Description: When you consider one or another of the array of disorders you may have been presented in the Abnormal Psychology section of an Introductory Psychology course or in an Abnormal Psychology course it is easy to step back and take a broad perspective on the population of individuals who at some point meet the diagnostic criteria for a given disorder. This broad perspective is amenable to questions about incidence, prevalence, and slightly more focused questions about the relative distribution of particular symptoms or disorder trajectories across the population of those diagnosed with the disorder. What is most often NOT a part of such considerations of disorders is the lived experience of the individuals diagnosed with the disorder, that is, of what it is actually like to have the disorder. Such considerations would include BOTH an inside portrayal of the disorder AND an account of the social consequences of having the disorder (how others treat you or react to you). All of this is necessary if we are to properly understand both disorders AND their individual and social challenges and consequences. The article linked below discusses an interview with the author of a book on his experiences living with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that can involve sudden, unexpected bouts of sleep during one’s otherwise waking hours. Henry Nicholl’s book Sleepy Head describes his experiences with the disorder and with the reactions of other people to him as well. Think a bit about what such an account might include and then read the article linked below thinking about how, what he has to say might apply to people with other mental illness diagnoses.
Source: Narcolepsy isn’t funny – living with a sleep disorder, Amelia Hill, Sleep, Self and Wellbeing, The Guardian.
Date: February 25, 2018
Photo Credit: Henry Nicolls Illustration: Andrea De Santos/Observer
Nicholl’s account of his life with his diagnosis of narcolepsy is eye-opening both in terms of its phenomenological narrative and its accounting of social reactions to him and his disorder. His point about sleep disorders being more “usual” than typically understood is also a good one. Our understanding of mental disorders will not be complete until we have also understood and come to terms with our social reactions to them and to the people who are diagnosed with them. Terms like stigma involve a kind of tyranny of the normal and the normative that is grounded in a deeply held position that being average, normal, or “well” is the limited proper reference point for considering anyone who is an outlier, atypical, unwell or ill. We have a long way to go to sort this out but sort it out we must.
Questions for Discussion:
- Looking through the article what are some of the ways Nicholls experienced issues of stigma in relation to narcolepsy?
- How do issues of stigma related to things beyond issues of mental illness or wellness?
- What are some other examples of the tyranny of the normative ?
References (Read Further):
Nicholls, Henry (2018) Sleepyhead: Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night, Profile Books. See also http://henrynicholls.com/sleepyhead/
Kornum, B. R., Knudsen, S., Ollila, H. M., Pizza, F., Jennum, P. J., Dauvilliers, Y., & Overeem, S. (2017). narcolepsy. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 3, 16100. https://www.kempenhaeghe.nl/upload/_1587_nieuwsitems_652_nrdp2016100_Primer_1486657828_1.pdf
Ho, R. T., Potash, J. S., Ho, A. H., Ho, V. F., & Chen, E. Y. (2017). Reducing mental illness stigma and fostering empathic citizenship: Community arts collaborative approach. Social Work in Mental Health, 15(4), 469-485.
Tucker, S. E. (2017). Stigma of mental illness and multicultural counseling self-efficacy: investigating the implications of the multicultural training environment, mental health literacy, and empathy. http://ir.library.louisville.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3802&context=etd
Patterson, P., & Sextou, P. (2017). ‘Trapped in the labyrinth’: exploring mental illness through devised theatrical performance. Medical humanities, 43(2), 86-91. http://newman.collections.crest.ac.uk/15729/1/NU0022.pdf
Roe, D., Corrigan, P., & Link, B. G. (2017). Mental Health Stigma: so much progress and yet a long way to go-Introduction to special issue on stigma. The Israel journal of psychiatry and related sciences, 54(1), 3-5. https://cdn.doctorsonly.co.il/2017/08/02_editorial.pdf