The Onion Makes Mental Illness Ridiculous

By Neuroskeptic | December 2, 2012 10:00 am

Despite being entirely fictional, The Onion offer some of the most perceptive political analysis anywhere.

Less well known, but likewise brilliant, is its coverage of mental health. The Onion‘s approach is to satirize the beliefs and perceptions that characterize psychiatric illness. The result is hilarious, but also insightful and, in a weird way, empathetic:

Local Anorexic Still Way Too Fat

Despite years of intense dieting and vigorous exercise, local anorexic Lisa Kimmel is still way too fat, it was reported Monday… Though Kimmel could stand to lose a few pounds in nearly every area of her body, worst of all are her arms. “I’ve got this totally disgusting flab on the back of my arms that swings back and forth when I move,” said Kimmel, wearing an oversized Champion sweatshirt to conceal her obesity. “My arms totally look like my grandmother’s.”

Making matters worse is the fact that Kimmel’s mother wants her to be overweight, constantly trying to get her to eat fatty foods like ravioli, mashed potatoes and broiled chicken with the skin still on. Other family members, as well as Kimmel’s friends and doctors, also entreat her to eat because they want her to be fat, repulsive and unliked.

Pharmaceutical Company Says Its New Anti-Depressant Is ‘Worthless And Dumb’

At a press conference Monday, Peter Cafazzo, CEO of Brunley-Hunt Pharmaceuticals (BHP), introduced his company’s latest anti-depressant, Cyntrex, a product he described as “a totally stupid waste of time that probably nobody will ever want ever.” …

According to reports, top BHP researchers began having doubts about the drug during the early development stages, when they realized they couldn’t do anything right ever ever ever, and that none of the pharmaceutical-industry leaders cared whether they lived or died. But work on the project continued, despite BHP’s growing conviction that Cyntrex would be the worst product in pharmaceutical history.

Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough?

Panelists discuss ways to care for the nation’s paranoid schizophrenics, such as hiding cameras in their homes or audio transmitters in their ears. e.g. “We need to hide cameras everywhere they go, in the street, in their homes, in the eyes of people at the stores where they shop.”

Some people might see this as making fun of the mentally ill, but I don’t: it’s making fun of the illness.

Suffering from a psychiatric disorder is a tragedy, but the disorder itself, and the distorted cognitions associated with it are, well, ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to see yourself as fat when you’re dangerously underweight. It’s laughable to think you’re worthless when you’re successful and respected.

Coming to realize the absurdity of such beliefs is an important part of recovery, and an explicit goal of cognitive behavioural therapy although therapists don’t tend to emphasize the funny side, it is certainly there.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, media, mental health, you
  • http://petrossa.me/ petrossa.me

    Part of a conversation from a paranoid schizo friend:
    ———————————–
    Things like that it was they want people to believe, that it's impossible. It's like magnets… they just know through advanced technology that we don't know about yet. I can't say for sure, I just know… hard to explain. You have to factor in how how entities there are keeping an eye on people too, and that entities have powers that people don't.

    The government is largely entities and aliens and the people who are in it are in on all of it. The big covered up is the existence of the aliens and entities and all the other dimensions.

    This has lost me a lot of friends in real life, not that I was socializing anymore anyway… but now people won't even talk to me. One told me to stop fantasizing and snap out of it. It's not a fantasy, if I were to have a fantasy it would be about something more pleasant. It's a frustrating thing.
    —————————–
    Doesn't seem like fun to me, i am at loss how to inject fun there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02742471168384347161 Patric Nordbeck

    Seems to me there will always be people that are far too negatively affected by experiences with close ones. An understandable reaction indeed. However, it's not about you. It's about how we, in general, treat those afflicted. By only treating it as the, indeed, serious illness as paranoid schizophrenia is,I believe it manifests a tragic and ostensibly dangerous image. Humour opens up another avenue that we can project into society and to those afflicted. It is a sense of acceptance. With this said, the point of humorising something very serious is, as neuroskeptic puts it, part of recovery, but the very real issue is that you very easily ridicule and put the person down. I'm guessing the point of this post is that neuroskeptic wants to put forward one, of extremely few, resources where this balance is very well upheld. Where it is not the person, but the unnecessarily negative (and thereby ridiculous because reality varies more than the stereotyped image allows) image of the illness that is targeted. Again, humour allows another dimension to a very flat image.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04065267462223612068 3am Wisdom

    I'm not sure about this. Yes for sufferers it is important to reach a stage whereby you can laugh at your thoughts and not take them too seriously, but the Onion is not directed at just sufferers, is it? It's directed at the general public who seem to struggle with compassion at the best of times, let alone when they have extra cause to mock and ridicule people with different perceptions of reality.

