The Noose Of Thought - A Short Exploration Of Mental Illness And Addiction

Noose of thought
Noose of thought

As far as human conditions are concerned, addiction and mental health disorders are nothing new.  However, understanding these afflictions and ourselves is less than perfect science. Take a look into our history and these themes are seen repeatedly. Snippets revealed in arts, societies, and sciences alike. It may be ugly but look closely, what we know now certainly isn't what it used to be.

We’ve come a long way from exorcising schizophrenics, eating happy paints, and letting women die of broken hearts and black drapes. Our minds are intricate things and even now some of our most intimate workings remain mysteries. The good news is they're ready to learn. We know mental health refers to a person's psychological and emotional well-being and mental illness attacks this health.

depressed women
image credits: stubaby

We know addiction and substance abuse disorders (SAD) are characterized by consistent compulsion to consume a substance, commit an act, or chase a feeling regardless of the consequence(s). We’re learning how these relate. Untreated, each has the power to swallow success, alginate victims, and end lives. When they occur together the danger only multiplies, a bleak reality faced by many. Out of every 5 Americans, 1 will have a diagnosable mental illness, of these cases at least 1 out of 4 will face addiction as well.

With the ever-widening scope of technology, modern media culture is allowed to boom. With new ways to create and communicate ideas more available than ever a couple of things happen; for some, it is a new opportunity to connect and relate to others, maybe for the first time, but while it's been said that there's no bad publicity, it can't all be good.

This surge of expression and consumption of expression meets a barrage of different opinions, interpretations, and intentions. The mentally ill have been used in entertainment for Melania, originally appearing in comedies, dramas, and horrors. These roles continue and are consumed as neurotypical society develops prejudice and eventually criminalization.

overthinking and addiction
image credits: gstatic

At the same time, dangerous lifestyles are able to become glorified and almost normalized. These types of messages may inspire isolation and recklessness, in the young (especially those with disorders that could appear later in life) and anybody with poor mental health history while quietly creating a dialogue of subpar humanity.              

Mental disorders come in all shapes and sizes and may manifest in a number of ways. Someone who suffers from depression may feel sad, worthless, disinterested, drained, have trouble sleeping, sleep too much, experience weight change, or think of death and suicide.

Anxiety and panic disorders inflict unwarranted and uncontrolled dread that can trigger adrenal responses such as increased heart rate, chest pains, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and later exhaustion. A person with schizophrenia might be subject to auditory or visual hallucinations, feelings that they are not in control, difficulty communicating feelings and emotions, or trouble with attention, memory, and organization.

Borderline personality disorder fuels habitually unbalanced emotions like a fear of abandonment, emptiness, and anger, often leading to chaotic outbursts that affect relationships and other aspects of life. Patterns of manipulation, disregard for oneself and others, lawbreaking, and moral indifference are expressed in those with an antisocial personality disorder. Bipolar drags a person through soaring highs (mania) followed by sinking lows and can cause intense mood swings and impulsive behavior.

unablanced emotions
image credits: google

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be seen in high levels of impulse action and can cause memory loss, lack of focus, and hard times sitting still. The list goes on. There's no limit of possible plagues that may be met in the human mind, each one of a kind. Modern medicine and therapeutic methods have only begun to uncover explanations, diagnoses, and treatments shrouding these silent killers.

Some are inherited, passed down in a chemical roulette. Some appear early in life, others much later. Some are triggered by trauma or poor physical state. Some seek and accept help when others do not. Patients could spend years and thousands of dollars searching for diagnostics and treatment plans that may be subject to change. Others may never have the opportunity or resources due to social or economic restrictions. The result? A population of people who are isolated, hurting, and running out of hope.

Addiction itself is an illness with many faces: Food, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol intercourse, narcotics, amphetamines, opiates, and hundreds of more potentially habit-forming intrigues available to us on either side of the law, Some more devastating than others. Like most things, it starts innocently. It could be a prescription or a seemingly simple social affair.

Chemical reactions happen within the brain, stimulating reward centers and inducing euphoria  Eventually the brain becomes dependent on these reactions to trigger rewards and will require them more often and in higher amounts. As addiction takes hold behaviors may change. The victim is liable to become less interested in obligations, friends, hobbies, safety, or reason. they may have unexplained weight change, mood swings, financial stress, and outings.

They may make one-track decisions to lie, fight, steal, or break the law. Continued substance abuse is likely to leave relationships tattered, bodies torn, and freedoms are taken, if not worse. from the sidelines, it seems very strange and the question is always the same: why?  There's not just one answer. Some people are genetically vulnerable, some overly prescribed, some got caught up with the wrong crowd, some never knew anything else, some are trying to escape, while some are searching for something, and others stopped seeing the point.

In the 70s American psychologist, Dr. Bruce Alexander sought to crack the code of addiction using mice. A single-subject was placed in a cage with two water bottles, one being spiked with heroin or cocaine. They overdosed every time. These rats had nothing to do and nobody to see and overdosed every time. Maybe it's not the rats. Thus came rat parks, everything a rat could want, food and toys and places to go and company and sex. They've got it all in rat parks and they've got two water bottles.

In the rat parks, they barely touch the drugs only some of them use it and they aren't ever overdoing it. none of them die. So that's the answer, right? Connection and community. That should be easy, we are neither rats nor caged, we won't even need a park. 

The thing about rats is they never make the cage. That is to say, once we're involved things get more complicated.

More often than not those of us most desperate for connection are the furthest from it. Health emergencies are frequently met with disdain, fear, ignorance, indifference, protest, or even punishment. Too many falls and are kicked again and again. Pinned to the ground by greed and doubt. Some of us never get up again. Our parks are attacked from within. 

Healing can only happen when one wants to understand as much as they want to be understood. Stigmas and glorifications for these conditions simply prolong collective suffering. When we address mental illness we address addiction and when address addiction we address mental illness. The more we do so the more we can learn how to strengthen ourselves and our communities against these vicious enemies. 

Works Referenced

For Theo


- Alana Lyles -

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