THE IMPORTANCE

NAVN: METTE MONTOYA
FAG: ASSOCIATE OF SCIENCE DEGREE IN HUMAN SERVICES FROM THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF VERMONT. NOW THIRD-YEAR STUDENT IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY AT KEENE STATE COLLEGE IN KEENE.

WHEN IS A PERSON’S PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT NORMAL AND HEALTHY, AND WHEN IS IT
NOT? IF DEVELOPMENT IS ABNORMAL, IS INTERVENTION AND TREATMENT NEEDED? IF SO, WHEN
SHOULD THE INTERVENTION AND TREATMENT BE IMPLEMENTED?

BEFORE I GO into the body of this essay, I must say that my opinions expressed on this topic are almost completely based on people in the United States, where I am from. I have lived in Norway twice, and I paid strict attention to the behavior of everyone around me at all times. However, the bulk of my observations of others’ mental health and mental illness have taken place in the US. Furthermore, all of my formal studies of psychology have taken place in America. I have done some
independent research on mental illness in Norway using Norwegian media and academic sources. Still, most of what I know comes from life in the US. The reason I am making such a detailed point about this is because there is far more mental illness, self-destructive behavior and abnormal psychological development among Americans than among Norwegians. Part of the reason for this is that America has an exponentially larger population than Norway; part of the reason is because America has no form of socialized medicine. There are other factors, of course. Please keep in mind while reading this essay all that I have mentioned. If you don’t believe me about how bad the problem of mental illness is in America, look up some newspaper articles, such as from The New York Times, and you will see that I am not exaggerating. (If you search for this information through academic sources, such as the websites Medline or Lexus–Nexus Academic, you will find even more staggering information.)

A PERSON’S PSYCHOLOGICAL development is abnormal when they feel, sound and appear unhappy on a chronic,
continual basis. If this person also reports unhappiness (through verbal dialogue or writing), that is an even stronger indication of abnormal psychological development.

TWO WEEKS of «unhappiness» does not necessarily indicate abnormal or maladaptive development. All healthy and psychologically normal people in this world have «down» times and rough patches. However, six months or one year of unhappiness strongly indicates abnormal and maladaptive psychological development, and a need for intervention and treatment. I’d like to add that abnormality and maladaptiveness need not be experienced in the form of depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mood disorder. Feelings, signs and symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, anger and confusion are equally strong indicators of psychological abnormality. Abnormal development has many faces.

CERTAIN BEHAVIORS, such as substance misuse, strict dieting/ eating disorders, hyperexercise, self-mutilation and gambling are such strong indicators of abnormal development that I feel they should be pointed out here. These behaviors are extremely dangerous, are very addictive, and are far more difficult to treat successfully than almost all other mental illnesses. Therefore, these behaviors must be ceased immediately through intervention, and must receive immediate treatment in order not to take over the sufferer’s life. More often than not, these self–destructive behaviors require inpatient hospitalization. This is not as frequently the case with mood and anxiety disorders.

WHAT I WOULD like to discuss in depth concerning abnormal development is clinical depression (known as Major
Depressive Disorder in American psychiatry and psychology). Depression ends many lives:

«Up to 15% of individuals with severe Major Depressive Disorder die by suicide.
Epidemiological evidence also suggests that there is a fourfold increase in death rates
in individuals with Major Depressive Disorder who are over age 55 years.» (371,
DSM–IV–TR, 2000)

DEPRESSION ALSO CAUSES excruciating suffering in many, many individuals throughout the world. Consider the
picture portrayed from my Counseling Theories & Practice textbook of a depressed person’s daily life:

«Depression-prone people often set rigid, perfectionist goals for themselves that
are impossible to obtain. Their negative expectations are so strong that even if they
experience success in specific tasks they anticipate failure the next time. They screen
out successful experiences that are not consistent with their negative self-concept.
The thought content of depressed individuals centers on a sense of irreversible loss,
which results in emotional states of sadness, disappointment, and apathy […] Some
of the behavioral symptoms of depression are inactivity, withdrawal, and avoidance.
Clients report that they are too tired to do anything, that they will feel even worse
if they become active, and that they will fail at anything they try […] A central characteristic
of most depressive people is self-criticism […] Depressed clients typically
experience painful emotions. They may say that they cannot stand the pain or that
nothing can make them feel better […] Another specific characteristic of depressed
people is an exaggeration of external demands, problems, and pressures. Such people
often exclaim that they feel overwhelmed and that there is so much to accomplish
that they can never do it.» (290–291, Corey, 2005)

LIVING THIS WAY sounds like hell, doesn’t it? Someone whose mind goes through this on a continual basis is most certainly in an abnormal state of health. I would say that someone struggling with even three of the above-mentioned feelings on a regular basis qualifies as suffering from an abnormal psychological state. This is the point at which I believe intervention and treatment are mandatory. If someone receives treatment the very first time they experience the type of depression described above, their life could be saved. And not just from suicide, but from the useless agony of years of sadness and suffering. Perhaps I seem too strict, but I believe in erring on the safe side concerning depression. If left untreated, depression will become worse over time, and more difficult to treat.

I ALSO TAKE such a strict stance on intervention and treatment because there now exist many successful treatments for depression. There is psychotropic medication, various types
of therapy (for instance individual, couple’s, family, and group psychotherapy), physical exercise (exercise has been proven
to boost mood by increasing the amount of endorphins in the blood stream), and natural remedies such as deep breathing,
improved nutrition, and extra exposure to light. Given all of these treatments for depression, there is no legitimate reason for most sufferers of depression to continue suffering, nor to continue dying at their own hands. I UNDERSTAND THAT some individuals and their families may feel embarrassed to seek any kind of treatment for depression. However, the benefits of treatment far outweigh
any embarrassment that comes with seeking it. The sufferer of depression should also be made aware that if any family member
or friend shuns or criticizes them for seeking treatment and relief from depression, that person does not truly care about
their well–being, and thus is not a true friend or support.

MY SOURCES:
1)Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text
Revision. American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
2)Corey, Gerald. Theory and Practice of Counseling & Psychotherapy, Seventh
Edition. Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA, U.S.A. 2005.

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