A couple days ago I wrote a piece that was titled Anxiety: A Nervous System. There were some people on twitter who seemed to have some things to say, but due to the fact that I found their criticism to be nothing more than senseless chatter from the lets-be-offended brigade, I found it hard to hear myself think. But since they seemed to have so much to say I would like to go ahead and address their criticisms.
I’ll preface with a couple definitions that I think will help with the continuity of this post. To clarify the difference between “anxiety” as an emotion versus the classification of illnesses classified as “anxiety disorders”, and to do that I will start by qualifying my statement of claiming anxiety exist as more of an emotion than an illness.
Emotion: The part of the consciousness that involves feeling.
I know that when I get anxiety, it certainly comes with a whole gambit of feelings, ones which are difficult for me to articulate when I’m feeling them. It’s the collective agreement of the unspeakable nature of these feeling that we classify with the umbrella term, “anxiety”.
Anxiety: A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.
I don’t think it necessary for me to have a degree in psychiatry to understand that when I’m in a state of uneasiness or apprehension, that it’s a fleeting moment. While sometimes it stays longer than other times, anxiety as it stands by itself is in no way a permanent state of being or an illness. Furthermore, I think that it only makes sense to be uneasy about future uncertainties, because the last thing that is going to happen to you is death. If I wasn’t uneasy about that at least every once in a while I would have to question my ability to pay any attention to what it means to be a part of this human experience. If you think you aren’t scared of death, try telling the hypothalamic part of your brain that when a bear starts chasing you, and I bet that if you end up getting away, you will be the exact definition of “scared”.
Anxiety Disorders: are a group of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear.
Sometimes anxiety is a symptom for other types of illnesses. That in no way means having anxiety means you have an anxiety disorder. Another helpful thing to know about the process of psychiatric diagnosis, is that IT IS IN NO WAY BASED ON SCIENCE. It has aspects of scientific thought, yes, but because science requires an objective point of view (objective meaning of or having to do with a material object that’s uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices), and since “anxiety” isn’t a material, it can’t be a scientific truth. Instead, a psychiatric diagnosis is made off of groupings of generalizations of people who are suffering from the same symptoms. That is to say, for example, someone diagnosing a mental disorder would take a grouping of 10 generalized symptoms of intangible “feelings” you might have, and if the textbook says that it only takes 5 out of 10 of those symptoms to go through with a diagnosis, they will diagnose. That means you could have 2 people, where one exhibits the first 5 symptoms, the second exhibits the second 5 symptoms, and they would walk out with the same diagnosis. That’s not science.
This whole twitter storm I took on for my piece started a couple of nights ago, when I noticed 2 tweets of similar nature criticizing my post. These two folks I shall deem as “Autumn” and “Charlie”. So here’s how it went down:
“Autumn” tweets: “innaccurate scientific explanation for a serious mental illness. Fight/flight response defence mechanism”.
And “Charlie” tweets: “Utter nonsense! Not only is this unhelpful it is Harmful to those of us living with a serious mental illness”.
I opened this post the way I did so I could address Autumn and Charlie’s comments more clearly. First, “Autumn”, my BLOG POST was not a SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION. If you read all blog posts as science, you may need to re-evaluate what you believe as facts. Now as far as the both of them referring to my post as something that has anything to do with a “mental illness”, I’m confused as to why they’d think that. My post was about anxiety as a feeling or emotion, not about anxiety disorders.
Later, “Autumn” says: “I am an absolute warrior. You are misinforming the public that anxiety is not a mental illness. DSM 5 is fact not fiction.”
Again, I would like to point out that anxiety can and is sometimes marked as a diagnostic symptom to a broader illness, but to be anxious by itself, as it was written about in the post that apparently offended these people, is in no way a sickness, and I’d say her ideas are more harmful than mine, because she’s endorsing the idea that you’re too darn helpless to help yourself. I happen to think you can help yourself.
Regarding DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th edition), the text being referenced also clearly states anxiety by itself as a symptom to a class of “anxiety disorders”. But the release of DSM-5 (2013) did not get released without yielding A TON of controversy. It’s been accused of having connections and agendas driven by the pharmaceutical industry, having diagnostic matrices that are poorly defined and lack empirical evidence, and that much of the information either contradicts itself, or is just unclear and poorly written. One group of psychologists mustered up more than 15,000 signatures in opposition to DSM-5 (https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dsm5/), and you can read about the efforts to reform DSM-5 by a group of over 50 mental health organizations here, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/dsm-5-petition_b_1610569.html
There was some talk in there about genetics being the reason for anxiety, and for that I will quickly point out 2 things. First is that, once again, anxiety as an emotion and anxiety as a symptom for some kind of “anxiety disorder”, as a classification are not the same things. the second point I’ll make will simply be a quote that I pulled from The American /society of Human Genetics’ website; “Although our genetic makeup is constant throughout life, our genes alone do not DETERMINE our future. All genes work in context of environment, such as diet, exercise, exposure to toxic agents, or medication can all influence our genes and traits
The USA is 3% of the worlds population yet we consume 85% worth of the world’s pharmaceutical drugs. So if anxiety disorders are genetic, it’s probably in context with all those pills we’re being given to medicate our existence.
I could go on and individually tear apart the individual tweets so I can exhibit how when you let people like “Autumn” and “Charlie” talk long enough, they’ll show you exactly why they don’t know very much, including how to have a productive conversation. Every point I made, and every word I wrote was twisted by them and a couple others and warped into a rebuttal that I can only classify as incoherent babble.
I’ll end this post right here, I’m getting “anxious” to tweet it out to “Autumn” and “Charlie”. Thanks for all the attention you two, the Curious Conversation website has seen a lot of traffic due to your manufactured outrage. Way dope.