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Question #91855 posted on 12/04/2018 12:16 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do you think that people with mental illnesses will no longer experience them as soon as they die? Or will the depressed still be depressed in the spirit world? Is mental illness exclusively an illness of the physical body, or is it also tied to our spirits?

-Wondering

A:

Dear Wonder,

Okay, so here are my two main points right off the bat. Firstly, I think that depression and other mental illnesses like it are tied to our physical bodies and not our spirits. Secondly, there's a difference between mental illnesses and dysfunctional thought processes. 

Now let's get into the nitty gritty. I personally have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I take medicine for these things. To me, this says pretty clearly that these illnesses are related to my physical brain. If they were some intrinsic part of me, they wouldn't be affected or made better by physical medicine. Also, I think that sometimes there's this idea out in the world that taking medication for these things somehow changes your personality and makes you completely different. It definitely doesn't. I have a personality that is completely separate from my illnesses. My medication doesn't make me want to do things I wouldn't want to do otherwise, it just makes me more able to do the things I want to do. Like, say my friends are going on a roadtrip. I'd want to go with them either way, but without medication my anxiety would make me too physically sick or my depression would make me too tired. You get my point. 

However, there are definitely times where the chronic problems I am having are due more to my mindset (something I can work on) than to my biology. That's why I'm also in therapy. There's stuff about my thought processes and the ways I cope with my mental illnesses that could be improved by my rational self. One of the things I'm working on is my fear of driving. It's bad enough that I often avoid driving at any cost, which makes my anxiety about driving go away for the moment, but has no effect on actually fixing this particular problem. I have to learn to cope with my anxiety and drive anyway. 

Anyway, there are times when my mental illnesses make me really upset. I often feel like my life would be SO MUCH EASIER if I didn't have to deal with trying to control my mind every day. I'm doing my best to not be mad at my own mind for being kinda messed up, but it's hard a lot of the time. Really, I'm pretty much holding out hope at this point that death/resurrection will fix my brain. Either that, or that by then I will progress to the point where I'm able to accept it. 

-Quixotic Kid

A:

Dear person,

I think what you are asking is whether psychological disorders have any non-biological causes. At least, that's what I will address before actually getting to your hypothetical. Most mental health professionals believe that there are biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to mental illness. I think many would also say that different psychiatric disorders have different amounts of these types of factors contributing. For example, psychotic and bipolar disorders appear to have a stronger biological component than many depressive and anxiety disorders. Similarly, some disorders appear to have a stronger environmental component than others; disorders ranging from borderline personality disorder to depression are associated with traumatic experiences in early life. However, we know that intense psychosocial stressors can trigger psychotic symptoms in vulnerable individuals and that borderline and depression run in biological families. So it's complicated. 

Also, I have no idea how a hypothetical spirit would think or feel. It's pretty clear that brains play a strong role in the types of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and perceptual experiences that we experience. For example, overactivity of the amygdala is strongly associated with anxiety. Assuming that the amygdala plays a causal role in anxiety, I am uncertain of how a bunch of hypothetical spirits that all don't have amygdalas could experience different amounts of anxiety, all circumstances being equal. This is different than in humanland, where some people have a higher baseline level of anxiety than others despite having the same circumstances.

Now that I've walked through that in my head, I'm going to guess no. I don't think our hypothetical spirit friends have a capacity for the same types of cognitive and emotional ailments that humans do because even the occurrence of the most obviously trauma-caused disorder I can think of, PTSD, appears to be affected by genetics. However, I'm guessing that the hypothetical spirits also still have a capacity to feel significant distress independent of mental illness.

So basically, who knows.

-Sheebs