Has society created mental illnesses? Has it just decided to label disordered behaviour and blow it completely out of proportion? After all, anything not considered a 'norm' is unusual in society, but surely it is society itself that has created those norms - what if those norms were different? Would mental illnesses be completely different? Having suffered from Anorexia Nervosa for the past 3 years or so, I'm beginning to wonder if mental illness is actually real. We are constantly being told on the news that there are a "record number of people suffering from mental illness". This leads me to think about whether everyone has a mental illness on some level? I feel mental illness, in itself, is becoming normal.
Mental illness existed before the image driven societal view. Autism, ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and other such things have existed before our society transformed to the way it is. They are diagnose-able conditions that have a serious scientific answer to describe them, with severe outcomes that we cannot necessarily control.
Yet there is an increased diagnosis of mental illness. This comes down to two major factors, increased societal pressure which in turn increases the number of "mental illnesses" that occur and the increased suspicion of both the doctors and the people close to those being diagnosed.
The first factor is that society is, in fact, creating new mental illnesses. Anorexia, bulimia and other weight issues common in teens and young adults were not present on a large scale until about 10 years ago. Now it is a huge problem for teens, especially girls between the ages of 12 and 22. This is a mental illness and can seriously harm development and even cause death in many cases. This is caused by a societal pressure to have the perfect body and the mind tricks the "victim" into thinking that it is the most important thing in the world. I had a close friend that almost died because she refused to eat. It is a serious condition that society has inflicted upon the younger generations.
Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with medications for so-called "mental illness." It is an interesting predicament, because the more we find out about mental illness and disease in general, we find out that none of us function "normally". It is a ridiculous concept that there is something wrong with everybody.
Just an opinion.
While it might not always be a factor it's false to suggest that chemistry excludes society or vice versa.
Let's not forget that social interaction involves physical and chemical mechanisms every time it happens. Sound waves go into the ears, things we see go into the eyes, then all that gets interpreted by the brain and the cognitive and emotional responses both short-term and long-term involve chemical reactions in the brain. So the two can overlap. Perhaps in some or even many cases of chemical imbalance the imbalance would not have developed if not for the brain's processing of certain social circumstances. Even nutrition, heck pretty much anything that could influence someone could be involved here in complex interacting manners.
In some cases a person could already have biological factors which then go off in reaction to emotional responses themselves composed of chemical reactions which were set off by certain patterns of visual and verbal stimulation, sometimes happening just once more often long-term and very complex patterns. And another person could have the same interactions with the environment but not have the same reaction.
There may even be environmental factors difficult to predict. A parent could do something right but then friends and the media may put a spin on the same concept ("living in the moment" comes to mind) that leads to a bad influence when otherwise it would've been a good influence. The environment/society isn't simple, it's highly complex.
And in the end there is likely to be factors that can never be predicted. That's just the way things are. Everything would lose its meaning if everything could be predicted anyways.
You cannot blame all mental illness on society. For instance someone with a head trauma and the brain tissue never fully recovered and now has a mental illness. What can you do?
The other side of the coin. Drug use can cause mental illness and even improperly labeling people can cause mental illness. People tend to want to believe that what they hear is true in my experience. Then people with poor reasoning and deductive skills pass on bad information, then the next person gets the bad information and thinks it's correct. Ever think you idiot!, or do the secret test in high school where you whisper in one ear, then 20 ears down the line what was whispered was not what was said at the 20th person? We do the same thing with mental illness. Group classify and often have no clue what we are talking about... Then wonder why we don't think or feel well or believe we are mentally ill...
While it's true that there is a rise in mental illness, I think it's wrong to say that mental illness in itself was created by society.
Several mental illnesses can be seen biologically or chemically to exist. Clinical depression is something that is actually caused by some sort of mess-up in the brain. You can't say that society created this when there is evidence that there is something actually WRONG inside the brain.
On the topic of Anorexia, or any sort of eating disorder, it is definitely not made up by society. It's life-threatening and a sickness that needs to be handled and helped, using drugs or therapy.
I think that mostly, mental disorders are real, and are not created by society. However, I say this with the exception of personality disorders. I don't think it's justified to lump together a bunch of behaviors and classify them as a disorder. As the name suggests, the behaviors are just that; part of a personality.