Why I Hate the Term “Mental Illness” and You Should Too
After being a psychiatrist for over 30 years, I have come to hate the terms “mental illness” and “psychiatric disorders,” and you should too.
Mental illness and psychiatric disorders conjure up stigmatizing images of lunacy in people who are mad, disturbed, unbalanced, or unstable, even though these adjectives apply to an extremely small percentage of people who struggle with mental health issues.
Being diagnosed with a mental illness or a psychiatric disorder insidiously taints or stains everyone who struggles with perceived issues of the mind, making them less likely to ever want to seek help for fear they’ll be diminished in the eyes of others.
By labeling these issues as mental health or psychiatric, people suffer in silence because of the shame they feel. Consider the rash of celebrity suicides of people who were too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help (from Ernest Hemingway, Judy Garland, and Junior Seau to Robin Williams, Mindy McCready, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Anthony Bourdain). On the outside, they seemed like they had everything; on the inside, they were suffering.
If we do not erase—or at least lower—the stigma for these issues, many more people will unnecessarily suffer and die without getting the help they need.
But things are changing. We are now on the cusp of a new revolution that will change mental health care forever.
How Reframing Mental Health as Brain Health Changes Everything
My new book, The End of Mental Illness, discards an outdated, stigmatizing paradigm that taints people with disparaging labels, preventing them from getting the help they need and replaces it with a modern brain-based, whole-person program rooted in neuroscience and hope.
No one is shamed for cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, even though they have significant lifestyle contributions. Likewise, no one should be shamed for depression, panic disorders, bipolar disorder, addictions, schizophrenia, and other brain health issues.
Over the last 30 years, my colleagues and I have built the world’s largest database of brain scans related to behavior. We have performed more than 160,000 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans, which measure blood flow and activity patterns, and over 10,000 quantitative electroencephalograms (QEEGs), which measure electrical activity, on patients from 9 months old to 105 years old from 121 countries.
Based on our brain imaging work, it has become crystal clear to us that, as psychiatrists, we are not dealing with mental health issues, but we are dealing with brain health issues. And this one idea has changed everything we do to help our patients.
Brain imaging has completely disrupted how we help our patients get well, and this information can help you, even if no one ever looks at your brain. The human brain is an organ just like your heart and all your other organs, and you can only be as mentally healthy as your brain is functionally healthy.
Fortunately, you are not stuck with the brain you have. You can change your brain and make it better.
The End of Mental Illness is written by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain health expert Dr. Daniel Amen and relies on the latest neuroscience and leading-edge brain imaging to show that mental health is really brain health. In The End of Mental Illness, he reveals the 11 risk factors that can harm your brain health and create “mental health” problems. And he shares the proven strategies he has learned after 30-plus years of clinical practice that will help you minimize your risk factors, enhance brain health, and end mental illness. Order your copy today.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, or other conditions, understand that optimizing underlying brain health is the key to getting well. At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging to help identify brain problems and areas that need optimization and to create a personalized treatment plan.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health and overcome their symptoms at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.