What Is Mental Illness? - Part II
To narrow things down some, let us first look at some things that mental illnesses are not. Mental illnesses are not physical brain diseases, are not backed up by biological evidence, are not just symptoms, and are not a correct application of the medical model.
Mental Illnesses Are Not Physical Brain Diseases
In their new book, Christian Response To Mental Illness, Martin and Deidre Bobgan put it this way, “The brain is a physical organ; the mind is not. With this subtle semantic twist, the mind (disguised as an organ of the body) was falsely elevated as a scientific and medical concept in contrast to the soul, which is a theological idea.”1
The Bobgans had previously said, “Since the mind is not a physical organ, it cannot have a disease. While one can have a diseased brain, one cannot have a diseased mind, although he may have a sinful or unredeemed mind.”2
E. Fuller Torrey agreed when he said, “The mind cannot really become diseased any more than the intellect can become abscessed.” In referring to the phrase mental illness, he goes on to say, “The term itself is nonsensical, a semantic mistake. The two words cannot go together…You can no more have a mental disease than you can have a purple idea or a wise space.”3
“Psychotherapy deals with thoughts, emotions, and behavior, but not the brain itself. Psychotherapy does not deal with the brain’s biology, but with the minds activity and the individual’s social behavior. In medicine we understand what a diseased body is, but what is a parallel in psychotherapy? It is obvious that in psychotherapy mental illness does not mean brain illness. If brain disease were the case, the person would be a medical patient, not a mental patient.”4
Mental Illnesses Are Not Backed Up By Biological Evidence
The Bobgans say, “There are numerous irrational behaviors and thinking symptoms that should not be labeled mental illness, because they do not have objective biological evidence of disease.”5 They continue, “Nearly all of these mental disorders are based upon subjective reports by the clients, because there are no obvious or clear organic, physical origins to support the diagnosis.”6
They are backed up by the University of California Berkley Wellness Letter that reports: “There’s no blood test for, say, depression or a personality disorder; no scan that can reveal attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Instead, a clinician must rely solely on a patient's symptoms and observation of his or her behavior to reach a diagnosis.”7
Similarly, Dr. Jeffery Lieberman, who served as chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University and president of the American Psychiatric Association, says, “With rare exceptions such as narcolepsy, which can be diagnosed by testing cerebrospinal fluid, there are no objective biological measures for mental illness.”8
Mental Illnesses Are Not Just Symptoms
In a physical illness, there are symptoms, which may include certain ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, but they are not the illness itself. They are only indications of the illness. The Bobgans say it this way: “Mental suffering itself is not synonymous with sickness; it is a symptom. Mental suffering may be a primary symptom, but it is not sickness itself.”9 They went on to say that “the medical model supports the idea that a person with mental, emotional, or behavioral problems is ill in the sense that the symptoms are the illness, rather than the symptoms may indicate a physical disease.”10 They then ask the question, “One can understand what a diseased body is, but what is a diseased mind? It is obvious that one cannot have a diseased emotion or a diseased behavior, then what is a diseased mind? Nevertheless, therapists continually refer to mental-emotional-behavioral conditions as diseases.”11
Mental Illnesses Are Not a Correct Use Of The Medical Model
The medical model is the term cited by psychiatrist Ronald D. Laing as the “set of procedures in which all doctors are trained. It includes complaint, history, physical examination, ancillary tests, if needed, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis … Because the diagnosis of a mental illness was based on conduct or patient behavior and not on physical pathology, such a diagnosis essentially contravened standard medical procedure and hence the medical model … Whereas heart diseases, cancers, and broken bones were diagnosed by evident physical pathology discovered during examination and ancillary tests, mental illness was diagnosed by examining the patient’s behavior rather than physical signs or symptoms.”12
The Bobgans agree and state, “Whenever someone suggests that you should believe in psychotherapy because you believe in medicine, remember that medical and mental are not the same. It is a false analogy and a false application of the medical model.”13
In conclusion, “Problems of living are spiritual problems which require spiritual solutions, not psychological problems which require psychological solutions. The church has been duped into believing that problems of living are problems of the brain which require scientific solutions, rather than problems of the mind which require biblical solutions.”14
1 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Christian Response To Mental Illness. Santa Barbara, CA: Eastgate Publishers, 2019, pp. 35-36.
2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Psychoheresy. Santa Barbara, CA: Eastgate Publishers, 1987, p. 134.
3 E. Fuller Torrey. The Death of Psychiatry. (Radnor: Chilton Book Company, 1974), p. 40, 36.
4 Bobgan, Christian Response. p. 73.
5 Ibid., p. 41.
6 Ibid., p. 43.
7 “4 Controversial Mental Disorders,” Paula Derron, Berkeley Wellness Letter, 9/10/2015, www.berkeleywellness.com.
8 “DSM- 5: Psychiatrists’ ‘Bible’ Finally Unveiled,” Hufffington Post, 05/16/2013, www.huffingtonpost.com.
9 Bobgans, op. cit., p. 36.
10 Ibid., p. 73.
11 Bobgan, Psychoheresy, p. 135.
13 Bobgan, Christian Response, p. 75.
14 Bobgan, Psychoheresy, p.138.