Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brain Disease vs. Mental Illness

Richard E. Vatz recently published an article in the Baltimore Sun that contrasts the notion of “brain disease” against that of “mental illness.”

Understanding the difference—or lack of difference—between these two phrases is important especially today, when these terminologies are thrown around almost daily both in the news and on the street.

To many, pitting brain disease against the idea of mental illness may seem like trying to compare cancer  to depression. Vatz points out, however, that schizophrenia—an extremely serious illness that inherently changes and challenges the inner workings of the brain and its ability to function—can be likened to that of a tumor or other malignant diseases.

It is equally important, however, to remember in the aftermath of the Tuscon, Ariz., shooting that not every violent man or woman can be likened to that of “mentally ill” or put into the seemingly popular category of “schizophrenic." Also imperative is understanding that not every person suffering from schizophrenia is violent, either.

As Mr. Vatz points out, it is possible that Jared Loughner acted because of a brain disease as a person with Tourette’s Syndrome deals with verbal outbursts. It is also possible Mr. Loughner has a predilection for violence, as some people do.

More information on mental illness can be found The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

-Kate Midden

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