Mental Illness, Bedtimes, Principles
By Elliot Temple
Originally Posted to the Beginning of Infinity List, August 12, 2011

"Mental illnesses" are diagnosed by "symptoms", and then there is assumed to be a disease (details unknown) causing those "symptoms".

They are also treated by treating the "symptoms", and if the "symptoms" stop then the disease is considered to be "cured" (or at least in remission, with potential for a relapse).

This makes no sense whatsoever.

Why would any given list of traits be caused by a disease? Consider this list:

- likes hamburgers
- likes books
- likes TV
- likes iPhones
- likes Christianity
- dislikes kites
- dislikes eggs
- dislikes Confucius
- dislikes Nazis
- dislikes horses

Why would anyone assume these were caused by some underlying disease? They're just ideas, lifestyles, ways of thinking, preferences, values, opinions, personal taste, or whatever. And they are morally legitimate.

The real "symptoms" used in "diagnosis" would actually have to be things more like "reads books" or "makes statements about liking books" -- things which can be observed. If those "symptoms" went away, would that imply the underlying cause was gone? It would not. For example, a person might still like books but have stopped reading them due to being busy with a new job. Or have stopped mentioning he reads them because his psychiatrist disapproves.

Just as being asymptomatic does not imply you do not have syphilis, it also does not imply you do like not books. And this is even more the case with anything a person might have reason to hide.

In what way do "mental illness symptom" lists differ from this?

They are all behaviors and ideas that *people disapprove of* and consider *immoral* or *illegitimate*. And psychiatric authority has asserted they are caused by underlying illnesses.

That's the only difference. It's a non sequitur. (A non sequitur means something that does not follow, e.g. the conclusion doesn't follow from the reasons given.)

Non sequiturs are one of the hardest mistakes to argue with. If something doesn't follow, what is there to say? One can argue with reasons someone might claim it follows. But when none are given -- when no substantive assertions are actually made to be refuted -- and there's just a *gap*, it's hard to argue. Why do believe it when there is no reason?

What do you say to someone who denies that nothing is nothing? And who won't clearly state what he thinks is there?

Why are the "symptoms" of "mental illness" assumed to be caused by a disease? Because people *want* to assume it. Doing so serves their purposes. There has never been any evidence of any kind.

It serves the purpose of *excusing the sinner* and saying it's not his fault. This is valuable when you wish to accuse a family member!

It's also extremely condescending and dehumanizing to the sinner. That's one way of treating differences in values.

It also serves the purpose of legitimizing the use of force. This is also convenient, according some (false) value systems.

It also serves the purpose of avoiding argument and rational debate. This serves the purpose of avoiding losing such a debate, and avoiding having to think much.

"Mental illness" is a label used to try to legitimize and excuse the persecution and shunning of unwanted and unliked persons.

Why is "mental illness" assumed to be "cured" when the "symptoms" are all gone? Because *the "symptoms" are the disease*. There is no underlying disease. The "symptoms" themselves are the entire issue. The "symptoms" are what people don't like and want to get rid of. There's nothing behind them. And the only relevance of their cause is if it provides a way to get rid of them.

This is similar to an attitude in parenting. People fear to give up the tool of using (threat of) force in their parenting. If they don't make their kid obey, he might do this such as stay up late instead of having a bedtime.

A rational person hearing this could easily assume that what they mean is: the kid will get too tired. The lack of bedtime will cause him *problems* liked tiredness.

That is not what is meant. The lack of bedtime *is the problem itself* that parents fear, whether it has any bad consequences or not.

It doesn't matter if all the other problems (e.g. fears of tiredness, scheduling issues, noise while others are asleep, etc…) are solved. Those are not the main problem. The main problem is the thing itself: that the kid doesn't go to bed when it's "bedtime". The consequences are secondary. They want bedtime itself without much regard for the consequences (positive or negative).

The parallel is that in both cases the issue is the thing itself. The mental illness "symptoms" are the "illness" itself. And the not going to bed at "bedtime" is the "problem" itself.

And also: it's not so much the *consequences* of the "mental illness symptoms" (deviant behaviors) that people care about. It's the behaviors themselves, as a matter of principle, never mind the actual results.

In both cases people lie, and also fool themselves.

Yet they simply don't care if you point out that going to bed *and getting out of bed* later does not grant one less sleep and thus cannot cause tiredness. They don't care because it's irrelevant.

And they also simply don't care when confronted with ideas like that "autistic" people often have a "more rational and less emotional" way of approaching problems -- and that that may be a good thing. They don't care if the results are good or bad, which is irrelevant.

It's the violation of social normalcy itself that bothers them, never mind if it's an improvement or not. They want a life with bedtimes, emotions, tooth brushing, "social development level appropriate to age" and so on, not in order to get something else, but for their own sake, as a (moral) principle -- the principle of not being a deviant.

Thanks to Jordan Talcot for explaining the nature of bedtimes to me.

(For more of Elliot Temple's writing, visit )