may also have the side effects of the pill and sometimes, if continued having the pill after sometime your body may stop reacting to the pill itself.....
  • Jul 25 2012: Yes I would take it, im 41 I have suffered severe depression and self harm since i was 8 yrs old just to have a break from myself would be good, I am fed up smiling on the outside and not on the inside. To lead a working life i cannot be given strong drugs, and it was the first time today i have openly told people i work with whom i have for 14yrs that the burn i have is self harm.
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    Jul 25 2012: I wouldn't take it. I have bipolar disorder and though I would like to eliminate a lot of what happened thanks to it, when I take medication to become more stable I feel extremely uncomfortable with the lack of speed in my head afterwards. I do take it, but just enough to keep it showing. So, I rather have my episodes and keep the speed up, or down, depending on the time of the year, but keep feeling things as I generally do.
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    Jul 25 2012: As a clinician that works in mental health and previous psychatric facilities any pill taken over or under the counter has repercussions on the body or what is known as side effects. There is a cost for everything under the sun. Most medications will produce microwave results in the short run but often tend to have over time crock-pot metabolic consequences in the long run. We all must learn like the Apostle Paul to live and embrace the mystery of contentment.
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    Jul 21 2012: In my case nope ... the process of getting out of a mental illness (depression for instance) teaches you too much to miss out on.

    But id say it depends on the case and how hard of a struggle your having. Also what kind of mental illness.
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    Jul 21 2012: IN MY VIEW:
    To me your question sounds more like " Will a person choose a cure over his consciousness?" now this is definitely a tricky question If not: answer to your question is very simple "Yes". Now in reference to the updated question which is really "the question" even for this the answer will be "Yes". There is no medicine for consciousness or identity so you can neither loss it or gain it through medication. If improvement in your health can or will change your consciousness you were not conscious in the first place. However you will have access to more thing to do and fully enjoy your life once you are health.
  • Jul 16 2012: Its more complicated than a physical injury were you have got an impairment or a wound that's got u disabled. this is where your mind, your way of thinking is being influenced in a certain way by whichever illness or disorder u might be suffering from. I have a relative who has an extreme case of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder where shes in some manner forced to do things in a certain way. Like for here it has to be that way otherwise she simple cannot accept it, and its grown on her now. Like it is what defines her. Over the years and through her experiences shes adapted to it, learn to live with it and digest the adverse effects that it has on her. additionally the wealth of medication that we get served these days dusnt really help cure it. As Janet Karasz said
    , it does more to saturate it resulting in as " flat personalities". So a pill to actually eliminate any certain disorder or mental illness could possible lead to to self rejection. What i mean to say is that the life you have lived up till now would be like the life of a different person. You would not know it. Yesterday you did sumthing because you just had to do it in a certain way, having taken such a pill, wouldnt you ask yourself, why am I doing this, or perhaps why have i been doing this. as a trade for the illness we might just end up with a negative look at we have done in our lives leading up to this point The people around you might not know how to handle the new you. So do we really need such a pill?
    Additionally, people effected by such special scenarios are more driven to make it their strength. As Rob has pointed out, there are many examples of people spread throughout history with great success stories despite their illness. I have a friend, recently graduated with a degree in fine arts. He has several illnesses and impairments, but the amount of success he has raked in, in a year and half is insane. With what little knowledge I have on this, id say youve got an edge over the rest
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    Jul 16 2012: i have very few regrets, and i learned long ago that regret just eats at you. you need to move on, forgive yourself and others, and learn as much as possible from those mistakes. all it can do is make you a better person. forgiveness of the self is the key to making it work and letting go of those regrets....
  • Jul 14 2012: First define 'mental illness', if it can be done.
    • Jul 15 2012: A condition with primarily mental symptoms which causes abnormal behaviour, significant distress for the individual, difficulty performing everyday tasks, and/or conflict with society and its rules.
      Generally more than one of these factors should be present.
      For the sake of the conversation, "anything listed in the most recent DSM" would be fine.
  • Jul 14 2012: i also have bipolar desease and for many years i denied to take medicines it was more dificul now i take my medicines and it is much better but i dont believe that only medicines are doing ole the job i believe that i control my situation better with the help of my phyhiater and my familie and friends
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    Jul 12 2012: It is my impression that the number one reason many people do not take the meds that we think would help them is that there are still cruel and terrible side effects from many drugs. If you have experience of this one way or the other, could you tell me if this is true, please?
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        Jul 13 2012: My last entry of thanks many hours ago misfired so I am expressing it now. Thanks for taking the time and energy to answer my curiousity and concern.
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        Jul 13 2012: Oh shoot, Myfanwy, girl with the sense of humour I get. Please do not think you did anything wrong at all. It was me and communication is so fragile. I just wnated you to know that I was not taking your response for granted. Deb
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      Jul 13 2012: From my experience with taking these meds I feel they can be incredibly damaging if taken by the suggestion of someone else. This has nothing to with the medicine itself rather than what it represents.

