Marina Loeb
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Mental Illness

This ongoing series aims to illuminate misconceptions and generally explain both well-known and lesser-known psychiatric disorders. I'm increasingly interested in mental illness and its accompanying stigma. I hope to inspire more people to share their stories so that the most hesitant among us may decide to seek help. 

Depression

Depression

People often mistake depression for sadness. During his TED talk about depression, Andrew Solomon expertly clarifies that “the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.” He recounts his descent into a depressive episode saying “I began to feel myself doing less, thinking less, and feeling less. It was a kind of nullity.” To learn more about depression, and also how it interacts with anxiety, check out his incredible TED talks and books -- "The Noonday Demon" in particular. 

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa

   Anorexia nervosa is the most fatal of all mental disorders according to the NIMH. We all know that an intense fear of gaining weight characterizes anorexia nervosa, but people often misjudge anorexia to be a symptom of narcissism. This disease deserves special attention because of how mainstream and yet deeply misunderstood it is. Underlying trauma, stress, mental illness, low self-esteem, cultural pressure, or certain genetics can drive inner torment so severe that for some with AN, to eat even a morsel of food can become an excruciating experience. Get a look into the life of someone with AN by checking out the show “Don’t Call Me Crazy” on Netflix, which follows the daily life of a handful of teens suffering mental illness in a British mental hospital. 

Pyromania

Pyromania

Pyromaniacs are often misunderstood as arsonists. While arsonists maliciously set fire to properties, pyromaniacs instead need to set fires for personal satisfaction or to relieve stress. 

Derealization / Depersonalization Disorder

Derealization / Depersonalization Disorder

People with this disorder persistently or repeatedly have the feeling that they're observing themselves from outside their body or have a sense that things around them aren't real, as if they’re living in a dream. The famous artist Yayoi Kusama suffers from this disorder. 

Somatic Symptom Disorder

Somatic Symptom Disorder

Somatic Symptom Disorder is characterized by excessive focus on physical symptoms (i.e. pain or fatigue) and worst case scenario thinking about these symptoms. SSD causes major emotional distress and reduced functionality in daily life. Though often misunderstood as hypochondriacs, people with SSD aren’t faking their symptoms. The distress experienced from pain is real, no matter if a physical explanation can be found. 

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Paranoid Personality Disorder

People with paranoid personality disorder only see smoke and mirrors. Characterized by unyielding distrust and suspicion of others, people with this disorder are constantly on guard and intensely preoccupied with the perceived malevolence of others. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissists are the stars of their own plays. NPD is usually diagnosed in adulthood because the behaviors of narcissists resemble so closely those of children. Narcissists have long-standing patterns of grandiosity, the perspective that they are of primary importance in everybody’s life (even for new acquaintances), and an overwhelming need for admiration. They believe that the rules will bend for them, and if they won’t, narcissists don’t hesitate to exploit others to get what they want. Deep down, their gravely fragile self-esteem is the cause for this extreme display and preoccupation with self-importance. To understand what true narcissism looks like, check out the movie "Holy Hell" on Netflix -- it chronicles the experience of an ex-cult member who had a close relationship with his cult leader. 

Anti-Social Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)

Anti-Social Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)

Sociopaths get a bad rap because most of us know this disorder only from the context of heinous criminal cases. Contrary to the popular imagination, many sociopaths lead kind of normal lives. In essence, those with ASPD feel no regard for the feelings or rights of others. Though they can’t feel the difference between right and wrong, they are able learn and abide by societal and legal definitions of right and wrong, albeit only to avoid punishment or the relinquishment of their freedoms. A relationship with a sociopath would certainly be a trying one, but not necessarily a deadly one. If you want to learn more about ASPD from an actual sociopath, check out the book "Confessions of a Sociopath" by M.E. Thomas.