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Arjuna Nagendran

Doctor,

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What experiences have made you more comfortable with mental health disorders?

What things make you fearful of mental health disorders? And what experiences have made you more comfortable with it?

In the quest to dispell stigma, how can we help our society grow out of its fear?

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  • Nov 5 2012: I haven't seen anyone note the differences between mental disorders based in brain anatomy/physiology and problems based on poor coping skills, or on attitudes/beliefs/habits that lead people into behaviors that do themselves or those around them harm, or to growing up in a dysfunctional environment or family, or suffering from a physical illness that leads to behavioral signs & symptoms (some severe vitamin deficiencies, infections, endocrine disorders for example).

    Consider people with clinical depression - some can get a lot of relief from cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication, others who have different brain chemistry may react badly to meds and/or get no relief from therapy strategies.

    People with severe brain disorders like schizophrenia, rapid cycling bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders or other severe brain disorders can be very difficult to interact with - most folks just don't understand how to interact with someone who perceives reality very differently than they do themselves, or who isn't perceiving external reality at all well when they're in the grip of overwhelming and often terrifying hallucinations. It's awfully hard for many people to "see the other person's point of view" even when that other person is within the same range of common or normal brain function and behavior.

    Until the 20th century hardly anyone thought that hallucinations, obsessive/compulsive behavior and other far-out-of-the-usual-range behaviors were rooted in physical diseases and such behaviors were often assigned supernatural causes - and treatments. Less severe behavior issues were often simply dismissed as "That's the way s/he is." It wasn't until medications that could influence psychotic behaviors were discovered and brought into use that anyone thought that severe mental disorders could be brought under control at all - sufferers here in the US were institutionalized and expected to remain in that environment for life.

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