    Whilst you might know the difference, how to separate out the two, in my experience people who have never had to live with the symptoms of a mental disorder are all too quick to blame the person not the illness. Articles like these ones in the Onion don't draw the distinction at all. If humour is to be used then I'd have said that was one of the main points they should try to make, if they've tried to do it here, I can't see it.

  • http://petrossa.me/ petrossa.me

    My point was only people who don't suffer from a mental affliction can see the humor in it.

    Which makes it just poking fun at mentally handicapped.

    According to the all new DSM V i now suffer from a serious mental affliction, a week ago i just had Aspergers.

    Put that on your CV, autist, and see how many job offers you get.

    Maybe it's a professional deformity, like a medical worker gets to makes jokes about people in wheelchairs.

  • jeff

    The Onion wrote this twelve years ago, and it's still the most insightful and correct piece about public transportation I've ever read.

  • Anonymous

    petrossa, I have to disagree. Many years ago I took an antidepressent that triggered a mania. I had not clue what was going on. I had symptoms including paranoid delusions (I thought everyone was out to help me. No, I am not being sarcastic).

    Sometimes I joke about being crazy or depressed. and I look back on that time and see things to laugh about. I doubt I'm the only one who does that. It's disrespectful of you to disregard the varied experiences of people like you are doing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06647064768789308157 Neuroskeptic

    3am Wisdom: Hmm. I see your point, but it seems a bit pessimistic. I've suffered from depression myself and in my view, we should be saying:

    this is what depression is like, and it is absurd, but that's the point & why it's an illness. It seems real at the time, that's the problem. But it doesn't define who I am and you can tell because now I'm laughing at it.

    I agree that this kind of thing could easily slide into mocking the afflicted but I don't the Onion (or their audience) would do that.

  • Anonymous

    Who the well do you think you are? You obviously know nothing about truly suffering from depression or any other debilitating form of mental illness. If a therapist started off their 1st or any session making light of or fun of a patient's condition they wouldn't have any clients. A mentally ill person needs to be in a supportive and safe environment to even begin talking about their condition. I have managed a variation of bi-polar disorder thru proper medication (which can take months or years to figure out the right drug cocktail) and healthy physical and mental health lifestyle decisions for over 3 years now. You sound like a quack! I'd recommend finding something else to blog about such as the humor in being a douche bag (you sound like a pro) and how it annoys the hell out of people.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06647064768789308157 Neuroskeptic

    It's not a question of making light of the patient or their situation which is, like I said, tragic & of course they need a supportive environment.

    However, personally, I would find it supportive if someone had said to me when I was depressed, “Those negative thoughts you're thinking at the moment are ridiculous and when you get better you'll realize that”. That's a very positive message.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17166693823147681078 Gustavo Pérez

