What is mental illness?
Mental illnesses are health conditions that involve changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of them). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems with functioning in social, work or family activities.
Mental disorders are changes in functioning of the mind that impair the person's performance in family, social, personal life, at work, in studies, in understanding oneself and others, in the possibility of self-criticism, in tolerance of problems and in the possibility of enjoying life in general.
This means that mental disorders leave no aspect of the human condition untouched.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN MENTAL DISEASES?
This is one of the most common mental illnesses in modern society. This imbalance causes unpredictable oscillations in the emotional state, affects mood and has a very close relationship with depression. Its main characteristics are psychological instability, which is revealed by the alternation of a state of anguish and discouragement with impulsiveness and extraversion.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
As its name suggests, this disorder causes obsessive and compulsive feelings and thoughts that compromise the individual's emotional balance and affect the performance of their routine tasks.
OCD patients exhibit exaggerated behaviors in relation to simple everyday things. Most of these people have a habit of cleaning, both at home and in terms of personal hygiene habits.
They develop, for example, obsession with hand washing and are justified by the uncontrolled fear of contracting diseases. Others are adept at collecting objects or acting impulsively, in a very anxious or extremely euphoric way.
One of the diseases linked to psychiatric imbalance is Anorexia Nervosa: a problem characterized by intentional weight loss resulting from refusal to eat. Some typical factors of Anorexia are the distorted view of the mirror image itself, which is supported by excessive fear of gaining weight.
Contrary to this, there is Bulimia: the habit of eating large quantities of food to immediately induce vomiting in order to eliminate the calories that have been ingested.
In addition to inducing vomiting, there are other practices that also characterize Bulimia. The continuous use of laxatives, the adoption of prolonged fasts and the practice of very intense physical exercises, even under the risk of harming oneself.
Also known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), these imbalances affect an increasing number of people. They are characterized by fear with no apparent cause and generate excessive concern for what has not yet happened - and which may never happen.
It also causes an exaggerated feeling of discomfort, bad feeling and quite unpleasant emotional tension. In addition, epidemiological data are very worrying, as TAG is increasing the rates of absence from work, according to a study by the Federal University of Piauí.
TAG is expressed in different ways. However, the most common are pathological anxiety, somatoform disorders, phobias and panic syndrome. The symptoms of this disease are very harmful because they affect various aspects of the individual's emotional, professional and social life.
The disorder also triggers mechanisms that cause very uncomfortable and difficult to control physical symptoms. The most evident are sweating, tremors of the lower and upper limbs, palpitations, chest pains, a feeling of suffocation and tingling in the hands and back.
Public Health classifies Schizophrenia as one of the main psychotic disorders, and it is related to numerous psychiatric illnesses. This is because this disease can both increase the severity of pre-existing mental problems and arise as a result of these.
The most obvious signs of this evil are language disorders and disorganized thinking. In the most advanced degree, it also affects the perception of reality and alters the expression of thought.
Some psychiatric illnesses occur by association and, with this, can aggravate different clinical conditions, even if it is insidious. In this sense, the early diagnostic evaluation is extremely relevant to prevent the evolution of the levels of morbidity and mental impairment.
Somatization is defined as a psychiatric disorder in which the patient has various physical complaints due to pain in different organs or members of the body. However, these sensations are not diagnosed in exams and are not easily explained by doctors, as they do not present any noticeable clinical changes.
Generally, people with this type of somatization disorder suffer from excessive anxiety and have constant mood swings. Impulsivity is also usually present and is one of the factors that aggravate the situation of somatization.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT MENTAL DISEASES?
In Matthew 4:23–24, we read:
"And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them."
Here we find the Lord Jesus healing all diseases and weaknesses in the body. When the Scriptures begin to refer to those who were sick, they are grouped into five different categories:
- There were those who had a variety of illnesses, and these certainly included things like infections, cancer, inflammation of various kinds and illnesses due to age.
- Along with the disease were those suffering from pain that, of course, included pain resulting from diseases such as arthritis, headaches or cancer, but could also include pain inflicted from outside the body. The thought of torment or torture is included in the word.
- People also get sick when possessed by a demon, and, of course, this can affect both the body and the mind.
- Paralytics are mentioned, being those who had lost the ability to use some parts of the body, and were thus unable to perform their functions normally.
The word "lunatics" is also included in the list, indicating those who had a disordered state of mind. The word in Greek brings the thought of being "crazy", and is a generic word used for those who are not in their right mind. The same word is used in Matthew 17:15 to describe the boy who was thrown into fire or water. In this case, the lunatic behavior was caused by a demon. Such individuals are placed together with others who had illness and pain, and are categorized as being ill. The state of being a lunatic was a disease that the Lord Jesus healed in the same way He healed other diseases.
In light of all that we have considered, it is obvious that mental illness, whether mild or seriously disabling, is a very complicated subject. There are almost always multiple causes - physical, spiritual, circumstantial, etc. It is the presence of these multiple causes together with our limited understanding of mental illness that is undoubtedly responsible for much of the misunderstanding and unbalanced thinking on the subject.
There are those who would reduce any abnormal mental or emotional response to a spiritual problem, while others would say that it is all physical, related to the malfunction of neurotransmitters and chemical problems in the brain. We have seen that none of these answers is totally wrong, but that none is also totally right. Some would try to relate everything to experiences we had at some point earlier in our lives, while others would say that original sin is the cause of all these problems. Again, both can be factors that cause mental illness, but neither explains the whole picture. Instead, in any situation, multiple factors are likely to be involved and thus need to be addressed. Genetic, environmental and spiritual factors can all be present, to a greater or lesser degree. The assessment of the different factors in an individual case together with the choice of an appropriate therapy presents the greatest challenge for those who treat mental illness.
For the believer, this whole subject should cause humiliation, when we perceive the complexity of man as the highest being of creation - the one who was created in the image and likeness of God! Certainly the resemblance was lost as a result of man's fall, but the image remains - he is still the head of creation and thus represents God in this world. We should humble ourselves, too, when we consider that "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Romans 5:12). It was the sin of man that brought into this world not only disorders in the body, but also in the soul and spirit, and all of these are involved in mental illness. May we always approach the subject with that holy reverence that realizes that “in part, we know” (1 Corinthians 13:9), whether in spiritual or natural things.
God bless you!