Personality diseases

About life, the wisest men of all ages have come to the same conclusion: it is no good. Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from their mouths — a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistance to life. Even Socrates said, as he died: “To live — that means to be sick a long time: I owe Asclepius the Savior a rooster.” Even Socrates was tired of life. What does that prove? What does it demonstrate? At one time, one would have said (and it has been said loud enough by our pessimists): “At least something must be true here! The consensus of the sages must show us the truth.” Shall we still talk like that today? May we? “At least something must be sick here,” we retort. These wisest men of all ages — they should first be scrutinized closely. Were they all perhaps shaky on their legs? tottery? decadent? late? Could it be that wisdom appears on earth as a raven, attracted by a little whiff of carrion?

— Twilight of the Idols

Nietzsche condemned ‘life-denying’ attitudes born out of a weak will, such as those of Socrates, often employing the metaphors of health and sickness. Nowadays the medical profession is diagnosing ‘personality diseases’ and realising his words in a more literal sense. A weak will, unable to overcome the challenges, trials and setbacks of existence, really is a disease. From Psychology Today:

Wayne Katon, whose research focuses on depression, anxiety and somatoform disorders, makes the case that stress and anxiety play a primary role. In his view, personality doesn’t just create a hospitable environment—it’s an integral part of the diseases. He believes that the initial injury or illness is almost irrelevant. What really matters is the interpretation and emotional reaction. Patients develop what he calls “catastrophic cognitions”: beliefs that if they start to get back to their activity, they will damage themselves further.

According to Katon’s clinical observations, patients with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia tend to be highly driven overachievers unaccustomed to feeling any loss of control. When injured or sickened, those who decide that the pain or illness has overwhelmingly and permanently damaged their bodies come to feel victimized and unable to cope. Learned helplessness sets in, and patients can find themselves perpetually depressed and inactive. “They have trouble getting back to that old lifestyle, and what sets in is depression,” Katon suggests. “In our modern society, for people who have driven themselves, fatigue becomes a palatable way out of a difficult existence.” Although Katon is well regarded in the field, this perspective is still widely debated, at conferences, in medical journals and even by peers at his own medical center.

However, some patients do describe their experience in similar terms. “Stress seems to be the killer,” Howard admits. “That’s what I think happened with me. I was a superachiever and a perfectionist. I was going to make it, no matter what. I didn’t anticipate the consequences.”

Fear of further damage and disability may keep patients from trying to get back to an active life. “Whatever caused this impairment is probably not what’s keeping it going,” Katon says. “What’s keeping it going to a large extent are the misbeliefs about getting back to an active lifestyle.”

Indeed, Hillenbrand had come to anticipate disaster when she tried returning to a normal life. “I had learned to expect complete collapses each time I overextended myself,” she recalls. “As I began to slide into exhaustion, I would anticipate how I would soon be unable to sit up and speak, and I would become very frightened. The anxiety I experienced as I slid into collapse would feed my exhaustion, and I would become still weaker.”

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2 Responses to “Personality diseases”

  1. Valuable Internet Information » Personality diseases Says:

    […] Read the original here:  Personality diseases […]

  2. marianasoffer Says:

    The two emotions, loneliness and boredom, are closely allied. They are also both characteristically modern. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citations of either word, at least in the contemporary sense, date from the 19th century … Loneliness is not the absence of company, it is grief over that absence. The lost sheep is lonely; the shepherd is not lonely. But the Internet is as powerful a machine for the production of loneliness as television is for the manufacture of boredom. If six hours of television a day creates the aptitude for boredom, the inability to sit still, a hundred text messages a day creates the aptitude for loneliness, the inability to be by yourself. Some degree of boredom and loneliness is to be expected, especially among young people, given the way our human environment has been attenuated. But technology amplifies those tendencies. You could call your schoolmates when I was a teenager, but you couldn’t call them 100 times a day. You could get together with your friends when I was in college, but you couldn’t always get together with them when you wanted to, for the simple reason that you couldn’t always find them. If boredom is the great emotion of the TV generation, loneliness is the great emotion of the Web generation. We lost the ability to be still, our capacity for idleness. They have lost the ability to be alone, their capacity for solitude.

    We are living in a culture that believes that science is the only valid way of knowledge. Instincts and tradition have become left aside. We are experiencing an age of rapid change, increasingly scarce resources, growing population, cultural mixing and many uncertainties about the future.

    The fact that stress and culture can be among the primary causing factors of depression makes it clear that depression cannot be defined simply as a “brain disease”. That we need to attack depression from other angles such as the culture in which we live in.

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