    Probably ridiculous isn't the right adjective as it might imply to some a sense of silliness. That being said, it's plain absurd if you care to read thorugh this blog to accuse Neuroskeptic of despising human suffering. Actually, humour operates psychologycally by turning what seems serious-unchangeable-unbearable-solemn-taboo-distant-frightening-overwhelming into a human (very human) reality. It externalizes the suffering. In any psychotherapy you need to rebuild the narrative of your suffering, and humour allows us to take a distance so we don't fall into heaviness. You can't do that too soon (certainly not without rapport and trust), but it eventually helps. And in any case, The Onion is more than likely not intended as a psychotherapeutic tool: it just reflects a way to look on things that might serve people and society to humanize all aspects (no exceptions) of our too human life. Devil's laugh.
    Milan Kundera on “The book of laughter and forgetting”:
    “To see the devil as a partisan of Evil and an angel as a warrior on the side of Good is to accept the demagogy of the angels. Things are of course more complicated than that.
    Angels are partisans not of Good but of divine creation. The devil, on the other hand, is the one who refuses to grant any rational meaning to that divinely created world.
    Dominion over the world, as we know, is divided between angels and devils. The good of the world, however, implies not that the angels have the advantage over the devils . . . but that the powers of the two sides are nearly in equilibrium. If there were too much incontestable meaning in the world (the angels’ power), man would succumb under its weight. If the world were to lose all its meaning (the devils’ reign), we could not live either.
    Things deprived suddenly of their supposed meaning, of the place assigned to them in the so-called order of things . . ., make us laugh. In origin, laughter is thus of the devil’s domain. It has something malicious about it (things suddenly turning out different from what they pretended to be), but to some extent also a beneficent relief (things are less weighty than they appeared to be, letting us live more freely, no longer oppressing us with their austere seriousness).
    […](the angels) have tricked us with a semantic imposture. Their imitation of laughter and (the devil’s) original laughter are both called by the same name. Nowadays we don’t even realize that the same external display serves two absolutely opposed internal attitudes. There are two laughters, and we have no word to tell one from the other.”
    Nice (and risky) post; greetings.

  • Anonymous

    How is this unlike poking fun at a religion?

  • Anonymous

    You didn't listen to a word I said!!! Sounds like you went thru a rough patch in life and had a depressive episode. People like myself have and will deal with our clinical cronic condition via the right meds and healthy lifestyle choices until the day we die. When you have bipolar or any other cronic mental illness you don't ever stop taking your meds or you will relapse and pontentally be worse off as you try to stabilize your condition again. The negative thougts that a mentally ill person experiences are very real and not ridiculous. Your message it NOT a positive one.

    What are your qualifications other than a douche bag that is a trying to stir the pot of a medical condition/segment of the population that you know NOTHING about!!! Please don't quit your day job if you have one….

  • Anonymous

    Well Gustavo Peréz…. Sounds like you're also someone who doesn't deal with a chronic mental illness that requires life long treatment and personal responsibility. Thanks for all the hot air you blew up everyone's butt….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13977481257114237664 Sigrun

    Mental health problems ridiculous?

    Is the re-experiencing, avoidance and emotional numbing after incest or a terror attack really ridiculous?

  • Anonymous

    This is the anonymous person who disagreed with petrossa about humor. I have a bp2 diagnosis. It is a chronic condition.

    As I said, I find humor in all of the crazy things I've been through. To do otherwise is deeply depressing.

  • Anonymous

    Wrong, petrossa. Depression, anxiety, and CPTSD were absurd to experience on the meta level. There was nothing TO do but laugh at them.

  • Anonymous

    I will say first that I deal with mental illness and second that I do laugh at the Onion articles on them. I think the post makes simplistic assumptions about people's coping methods (some of the comments do too). Not everyone can laugh or see the ridiculousness. For some the very idea is upsetting.

    The main problem, however, is that the OP does not show an awareness that society duhmanizes reduces mentally ill people by reducing them to their illness. Yes, I agree that the Onion is satirizing the conditions and not the people. Unfortunately, our culture's attitudes don't make that distinction, including a lot of people who read the Onion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04065267462223612068 3am Wisdom

    @Neuroskeptic Definitely see your logic, and from what I know of them I can agree that is probably not what The Onion were aiming for. Maybe it says more about my fear that people will read things out of context than reality and I should in fact credit the general public with more sense.

    I suppose it's like a joke in any other sketchy territory – jokes about disability, race, religion or sexual preference are never going to be taken well by everyone, even if told by a 'member' of the affected party.

  • Ivana Fulli MD

    neuroskeptic,

    Trying to reinvent the wheel on the theory of emotion starting with your own feelings when depressed was somewhat touching.

    To distort BCT to justify a good laugh on anorectic people is not

    Writing porn “Stars”instead of porn “Actresses” in a former post was not either.

