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I have felt that some of the stigma about mental illness has begun to wane over the past few decades. As more and more people begin taking medication for mental illness and people who suffer from severe mental illness have increasingly been able to be a larger part of society.


Every time one of these terrible mass shooting takes place here (in the United States) - I hear the same narative. This is not a gun problem....it is a mental illness problem. This makes it seem as though people with mental illness are actually more dangerous than guns. I worry that it will increase fear in the general public of people with mental illness. This could take us back into the bad old days when people do not seek treatment due to the stigma.

I wonder if these mass shooting are actually caused by mental illness - but rather if the increase in mass shootings and the increase is diagnosable mental illnesses to not have the same cause - social isolation and lack of supportive community. Thoughts?

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That is very interesting and I think there is a lot of truth in what you said ! ! !

I recently read an article about the relationship between mental illness and the philosophy behind perfectionism.  If I remember correctly, I believe the author defined perfectionism as the belief that only the perfect is good.  Anything less than perfection is bad; and that there is no such thing as "good enough."

I think there are at least two basic attitudes one can have in life.  One attitude is "could be better, but isn't."  The other attitude is "could be worse, but isn't."  One can look at anything and any person and say:  "could be better."  One can also look at anything and any person can say:  "could be worse."

 Both attitudes have  assets and liabilities.  The "could be better, but isn't" attitude can foster dissatisfaction that leads to positive change.  Dissatisfaction has lead to some marvelous things:  medical cures, electric lights, refrigeration, heating and air conditioning, air travel and so on.  Not that there are not assets and liabilitites to these things as well.  

But sometimes the "could be better, but isn't" philosophy which engenders dissatisfaction leads only to anger, sadness, frustration, and hopelessness.  This is perhaps especially the case if the "could be better, but isn't" attitude is not balanced with the "could be worse, but isn't" attitude.  What do you think?

Of any person, including myself I can say:  "could be worse, but isn't."  I could have the Ebola virus, I could be on fire, I could be lost in a the middle of the Sahara desert without water and so on.   But I'm not.   Also when it comes to things like virtues and vices...  I could be lazier than I am, but am not.  I could less wise and good than I am, but I am not.  Seeing things from the perspective of "could be worse, but isn't worse" generally leads to feelings of relief, of being lucky.  It is difficult to feel lucky and feel depressed.  

The "could be better, but isn't" attitude  can lead to feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety about the future.  "Could be better" can also lead to stronger forms of dissatisfaction"  ""Should be better" . . . "Must be better."  And these, I think can lead to rage.

For example, "Could be better, but isn't better" can lead one to continual feelings of being treated unfairly.  Here are some examples:  "Drivers could be more careful and courteous while driving."  "People in sales and service could be more polite and friendly."  By not being "better" people can be seen as enemies of oneself.  One can seek to get back at people.  One can seek revenge in the belief that it will right the wrongs one has suffered.  One can concentrate on the bad things and forget the good things.

I suppose almost every day one encounters someone of whom it could be said:  "that person could [and should] be better, but isn't."  But one can look at the very same person and say:  "That person could be worse, but isn't."  That is a calming way of looking at things, I think. 

This driver on the highway who just cut me off, did not cause the death of tens of millions of people like Adolph Hitler did.  This person who insulted me did not cause the deaths of tens of millions of people through a forced starvation plan as Josef Stalin did.  This person who just took my parking spot is not a genocidal dictator.

The fact that there are two words:  "good" and "perfect" perhaps shows that there is an entire realm of goodness that is not perfection.  This reminds me of the article I mentioned earlier about how there has been an increase in perfectionism in the attitude of people in the world.  If only the perfect is good, than anything less must be bad, by definition.  This is very questionable to say the least.  It also seems to blur the differences between various weaknesses and faults.

I recall reading a famous psychiatrist who spoke of a child who felt she was "bad" and "horrible" for not getting good grades in school.  The psychiatrist asked her:  "You say you are bad, but how bad are you, really."  When the child asked what the psychiatrist meant, he said:  "Well, if 'badness' is a range of values where the worst is what Adolph Hitler did in causing the destruction of tens of millions of people, where does not getting good grade fall on that scale?

Is not getting good grades equivalent to destroying tens of millions of people as occurred during the Holocaust?  Millions of people? Hundreds of thousands of people?  Tens of thousands of people?  Thousands of people?  Hundreds of people?"  It is only perfectionism that makes all 'badness" equal.  But all badness is not equal.  At least that is what I think.  

Perhaps one thing that happens when all badness is seen as equal is that people can take small slights and injuries as being the worst thing in the world and requiring revenge on a grand scale?  Perhaps part of the problem is that people get stuck in the "could be better, but isn't" frame of mind and thus build up feelings of  rage.

It was once said that those who destroy themselves are seeking to gain revenge on themselves for falling short of some ideal or seeking revenge against others.  Surely, that is overly simplistic as if everything I have written here.  But perhaps in least some cases, there is truth in that.   

There has been a lot of research which has linked the brain's exposure to stress hormones to depression and anxiety.  Certainly there is evidence that the stress hormones, in excess,  can cause damage to the brain in certain individuals. 

When people look around for causes of stress, perhaps the "philosophy of perfectionism" is not seen as stressful.  But perfectionism can be enormously stressful.  Some evidence of this might be found in the fact that physicians have a very high rate of depression compared to other professionals.  And a very high suicide rate.

Being a physician can often seem to require perfectionism, the drive to do things right all the time, the drive to never make mistakes, the drive for accuracy and concentration and so on.  The "could be better, but isn't better philosophy" is often married to the philosophy:  "never good enough."

Of course, I could be wrong about this and about everything else I have written here.  Certainly I have grossly over-simplified what is in fact very, very complex, deep and rich.  But perhaps there is at least a grain of truth in something I have said.  That is my hope.

- epictetus

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I think there are some very serious metal illnesses that along with other factors (bad home life, drugs, low self-esteem, stress, crazy thinking, lack of treatment/support, evil) can escalate into a very crazy person that does crazy/bad things. I think that the world is getting more and more stressful and more dysfunction is getting passed on than ever before. However, those of us that reach out to get help are normal people with an illness and not someone very crazy who seems like they are controlled by their demons. I think there is a big difference. 

Edited by BeyondWeary

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