Psycho-Myth Number One: Mental Illness Is, Like, Brain Disease

Ever wonder where all this misinformation on “mental illness” labeling comes from you encounter at nearly every mental health website you visit these days? I will give you a clue:

NARSAD, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, is a nonprofit agency devoted to providing funding for research that helps us learn more about mental illness. In 2001, NARSAD surveyed mental health professionals in the United States and assembled a list of the most common myths about mental illness. Here are the top 10 myths about mental illness as listed by NARSAD.

~from Top Ten Myths About Schizophrenia

Before we get to any of these myths, let me tackle a little problem with this vote in the “mental illness” myth business. Just because it’s popular doesn’t make it true. All these flat earth type “mental illness” experts have their fallibilities. Psychiatrists aren’t trained in logic, if they were, they might approach the matter from a different direction rather than going for the popularity contest. The fact of the matter is that the truth isn’t going to come out of a popularity contest. The truth, in this instance, would not come from survey results, no, the literal truth would come out of rigorous scientific investigation.

This scientific investigation demands lucidity, and blurring your terms in order confuse gullible people is not being lucid.

In the field of logic this is what is known as a false analogy. One logic text explains:

An argument from analogy draws a conclusion about something on the basis of an analogy with or resemblance to some other thing. The assumption is that if two or more things are alike in some respects, they are alike in some other respect.

In regard to a false analogy the text says:

To recognize the fallacy of false analogy, look for an argument that draws a conclusion about one thing, event, or practice on the basis of its analogy or resemblance to others. The fallacy occurs when the analogy or resemblance is not sufficient to warrant the conclusion, as when, for example, the resemblance is not relevant to the possession of the inferred feature or there are relevant dissimilarities.

In the medical model physical symptoms are caused by some pathogenic agent. For example, a fever may be caused by viruses; remove the pathogenic agent and you remove the symptom. Or, a person may have a broken leg; set the leg properly and the leg will heal. We have confidence in the medical model because it has worked well in the treatment of physical ailments. With the easy transfer of the model from medicine to psychotherapy, many people believe that mental problems can be thought of in the same way as physical problems.

In plain English then it could be put like this.

Psychotherapy deals with thoughts, emotions, and behavior, but not with the brain itself. Psychotherapy does not deal with the biology of the brain, but with the activity of the mind and the social behavior of the individual. In medicine we understand what a diseased body is, but what is a parallel in psychotherapy? It is obvious that in psychotherapy mental illness does not mean brain disease. If brain disease were the case, the person would be a medical patient, not a mental patient.

~Is There A Difference?

We know this “mental illness” equals brain disease formula to be a false analogy because by definition psychiatrists treat people with “mental disorders” whereas neurologists, doctors trained in a different branch of medicine altogether, treat people with brain disorders.

What is the first of NARSAD’s top ten myths?

Myth 1. Psychiatric disorders are not true medical illnesses.

Fact: Brain disorders, like heart disease and diabetes, are legitimate medical illnesses. Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for psychiatric disorders, and they can be treated effectively.

~NARSAD: The Mental Health Research Association; Top 10 Myths About Mental Illness

Wrong. Psychiatric disorders are not synonymous with brain disorders. Right away we’re dealing with a false analogy, and therefore, a fallacy. Funny thing, if your fact is a myth, maybe the myth you had meant to expose was actually fact.

2 Responses

  1. well said. almost sounds like Thomas Szasz wrote this. lololol.

    • Tackle myth number 1, this myth, and all the others fall right behind it like dominoes. The biggest support this myth has is another myth, and that is the myth of chronicity. When people in mental health treatment recover their wits, when they leave that system, it can’t be claimed that “mental illness” has a solid hereditary basis. The chronicity myth then represents a challenge for anyone in the mental health system who thinks he or she can remove him or herself from that system. Should he or she not remove him or herself from that system, then you’ve just got another statistic.

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