      By taking these medicines you are in turn admitting to yourself that do not believe you are capable of handling your feeling on your own.

      - If you come to the conclusion that you want to try these meds yourself you are acting in a healthy manner by saying to yourself "I feel I may have a problem that is over my head and may need some help."

      -How ever if this is suggested to you by someone else you will be hearing "I think you may have a problem that is above your head and that you may need some help."

      If you come to the conclusion yourself then you are coming to terms with who you are, and making an attempt to deal with them. If you are suggested this though, then you are inadvertently being judged by another. Some one is telling you that they belief you are not emotionally strong enough to deal with the problems you are facing. Hearing something like that can be crippling to ones self esteem.

      So in my experiences every time some suggest medication for me I couldn't help but feel that they were judging me. In my head I knew they were trying to help me but inside I was crying for someone to tell me "you are fine for who you are and if you think you are strong enough then I believe you".
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        Jul 13 2012: Thanks Jesse, for this perspective. It is like a morality tale in its way making "helpers" aware of how painful 'help can be. I might not have had any awareness of this except, as I have shared on other questions, I recently had a back surgery which resulted in 2 clots to my brain. Suddenly people in my life had no more confidence in my abiities, including one of my closest relationships where that person started lying about stupid useless stuff. Man! Distorting my reality even as I struggled to figure out my own world felt like abuse. I can only imagine how this reaction, as you mentioned above would undermine your confidence.
  • Jul 11 2012: (Location: New Westminster / Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) Last time I read the Mental Health Act and DSM IV, the publicly told documents that the Psychiatry and Mental Health industry is built upon, there was no definition of health whatsoever, besides the concept of "managing" or "controlling" what they've defined as mental illness

    In the hypothesys of a pill curing the behaviour or thoughts labeled as "mental disease", whether self-displayed or claimed by surroundings (people, real or not evidence), a logical inquiry is:

    What is the "health" that is the end-result to be accomplished? (standard, expected behaviour, allowed thougts, what else would they include under an approved, written definition of mental health, normalcy or social acceptance)
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      Jul 12 2012: Anca, This question is derived from something from this talk by a woman who has endured mental illness. We are just wondering if others felt as she did.
      Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness -- from the inside - it is a great talk, and if you or others have not seen it - it is very worth watching.
      Your point is valid - what would such health look like but it is not within the scope of this question exactly and so we are not qualified to answer it.
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    Jul 11 2012: My husband is bipolar, I know he would LOVE to be cured of that illness. He is medicated and has lost the creativity he had as a younger, unmedicated person. My question would be will he still have the personality and creativity as he did before? Or will he be "normal" without the creativity? For me, I would be happier for him to be cured. Without the spending sprees, the moods, the never knowing which person I am coming home to.
  • Jul 8 2012: If the mental illness such as schizophrenia, I would take the pill. However, if one can come out of mental illness with help of medication then, depending on the time to recover, I would not. In the book "Great of Choice", I totally agree with Jim Collin's Epilogue. I agree and believe we all encounter good and bad lucks but when we encountered bad luck, we should not wallow in it. How we react to it define and shape who we are. There are people who will help you get through it.
  • Jul 3 2012: While many people might say yes, you have to consider a different perspective.

    Depending on what kind of mental illness you are talking about, there are many influential people who suffered from an illness of some form and thrived.

    It's said that people such as John Nash, Beethoven and Issac Newton suffered from different illnesses, I believe them being schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (As well as Beethovens deafness although that doesn't really count)

    You have to wonder whether these people would have been as brilliant as they are and had created or given us what they had to offer without their "illness"

    There is a saying that there is a fine line between genius and madness. So would having a pill to stop these mental illnesses take away something from society? One thing all these people had in common was originality in their ideas, or innovation.

    Would the pill stop that or take away some potentially brilliant ideas?
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      Jul 4 2012: For some reason, my thumbs up is not working but I must acknowlege Rob's comment. It is really instructive to put the name of a mental illness into Google and see the names which pop up in association with it. Rob is really right about this and several major and successful CEOs exhibit and admit to having some form of influence on their brain (like ADHD) which contributed mightily to their success.