    This will be my last comment on your blog.

    I wish you a successful career in entertainment: being smart with a talent with words and a shallow and demagogic intelectual attitude is a sure recipe for success!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06647064768789308157 Neuroskeptic

    Sigrun: “Is the re-experiencing, avoidance and emotional numbing after incest or a terror attack really ridiculous?”

    No, and I should have clarified that PTSD is an exception.

    Anon: “Yes, I agree that the Onion is satirizing the conditions and not the people. Unfortunately, our culture's attitudes don't make that distinction, including a lot of people who read the Onion.”

    Fair enough, but as I see it, one way to change those attitudes is to show that we're not our illnesses by laughing at them. I can see why that's not for everyone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04804826507251341186 Jen

    For an anorexic or a schizophrenic, laughing at the above articles requires an insight into their illness that in the depth of their disorder, they simply don't have. So I can completely see why it could be offensive, upsetting and unhelpful to some.

    That said, I think that there is some value in laughing at the illness (as long as it's very clear that it's the illness that's the subject of ridicule, not the ill person, which I don't think is clear above in the article excerpts). But in an age where mental illness is still heavily stigmatised and misunderstood it's probably not a good idea. Yet.

  • Louise

    As a medical student, I am used to treating mental illness in a very serious way. Most of my conversations about mental illness, and with individuals suffering from mental illness, have always been in the role of medical student, and so that was appropriate. As a part of the medical profession involved in helping treat this set of disorders, none of the individuals in question have any context within which to take my remarks, and so any apparent attempt to make light of the situation would understandable go down like a lead balloon in the majority of cases, especially with the potential lack of insight someone else already mentioned.

    So when a friend was dealing with mental health issues, severe enough to be sectioned under the mental health act temporarily, my instinct reaction was to treat the issue in the way I was familiar with- what I would like to hope is a compassionate, caring, thoughtful way. In this situation though, this was an inappropriate way to act- he found my initial serious reaction (to put words into his mouth) stigmatising and it made him feel uneasy. For him, the most helpful way to deal with it was exactly the ‘onion’ approach, to have a fairly serious conversation in a very light hearted way. Don’t get me wrong, he saw the situation itself as serious, but the key is, he found it helpful to view the symptoms that had taken over him as, yes,’ ridiculous’.

    So, in a very roundabout way, my instinct would be that neuroskeptic is right, but I would add the caveat ‘in the appropriate situation’, something I’m sure was implied but doesn’t hurt to explicitly state.

  • infinidiv

    @IvanaFulli
    I have always felt that the “theory of emotion” could use some reinvention. And the assumption that only “experts” can comment on such topics is one of the biggest problems in science. If you can't explain it for a lay-person to understand, in my opinion, there is still a problem with your theory. And ending the conversation just because you disagree is not very scientific in the first place, and doing so while insulting your opponent is problematic at best.

    @Neuroskeptik
    While I see the value in humour, and I definitely think we need a rethink of the societal attitudes that are in place, I am still on the fence whether the kind of style the onion uses is actually all that constructive (but I don't think it is particularly damaging either). It is similar to south park addressing political issues. I get the humour, and they are quite good at it, but I don't see them changing anything meaningful in society by doing so. Most people who watch are already of a similar mind, or simply want the entertainment value. I think using humour to change such important and deep-seated issues is great idea, but it needs to be done with more finesse, if that is the goal (which I am not sure it is).

    @Anonymous (with serious issues about the conversation in general)
    trying to suppress others' views and opinions will not get you the result you are looking for. I find this to be a blog where, by and large, people do listen. And I can say from my experience with people who lived through trauma in childhood that still affects them psychologically today, that times of humour between attacks/episodes/crises can be extremely useful. Not during, of course, but nobody here is saying that! The issue is that if you constantly associate something serious with seriousness, you are actually reinforcing that connection in the brain, and allowing for a new connection, potentially to humour, then you are giving yourself a chance to change that. And at the same time, removing the stigma associated with such things in the population at large, means that such people may get a chance to actually interact more normally with others, to which I only see positive side-effects.

