Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Psychiatric Medication - Coping With Prejudice And Rejection

image by jmtwid,

Supportive Family, Positive Auto-Suggestions Can Help

The way society has evolved over the centuries, a lot of stigma has come to be associated with mental illness. Even in the so-called enlightened world of today, anybody who is known to be undergoing intervention for psychiatric illness is largely accorded a social status that is less than desirable, to put it euphemistically. The stereotype of "mad", "crazy", "nuts", "psycho" and "psychotic" is so deeply entrenched that even well-intentioned people find themselves viewing the individual through a distorted prism. Observe the owners of premises interviewing a prospective tenant, and see how they react when they come to know that the person talking to them has just returned from a session at the psychiatrist's clinic. Employers have been known to be wary of prospective employees who as much as hint that they are undergoing some treatment or the other that is related to mental illness.

image by mzacha,

Mentally-ill people face a double whammy. On the one hand they have to struggle with being accepted by the community at large. In order to attain acceptability and be given the treatment reserved for any other, "normal" individual, these people go to any extent to hide their problems and issues. In order to avoid being "found out" and consequently getting socially rejected, such people often withdraw into their shell, and limit their social interchange only with those whom they can trust. This deprives them from developing meaningful relationships at all levels - personal, educational, career and professional.

image by wetape,

On the other hand, the mentally-ill people internalize the stigma. The looks and the body language let out by others when it becomes known that they are being treated for mental illness, and the behavior exhibited by the general public towards such people come to haunt them. The consequence of this continuous dwelling on the negative reactions is the repeated auto-suggestions of "I am not normal", "I am stupid", "I am crazy", "I am no good", "I am mad", "I am defective", "I have no reason to be alive", and the like. Shame sets in, along with feelings of belittlement and lack of worth and low self-esteem. At times, the internalization of stigma is even worse than the actual responses received from society. Is it any surprise, then, to find quite a few of the mentally-ill also suffering from depression?

image by duchesssa,

It is interesting that the male species takes the stigma and rejection more to heart than the female. This perhaps has to do with the traditional role of the male being "strong" and "in control" of himself, and the general perception of the male being a person who is a "macho" and "not a sissy" and who "can take care of oneself without mother-like attention". Communal definitions of "success" and "fitting in" drive the males to hide their mental-health problems from the rest of the world, and also prevent them from seeking help - "What will everybody think? What opinion will they hold of me if I tell them that I am suffering from so-and-so condition?" Women on the other hand find it easier to accommodate their illness into their overall self-concept, and can therefore better cope with the condition.

image by nazreth,

Family members take a portion of the blame in the mentally-ill individual's ignominy. Instead of helping the person understand the meaning of the diagnosis given to them, and instead of placing the condition in the right perspective, family members either feel frustrated and despaired and vent out their frustration on them, or they do absolutely nothing to help the individual come to terms with the diagnosis. Have you heard the sibling say "You're nuts! You are freakin' crazy!", or the mother say "You are psycho! Now what are we gonna do with you?" The sense of self-worth having been shattered at home itself, when such a person emerges outside, their worldview is already distorted. They look at everybody around them as having a similar negative perception, they perceive everybody laughing at them with derision and contempt or with fear; and the negative downward spiral accelerates.

image by pastelman,

As self-developer / counselor, when such individuals approach us for help, a very good starting-point is to first assess their feeling of comfort in their interpersonal relationships. Any modicum of discomfort on issues of acceptability and adjustment with other people gives ample indication of what the individual might be going through. Another important assessment is to find out whether or not the individual is actually taking the medication been prescribed to them. Often times, it is discovered that they avoid taking any medication at all because "medication is only for the crazy!" Lines of treatment that can be implemented in parallel are: reverse the negative auto-suggestions and replace them with positive self-affirmations, orient the family members and significant others to become more sensitive and supportive, and make the individual understand that taking medication will improve the condition and give them better control over themselves.

image by abcdz2000,

[The mind, they say, is "sane" - the so-called compos mentis - when it produces thoughts, feelings and emotions that are considered to be rational by the rest of society. Related to this concept is the idea of consciousness which describes the executive control system of the mind. We know that there are three states of consciousness which the executive control system finds itself in: wakefulness, sleep and dream. Spiritualists like to talk about yet another state of consciousness, and here is a piece that talks about it: "Exploring The Fourth State Of Consciousness". ]

1 comment:

  1. It is very good article that individual discomfort crops up from own consciousness.I too face problem having achieved education & financial goal that ate better off compared to persons who are in my relation.Though it should be their lacuna to rectify by rationalizing.I will to explore the state of consciensness.