Tag Archives: art

The Rise Of Psychiatry Has Augmented The Rise Of Madness Through Medicalization

When psychiatry is ‘curing’ the deviants of society and is invested in the restoration of normality.

It’s been a long while since I’ve last written, I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe, just maybe it’s because I’m not feeling too high or too low, the lows always lasting longer than the highs. Psychiatry has been playing on my mind lately, pills and potions; we’re overdosing, sick, sick, sick, I hear them say it. The pills fail to fill the void, has the void always been there or are the pills’ telling me that something needs to be fixed.

I was never meant to fix myself, the bruises on my thighs are like my fingertips, eerily matching the darkness that I feel. The darkness is like beautiful cherry blossoms that are always about to bloom, they are always so pretty, but they are always gone too soon. 

An attack on psychiatry: The original rise of asylums has allowed the confinement of madness to be ‘treated’, reclassifying a non-medical problem as a medical problem. Medicalization is the defining of non-medical problems in medical terms, usually as an illness or disorder, and usually with the implication that a medical intervention or treatment is appropriate (Zola, 1972). Medicalization leads to “normal” human behaviour and experience being “re-badged” as medical conditions. Rebadging “deviance” as a series of medical disorders, the engines driving medicalization have been identified as biotechnology (especially the pharmaceutical industry and genetics), consumers, and managed care. The hubris of psychiatry, believing originally that they could cure all psychological problems with psychoanalysis, psychiatry still failing to improve the average levels of happiness and well-being in the general population. Psychiatry is able to pump out psychotropic drugs, not save mankind, attempting to alleviate our ‘age of disenchantment’.

We are treated, analysed and regulated scientifically, living by a manual which fails to understand the sociological impacts and failings of society. Have we potentially been manufacturing our own madness? Postmodern psychiatry seems to have become a tailor-made diagnosis for an age of disenchantment. Are these psychiatrists potentially manufacturing madness? Is the medicalisation of madness reducing creativity, the creative aspects of people commonly misinterpreted as deviants? Centuries of creative people from all modalities have suffered from mental illnesses, resisting treatments which could potentially ease their conditions, fearing that it could cloud or alter their mind, drugging them into submission, proceeding to quash their inner creative impulses.

Edvard Munch: “I want to keep my sufferings. They are part of me and my art.”

Van Gogh: “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence, whether much that is glorious, whether all that is profound, does not spring from disease of thought, from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”

Psychologist Maureen Neihart: associates the shared characteristics amongst creative production and mental illness, which include mood disturbance, a tolerance for irrationality, greater openness to sensory stimuli, restlessness, speed of thinking, and obsessiveness of thought.

Marcel Proust: “everything great in the world is created by neurotics;”

Seneca quoted Aristotle as having said, “No great genius was without a mixture of insanity.”

Many psychologists believe that artists use their work to heal and soothe their minds. But if drugs heal artist’s minds for them, is their work still needed, or would it even be produced, would their work even be needed? I always found that my over-sensitive and stimulated mind would always find so much more beauty in the world, glimpsing the magical and maniacal way of being present. Sometimes the pills keep me from spiralling into the abyss of the rabbit hole, the terror, but also the creative language which comes from seeing both sides, the place that is sometimes so warm and comforting but at the same time cold and hard. We’re definitely a pill popping society, whether it be vitamins or hard core anti-psychotic sedatives (Haloperidol…I’m talking about you, you’re such an exhausting and all-consuming prick). I’m not writing off psychiatry as a professional form of medicine, I just believe that they are infested with conflicts of interest, most commonly the extensive influence of the pharmaceutical industries over modern medicine.

End note: I do not mean the use of the word “madness” to be taken in any offensive way; it is used in the same way that sociology and psychology have referenced it in academic journals.

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The Highly Functioning Abnormally Normal, Normal Person.