  • http://twitter.com/2ndverse Grey

    Fair enough, but as I see it, one way to change those attitudes is to show that we're not our illnesses by laughing at them.

    I see your point, but I guess my main concern is that telling a mentally ill individual that their thoughts/symptoms are “ridiculous” (even if, on the surface, they seem so) comes across to me as being in the same vein as, “hey, pick up your bootstraps and get over yourself”…(or alternatively, “it's [the illness is] not real”) which is something that mentally ill individuals frequently hear from loved ones (and the messages that society sends), because many people do not understand the debilitating nature of the illness, particularly how it can destroy one's livelihood, productivity, and interpersonal relationships. Is a paranoid schizophrenic or an individual in the throes of mania really in a good position to hear that the thoughts/symptoms are “ridiculous” or “absurd”? I can't imagine that it's therapeutic for everyone. (In the interest of disclosure, I am the parent of a child with a severe mood disorder.)

    Maybe I just don't have the faith in the general public that you do, but I feel that the articles in the Onion aren't really breaking any new ground on this front.

  • Anonymous

    I've suffered from mental illness, grew up in a family with other mental illness sufferers and have many friends with one form or another of mental illness. One thing that I find helps our relationships with each other is to be able to laugh at ourselves and each other for the things we do and say and believe when we are at our worst. Being able to look back and see the ridiculous in our pasts makes us better able to spot when issues may be building up again and laughing with each other beats crying over the things that happened in the past.

  • Anonymous

    I found the schizophrenia joke funny, but as a relative of a recovered anorectic, I hated the anorexia joke. So that probably means the schizophrenia joke was not funny to victims.
    I see two problems: Gentiles telling jewish jokes usually sound racist, same thing applies here.
    Second, I see mental disease as any disease, and I have not seen much successful pediatric cancer humor out there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13977481257114237664 Sigrun

    Even as a child I was depressed, because of the abuse I suffered from the age of three or younger and till I was a teenager. I had no place to go and had my first suicide attempt when I was ten. Depression is not funny at all. There was nothing wrong with my way of thinking. If there was a defect anywhere, it was in the mind of the perpetrator.

    It is the illness model that makes some people think that mental health problems are funny. As we know, this model creates stigma and makes people distance themselves from us (see Ben Goldacre and Ethan Watters).

    By the way, today is the UN International Day for People with Disabilities, including psychosocial disabilities, like depression. Happy Disability Day!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13977481257114237664 Sigrun

    Does a person who has got a schizophrenia diagnosis have “crazy”, “ridiculous” thoughts?

    Read a short excerpt from the book Inscribed Bod ies: Health Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse by prof. dr. med. Anna Luise Kirkengen. Start with “The Norwegian psychiatrist, Tormod Huseby …”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06647064768789308157 Neuroskeptic

    Well, looks like there's two schools of thought here, and that's fair enough. I'm sticking by what I wrote, but, it's all subjective, and I can see it's not for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous person from the 17:59 and 01:22.

    I'm going to rethink making jokes in public that have to do with mental illness even though I do have a serious mental illness.

    I don't often make jokes like that in public with people who don't have similar mental illnesses, because otherwise people might react with sympathy/pity (which I don't want, really).

    But the comments here have me thinking that in public I might have eavesdroppers who get very hurt by any jokes I make like that.

    This whole discussion reminds me of people who tell others to “lighten up” about sexist jokes and how harmful that can be. Which is why I try not to make any sexist joke, even if just to mock.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02259126852621136887 Zoe

    David Rosenhan's classic (1973) article about his experiment, “On Being Sane in Insane Places” gives a less satirical view of the absurdity of psychiatric labels.
    http://psychrights.org/articles/rosenham.htm
    Nor is psychiatric distress to be taken lightly, not at at all. However, the symptoms do not exist independent of the body and living situation of the person who has them. For example, dementia, mental confusion, even psychosis, can result from a deficiency of B12. Does a typical psych evaluation include ruling out nutritional or other posssible causes for the symptoms?
    Many antidepressants cause depletion of sodium, symptoms of which may include depression, or other “mental illness” symptoms. How would a person taking the drug or the doctor prescribing it know the difference between a drug side effect and a symptom of “mental illness”?
    “Antidepressant-Induced Hyponatremia”
    http://www.psychweekly.com/aspx/Article/articledetail.aspx?articleid=1302

