In order to answer the question about what mental illness is, we must first answer these questions: Who decides what is a mental illness? Who decides when a person is mentally ill?
Who Decides What A Mental Illness Is?
Mental illnesses have been determined in these ways: by the Supreme Court, by the American Psychiatric Association, personal distress, majority cultural opinions, changing attitudes, and for eligibility purposes in claims against health insurance and disabilities.
The Supreme Court, for example, voted that drug addiction (Robinson v. California), and alcoholism (Powell v. Texas), which had been thought of as social problems were redefined as mental illnesses in 1962 and 1967 respectively.
In their book, Christian Response to Mental Illness, Martin and Bobgan write, “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is based on the medical model of mental illness. It describes and categorizes mental-emotional-behavioral symptoms for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment. The American Psychiatric Association published the DSM and psychiatrists regard “The Manual” as the bible of mental disorders, in spite of the fact that it is a subjective instrument based on subjective symptoms rather than on objective biological evidence.”1
According to the Citizen Commission on Human Rights International’s website, “The disorders listed within the DSM are arrived upon by psychiatrists literally voting on what is, or is not considered a mental disorder. Unlike the rest of medicine, mental disorders are arrived at by a political process.”2
An example is the fact that in 1974, the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses except for those who were experiencing conflict about their condition.
So, the Bobgans write, such a condition is considered a “disease that is determined by personal distress, cultural acceptability, and changing attitudes. In the biological sphere, a disease is a disease regardless of personal distress or cultural acceptability.”3
Based on these findings, it’s no wonder that the DSM has grown from 107 diagnoses and 132 pages in 1952, to 300 diagnoses and 900 pages in 2013.
Another example: here is the summary of the criteria from the DSM for diagnosing someone with depression (if he or she has five or more of the following symptoms during the same two-week period):
1. Depressed mood
2. Diminished interest or pleasure in activities
3. Significant weight loss or gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
4. A noticeable slowing down of thought or physical movement
5. Fatigue or loss of energy
6. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
8. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. 1
Notice that each symptom deals with thoughts, feelings, or behavior and has nothing to do with biological, organic, or physical diseases or causes that can be objectively measured.
It is true that symptoms of depression can be caused by physical diseases such as thyroid problems, hypoglycemia, and hormone imbalances, but if these can be discovered by physical tests, why are they not called physical diseases instead of mental illnesses?
The Bobgans add, “Problems of living, therefore, must be transformed into illnesses, diseases, or disorders to be eligible for health insurance payments.”5 The same is necessary for disability payments.
Who Decides When A Person Is Mentally Ill?
Diagnoses of mental illnesses are made by psychiatrists, and, sometimes are even impacted by the choices of the patients. The general public, for example, “has been lead to believe that a diagnosis of a mental disorder is the same as a legitimate medical diagnosis of disease, which is false. Any diagnosis of mental disorder is dependent solely upon the psychiatrist’s opinion, reading through checklists of behaviors that define the various ‘mental disorders’ contained in the DSM. This is why a person diagnosed with one mental disorder can see another psychiatrist who decides he has a completely different mental disorder. There are no medical tests to prove either psychiatrist’s diagnosis is wrong, because there are no medical tests to prove either psychiatrist is right.” 6
So, the determination of whether or not a homosexual is mentally ill now depends on whether or not that person is considered disturbed or comfortable with his homosexual lifestyle. “In other words,” the Bobgans write, “a homosexual who is disturbed about his condition is mentally ill; but, if he is comfortable with his orientation, he is not. The same is now true with pedophiliacs. In the light of such voting, a person’s evaluation about his own condition has now become a measure of whether or not he is sick, which reveals how fraudulent the mental labeling game is.”7
Another example: when a person who is commonly called a transgender is diagnosed as having gender dysphoria—previously called a gender identity disorder—simply because that person prefers a different gender identity to the one he or she was born with.
So, mental illnesses are not diagnosed based on physical biological tests, but on the thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and behaviors of people and determined by a person’s distress, cultural opinions, and the changing attitudes of a majority of people.
1 Martin Bobgan and Deidre Bobgan, Christian Response To Mental Illness (Santa Barbara: Eastgate Publishers. 2019), 42.
2 Citizen Commission On Human Rights International (cchrint.org).
3 Martin Bobgan and Deidre Bobgan, Christian Response To Mental Illness (Santa Barbara: Eastgate Publishers. 2019), 53.
4 Jessica Truschel, “Depression Definition and DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria,” https://www.psycom.net/authors/jessica-truschel.
5 Martin Bobgan and Deidre Bobgan, Christian Response To Mental Illness (Santa Barbara: Eastgate Publishers. 2019), 85.
6 Citizen Commission On Human Rights International (cchrint.org).
7 Martin Bobgan and Deidre Bobgan, Christian Response To Mental Illness (Santa Barbara: Eastgate Publishers. 2019), 80.