Don’t let the title scare you away, it’s a mouthful, and yes, yes I am crazy. Normality in society has become this unachievable baseline. I believe that everyone experiences some form of abnormal psychological thought processes at one stage or another in their life. Apparently being abnormal was to demonstrate a significant deviation from accepted behaviour, emotion or thought patterns. The concept of normality is based on a sense of ‘wellbeing’, how is this a completely achievable state of being? No one is completely well all their life, our state of mind always shifting depending on the circumstance.

Does having bipolar disorder make me abnormal? In my opinion no, I perceive it as my ‘normal’ state of mind, I function on a day-to-day basis quite well, better than most actually, I receive high grades at university, work full time and participate actively in social circles, yet my ‘disorder’ by societies standards would make me ‘abnormal’. The perception of normal is dependent on societal standards of the time which vary by person, time, place, culture, and situation. Normality is self-perceived and regulated by each individual, the individuality of normalcy makes everyone abnormal.

OK, my actual point was to look at the fact that society doesn’t automatically correlate geniuses who have a mental illness with being abnormal, as long as their creative works eclipse their madness. This double-standard contradicts society’s perception of normality. In some instances these highly dysfunctional yet creative types aren’t given negative stigmas, the population preferring to believe that ‘anyone’ can be that creative without a mental illness or an abnormal perspective. For me it has become infuriating that people are blissfully unaware that so many of the world’s creative types and leaders suffered or suffer from mental illness. How do so many people with a mental illness become the leaders of so many people? I’ve started to believe that maybe they needed that extra push or mentally different mindset to get where they are. The people I’m talking about are Marilyn Monroe, Florence Nightingale, Edgar Allan Poe, Joan of Arc, Jackson Pollock, Russell Brand, Frank Sinatra, Brittany spears, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adolf Hitler, Chris Brown, Abraham Lincoln,  Beethoven, Michelangelo, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchhill, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Einstein, DaVinci and Napoléon Bonaparte (to name a few).

 “When times are good and the ship of state only needs to sail straight, mentally healthy people function well as political leaders. But in times of crisis and tumult, those who are mentally abnormal, even ill, become the greatest leaders. We might call this the Inverse Law of Sanity”

These forward thinkers and creative types of people suffered from a form of mental illness, so how do we judge ‘normalcy’ in society when we follow the ‘abnormal’ people? It seems that society overlooks the connection that a lot of literature pertaining to history’s brilliant minds is disregarded in its relationship to potential psychoses.  Socrates believed that a mental illness gives an already talented individual an edge. Everyone is located at a point on the mental health spectrum, mental health seen as a continuum, there is an association between the higher end of the spectrum and the capacity for a person to have an original thought.

  • In Plato’sPhaedrus, Socrates’ second speech he asks “If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the inspired madman”.
  • Edgar Allen Poe – “Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence… [and] whether all that is profound, does not spring from disease of thought”Aristotle – “Why is it that all men who are outstanding in philosophy, poetry or the arts are melancholic?”
  • Cesare Lombroso – Theorised that a man of genius was essentially a degenerate whose madness was a form of evolutionary compensation for excessive intellectual development.
  • Neil Cole (psychiatrist) – “the word associations, puns, flight of ideas, that are an intrinsic part of bipolar disorder in its manic phase, and the reflective thoughts, ruminations and the stripping of life away to the bare essentials that are experienced during the depressive phase, in my view, considerably enhance the artist’s armoury of ideas”. Believing that the ‘genius’ factor hinges on eccentricity.
  • “When a superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce – as in the endless permutations and combinations of the human faculty, they are bound to coalesce often enough – in the same individual, we have the best possible condition for the kind of effective genius”

Mental illnesses can be incredibly destructive; it has to be considered that without obsessive research habits, extreme moods and neurotic drives we wouldn’t have a lot of our scientific knowledge, art and literature. Although not all people with a mental illness are geniuses likewise not all geniuses have a mental illness.


some-touch-of-madnessParting note: Society is extremely hypocritical of mental illness, not stigmatizing it when it becomes beneficial and not classifying it as abnormal. How can we then make clear-cut definitions of being abnormal and normal when it is dependent on the contributions of the person afflicted.