  • http://www.fmri-leaks.com Juliano Assanjo

    Well, there is a great difference between onion and opinion. While I like both onion and opinion, I don't like naming a lab to someone's name. So, instead of saying; brain decoding lab we see JohnXibzi Smith lab, obviously, JohnXibzi thinks that he is the new Einstein, but, he's probably just another bully professor. I wonder how this is possible nowadays and I wish that some skeptical and/or critical bloggers write about this phenomena, hopefully that the blogger is not JohnXibzi himself.

    Straight out of context…sorry NS…I was just trying to deliver this message.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17412168482569793996 Eric Charles

    Oye! That people should be able to laugh at the bad things in the world. Some would see it as a blessing!

    Come on guys… The point of SATIRE is not to show the ridiculousness of the subject matter, but the ridiculousness of ourselves and our culture. It IS both tragic, and hilarious, that we somehow manage to screw people up enough that they think they are fat when they are dangerously skinny. Ditto paranoid schizophrenics and depressed people.

    First you work to fix it… then in hindsight you hope to be able to laugh about it.

  • Anonymous

    Last month the progressive group “The Courage Campaign” came out with a video comparing the Kock brothers to a “coke-head” brother. They called it political satire:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxbeEpyZ9T4

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10860246538349067232 Lindsay

    Hi, Petrossa. I've had a friend with paranoid schizophrenia, too, and it *was* deadly serious.

    He was my best friend in high school, and he'd had his hallucinations since he was little. Not coincidentally, he was probably the most responsible, self-sufficient and “together” people I ever knew, because he had to be.

    For the most part I never saw him have any, hmm, episodes because he took his meds religiously, but I was on the phone with him for one. He was so scared, he almost got *me* scared too.

    However, I *have* had severe, suicidal depression (characterized by vivid, omnipresent visions of death — the doctor who first saw me had to figure out whether the label “psychosis” applied to them or not), and I have to say that, for me, black humor has been a GREAT coping mechanism.

    I liked to think up ridiculous ways to kill myself, sort of a really gross, macabre kind of performance art. These were different from the serious suicide plans I formed, and did have some cathartic value.

    There's a crucial difference between the jokes you make yourself and jokes random strangers make about your condition, though.

  • http://mavericknurse.wordpress.com/ mavericknurse

    This reminds me of an episode of brass-eye a while back. In the first, a spoof documentary on the evils of “cake”, Chris Morris duped a few well known personalities into appearing and speaking out on the evils of drug taking and warning in particular of the dangers of taking “cake”. All very funny.

    In the second Chris Morris did a similar job this time on the subject of child abuse which went down less well. In both cases the joke was on the media hysteria that surrounds these two subjects but the public reaction was very different. After the second Chris Morris had to go into hiding and the program was pulled from the schedules.

    I am with Neuroskeptic on this one humour can be a useful tool in understanding mental illness and building a bond with sufferers but it needs to be used judiciously if it is not to slip into mocking. The trouble is that these days it is so ridiculously easy to offend people that you daren't say anything.

    Personally I liked the Onion take on mental illness and I know some sufferers who would too, equally I know others who would not. The question is is it ever right to offend a minority group, personally I think it is, within limits, but what those limits are is difficult to say.

  • http://petrossa.me/ petrossa.me

    It's a sliding scale. Making fun of handicaps. Since there is no marker that says”this is funny”,”this isn't” it's best to avoid it.

  • http://notachemicalimbalance.blogspot.com.au/ Initially NO

    The Onion does something that Stand up for Mental Health does, talks. There’s nothing wrong with sending stuff up, as long as you’re not the one holding a prick with debilitating chemicals in it, making your ‘joke’ as you stick it in an unwilling patient’s behind. That’s just nazi smirks.
    I’ve had 13 years lived-experience of episodic paranoid schizophrenia. Didn’t think people had cameras behind their eyes, but, some science-fiction speculation based on a parallel to what was actually going on in psychiatric facilities and being denied heavily in society.
    Talk is good. Ignoring people and being afraid of saying anything to them is bad. But… you know paranoid schizophrenia is a disease apparently and diseases are contagious so don’t ever listen to a para schizo because their thought waves can penetrate into your mind and mix with your innocent pure brain chemistry and breed species of cat parasites that aliens like to harvest in moonlight.

