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History of Mental Illness

   History of the Development of Mental Illness

1. Illness was referred to as bodily disorder. A person may be ill if he displays unacceptable abnormal behavior. People in the field of mental health began to refer to insanity as a disease. Physical illness and poor behavior was thought to be the cause of man's problems. There is no scientific evidence for non-organic mental illness. Up until the time of Sigmund Freud only the physio-chemical exploration was accepted as belonging to the area of medicine. Sigmund Freud and Martin Charcot pushed for a scientific discipline that studied the non-physical aspects of psyche phenomena. At this time it became to be known as a disability. A disabled person was regarded as being sick and was excused from much responsibility. The question was on what basis was a man determined to be mentally ill. This was left totally up to the opinion of the expert who really had no scientific basis for his opinion.

Man is what he thinks in his heart. What he thinks in his heart is what he is mentally. The things man thinks about deeply are the raw materials which form his actions. With this, problems begin in our thinking center, not in our emotional center. Because of this there is no such thing as emotional illness. Rather, the emotions are arouse because there is a problem. From the heart comes mans problems Matt.15:17-20. Our problems can be dealt with by thinking properly.

2. Bizarre behavior may be the result of non-prescription and prescription drugs. Bizarre behavior may be the result of guilt. Another cause of bizarre behavior is camouflaging or escaping reality. Bizarre behavior may also result from demon possession.


What is mental health, mental illness, and/or mental disorders? The following information has been accumulated to assist the Christian counselor in having a more precise understanding of clinical and spiritual problems;

"In the area of mental health, there has been a tendency to lump mental disorders and emotional problems together so that people are often confused about whether they are mentally ill or just having problems. A mental illness is a very specific disorder that can be carefully categorized and defined. However, some mental health problems and problems in living are much more difficult to categorize since individual differences play such an important part in whether or not they exist as a problem area that may require professional attention".(A Laymen's Guide to Mental Health Problems and Treatments - See Selected Bibliography)


How an individual thinks is a result of what they have allowed into their mind, therefore, when the wrong thoughts and thought patterns come across the mind, regardless of their origin, it is up to each individual to either receive, reject or replace them with the right thinking and thought pattern.

It has been said that practically all mental illness is the result of guilt. If so, that simply means there is sin in the life. To gain control and mastery of that area requires an acknowledgment by them of the problem source, a genuine repentance, with a turning away from sin, and an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Since a major part of the problem originated in wrong thinking, then the most important step is to change the thinking by renewing the mind (Romans 12:1,2) by filling the mind and the life with the Word of God. The Word says, "Let this mind be anew which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 NKJ).

Notice that it is a choice that we must make; God will not do it for us. We are to renew our minds with God's Word by reading it, meditating on it, confessing it, occupying our minds with it, and living it, until we begin to think the same way God thinks.

The only way to remain free of this bondage is to obey Jesus and be doers of the Word. That means to put the desires and purposes of God and Jesus above your own. Those who look inward will perish in darkness, but those whose light shines outward to reveal Jesus will remain. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed"(John 8:36 NKJ).


No definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept "mental disorder". In DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), each of the mental disorders is conceptualized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in a person and that is associated with present distress (a painful symptom) or disability (impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering, death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom. In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be merely an expectable response to a particular event, e.g., the death of a loved one. Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the person. Neither deviant behavior, e.g.,political, religious, or sexual, nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of a dysfunction in the person, as described above.

There is no assumption that each mental disorder is a discrete entity with sharp boundaries (discontinuity) between it and other mental disorders, or between it and no mental disorder.

For most of the DSM disorders, the etiology is unknown. Many theories have been advanced and buttressed by evidence - not always convincing - attempting to explain how these disorders come about. The approach taken in DSM is atheoretical with regard to etiology or pathophysiologic process, except with regard to disorders for which this is well established and therefore included in the definition of the disorder. Undoubtedly, over time, some of the disorders of unknown etiology will be found to have specific biological etiologies; others, to have specific psychological causes; and still others, to result mainly from an interplay of psychological, social, and biological factors. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)


For the Christian the concept of mental disorder is closely associated with the disorder introduced into the whole of nature as a result of the fall. As Berkouwer (1962) has observed, the fall left each human being thereafter living in an imperfect body within an imperfect environment. Other consequences of the fall include the disrupted relationship of man to God, to other people, and to himself. Paul classifies some of the resulting disorders in 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5. His list includes adultery, idolatry, hatred, envy, murder, and drunkenness.

The Christian is forced, therefore, to admit this personal and universal state of disorder. Everybody is disordered to some degree. The mental disorders identified and classified by psychology or psychiatry are a subset of this total disorder. Yet not all personal disorder, even mental disorder, warrants classification as a clinical disorder.

DSM includes more than 200 specific disorders organized into 18 major groups: disorders usually first evident in infancy, childhood, or adolescence; organic mental disorders; substance use disorders; schizophrenic disorders; paranoid disorders; other psychotic disorders; affective disorders; anxiety disorders; somatoform disorders; dissociative disorders; psychological factors affecting physical condition; personality disorders; specific developmental disorders; factitious disorders; psychosexual disorders; adjustment disorders; conditions not attributable to a mental disorder; and other disorders of impulse control.

A complete diagnostic evaluation, according to DSM, requires that an individual be evaluated on several axes, each of which represents a different class of information. DSM has five such axes, the first three constituting the official diagnosis and the last two being research scales. Axis I contains most of the major clinical syndromes, excluding only personality disorders and developmental disorders which are coded on Axis II. Axis II is also used for other personality traits even in the absence of a personality disorder. The rationale for the separation of these two axes is that it ensures that consideration is given to the presence of disorders that are frequently overlooked when attention is focused on the more apparent disorder listed on Axis I. The clinician may list multiple diagnoses on either Axis I or II, in which case they are listed in estimated order of treatment.

Axis III is used to record medical conditions potentially relevant to understanding or treating a client. Once again, multiple diagnoses are permitted. Axes IV and V are the research scales related to the client's life stressors and level of functioning in the recent past. Axis IV consists of a seven-point ordinal scale for ranking levels of severity of stressors within the past year of the client's life. Adult and child/adolescent examples of stressors are given as an aid in reliability.

Axis V is a seven-point ordinal scale designed to indicate the highest level of adaptive functioning in the past year. Three areas of functioning are considered: social relations, occupational functioning, and use of leisure time. This information frequently has prognostic value and is therefore important in treatment planning.

Throughout DSM specific criteria are outlined which must be present or which rule out giving a specific diagnosis. Frequently five out of eight symptoms must be present and must have been present for more than six months or a year in order to legitimately permit using a mental disorder label.

The DSM diagnostic system affords a fairly succinct view of the client at a number of levels without oversimplifying the biological-cognitive-emotional-social complexity of the human condition. Inasmuch as it is a secular system, no attempt is made to determine the client's moral or spiritual functioning. One might wish to add axes VI and VII with specifically ordered ranking scales for moral and spiritual functioning. (Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology - See Selected Bibliography)