What is Mental Illness?

According to Peter Zacher in his article titled “Psychiatric disorders: natural kinds made by the world or practical kinds made by us?” children begin to develop assumptions about category membership in preschool. Although this fact is not surprising to me, it is a scary thought, especially when discussing mental illness and the terminology used to describe certain people. In the DSM podcast titled, “Are You Crazy”, we learned the word “nuts” (that we may use to describe a crazy person) originally meant “infatuated” in Britain. This is not the first word that’s meaning has changed but seeing the opposing meaning makes me wonder what is really meant by mental illness? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has changed its meanings and diagnosis multiple times. What humans used to consider strange may no longer mean that today. For instance, alcoholism was once seen to be a mental illness but can we really still say that today? In the middle ages, head shape was used to indicate a person’s moral worth and if they were deemed ill, measures such as trepinning would be taken to “resolve” their issues. Many of the illnesses described in the first few additions of the DSM seem to be things people are afraid of discovering. I think people will always find ways to create something into a problem. Much like Douglas Adams stated “The best way to not be happy is not to have a word for it”. People should receive the help they need regardless of what might be considered a mental illness but many of the so called “disorders” can be justified by facts proving they are common struggles not psychological disorders.