Mental illness has long been misunderstood, but recent scientific developments point toward a more hopeful future for those who suffer.

"Americanization-Mental-Illness" by @Peta_de_Aztlan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Mental illness has long been misunderstood, but recent scientific developments point toward a more hopeful future for those who suffer.

The Monster that is Mental Illness

From depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, mental ailments are only beginning to be understood.

October 4, 2022

When a person is sick, they take prescribed medication.  When they break a bone, they get fitted with a cast.  But when they suffer from mental illness, they risk becoming ostracized and treated as a helpless lunatic.

Mental illness is a topic that has only recently taken precedence in the medical world.  In general, it can be described as a negative health condition that affects and influences cognitive, behavioral, and emotional ability.  As of 2020, 52.9 million in the US alone have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness.

Certain common mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are receiving much-needed attention. Those who suffer from these debilitating ailments are finally reaching out for treatment.  This is much in part to society finally accepting these conditions as major problems.  However, less common mental maladies are still ignored and even stigmatized by the general populace.  


For example, schizophrenia is a widely stigmatized mental illness. Schizophrenia is a debilitating condition where the victim experiences reality in an abnormal way.  Those affected by schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, disorganized thinking and speech, flat emotions, delusions, and abnormal motor behavior. Those who agonize from this impairing disorder may struggle to perform even the simplest, mundane tasks.  

Despite schizophrenia affecting over 24 million lives worldwide, it is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses.  The uneducated believe that schizophrenics are violent, out of control, and beyond assistance.  Many joke about how those afflicted with schizophrenia hear voices that are not real.  They do not realize that, to one who has schizophrenia, hallucinations are a terrifying reality. This ignorance has caused the condition to become a malignantly labeled disorder, forcing those who suffer from its mental hell to be marginalized from society.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Another misunderstood mental illness is borderline personality disorder, or BPD, a grueling mental condition characterized by intense mood swings, an unstable personality, and an unsure sense of self.  Most mental health professionals agree that BPD is one of the hardest mental illnesses to treat and one of the most complex to understand. 

The acute mood swings caused by borderline personality disorder are not only unpredictable, but uncontrollable.  Those close to someone who suffers from BPD can be quick to disassociate from that person or treat them in a harsh and overly critical way.  BPD can be so drastic that those who suffer from it are closed off from much of society, including mental health professionals, and treated as pariahs.

Schizophrenia and BPD are two of the most stigmatized mental disorders.  Many who are tormented by these illnesses are treated malevolently and outcast from society.  In a time when mental health has become such a priority in our world, it’s disappointing and discouraging that such hellish mental illnesses have become so commonly stigmatized by the uninformed and uneducated.

As previously mentioned, the two largest mental health conditions, anxiety and depression, are receiving the attention and awareness they deserve.  However, other common mental illnesses are stigmatized in a subtle way. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

One of the most notable form of mental illness is obsessive compulsive disorder, more commonly known as OCD, which works in a peculiar way.  First, it causes an obsession to form in the brain.  For example, those with OCD often form an obsession with constant hand washing, self harm, or meticulous organizing, although other obsessions can form as well. Often, the obsessions are driven by fear or unwanted thoughts.  Then, a compulsion in the brain forces the sufferer to indulge in the obsession, no matter where or when. OCD can send someone’s productivity and peace of mind to a standstill.  It can be especially hard to hold down a job or go about daily life while ailing from this condition. 

Nevertheless, many seem to misunderstand the severity of OCD.  It’s not uncommon to hear a person comment in jest, “Oh, you’re so OCD” after witnessing another organize their belongings in a particular way.  This has caused OCD to seem like a choice or personality trait rather than a debilitating illness.  It can make those who suffer from it feel invalid or unworthy of psychological help. 


Bipolar Disorder

Similarly, bipolar disorder is stigmatized in an analogous way.  Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, similar in some regards to BPD.  Bipolar disorder causes its captive to have chaotic mood swings.  There are two main modes of bipolar disorder: manic highs and depressive lows.  Both can be equally difficult to manage, as the switches between the two are quick, and often uncalled for.  

Living with bipolar disorder is an abominable challenge.  Depressive episodes drain the afflicted of all energy, while manic episodes constantly require more.  It’s an impossible balancing act.  Sadly, the public tolerance for bipolar disorder is incredibly low.  The general perception of bipolar disorder is that those who are burdened with it are “crazy” and too unpredictable for any kind of human connection.  It’s also not unordinary to hear bipolarity used in a derogatory way to describe those who change moods quickly.  It invalidates the severity of the illness and discourages treatment for the suffering.


Our Evolving Understanding of Mental Illness

It should be noted that the stigmatization of mental illness is often unintentional, albeit no less insensitive.  Awareness is the first step towards any form of change, and fortunately, our society has placed a greater priority on learning about and treating mental illness.  Defeating the stigmas surrounding mental health is a necessary part in creating a healthy society.  We fight physical diseases and illnesses in a unified manner.  However, we place less emphasis on mental health and stand divided on its severity.

In the U.S., there is approximately one suicide every 11 minutes, yet the ghoulish conditions that cause rash and destructive actions are often treated as lies, jokes, and helpless ailments. When will society begin to see mental illness as the abomination that it truly is, rather than regarding those who suffer from it as monsters? 

Mental illness is a disease that may never be cured.  It is almost impossible to prevent and even more difficult to cure and cope with.  However, with more public understanding for its various conditions, and more compassion for those who are suffering, a healthy way to approach mental health is well within reach.


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About the Writer
Photo of Brady Crow
Brady Crow, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Brady Crow is a senior for the 2023-2024 school year.  He's a Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Uproar this year and is excited for the opportunity to write and read many fascinating articles.  When not writing for the Uproar, Brady enjoys working at his church, going to the gym, and taking care of his pet lizard.

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