    Thanks for this blog.

  • http://mavericknurse.wordpress.com/ mavericknurse

    @ Initially NO

    So only people with mental illness can laugh at mental illness (or is it the people with mental illness they are laughing at).? Thats like saying only black people can tell jokes about race or only jewish comedians can tell jewish jokes. If a joke or humorous insight is funny it’s funny who ever makes it.

    @petrossa

    Follow that line to it’s logical conclusion and no one would ever tell any jokes ever for fear of offending some minority group. The other day a nurse killed herself after being the subject of a practical joke played on her by two Australian DJ’s. A personal tradgedy for the Nurse and her family concerned but does that mean all practical jokes should be outlawed? Cars kill people do we ban cars?

    • Initially NO

      @ mavericknurse Forcefully injecting someone with neuroleptics that cause harmful effects such as epilepsy and Tardive dyskinesia, then making jokes about the person falling over, or having their tongue going everywhere, unable to speak and all their neurotransmitters shut down so unable to think properly, is not as funny as many nurses may think, it is torture to the person who is being harmed and contravening human-rights. Yes, a bit like a slave-driver whipping someone with drapetomania. The slave-driver/ nurse may find it funny to see the person stumble in pain, but that is Nazi smirks. If you bash someone up, you don’t make the joke about it. But I’ve seen a couple of stand-up comedians talking about being bashed up and they got laughs.

  • Anonymous

    mavericknurse, try sliding the other direction of the slippery slope you so fear

    It is comments like yours (are we going to outlaw humor???) that move a healthy debate towards a ridiculous shootout.

  • Anonymous

    mavericknurse
    Sorry about that, I did not read your previous post

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06647064768789308157 Neuroskeptic

    Well, consider this post my permission, as someone with mental illness, to laugh at mental illness (not mentally ill people though.)

    Not that you need it. But if anyone asks… I'll back you up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17401232760394588049 John

    My point was only people who don't suffer from a mental affliction can see the humor in it.

    Which makes it just poking fun at mentally handicapped.

    Good point. Studies have indicated that LSD may help alcoholics, MDMA may help PTSD, ketamine for depression, and recently psilocybin may help anxiety.

    All these compounds produce euphoria. Psychiatric drugs do not. Anhedonia is a persistent symptom of many psychopathologies.

    People with behavioral issues are told they have a very serious problem to be taken seriously. Entirely correct but that shouldn't exclude the possibility that occasionally it is funny and we should be able to laugh at ourselves. If we can't do that then perhaps we are taking it all, life, the universe, and everything, too seriously.

    For those with various behavioral problems perhaps we need to consider “pleasure therapy” more often. I don't like the humour angle, I think you'll get more bad results than good from such an approach but I do think psychology and psychiatry fail to appreciate that at the end of the day all of us girls and boys just want to have fun. Anhedonia is a condition that makes life terrible, perhaps if we focused more attention on that symptom stopped thinking so much about amines etc we might find a useful therapeutic window. To sit by the sea and watch the waves roll in, to listen to music, to enjoy the first glimpse the dawn, perhaps these are therapeutic options offering potential benefits.

    So for clinicians I ask this question: how often do clinicians advise their patients: go out and do the things you love to do? Am I being realistic here? Is the anhedonia so entrenched that pleasure is always impossible or is it that we simply haven't looked sufficiently at ways to overcome anhedonia?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13977481257114237664 Sigrun

    Now that bereavement becomes a diagnosis I doubt many widows will find their “illness” funny.

    • operakitty

      Bereavement has had its own entry in the DSM for literally years. In the IV-TR iteration you can find it grouped with adjustment disorders, IIRC.

  • Anonymous

    Neuro”skeptic” said:

    : I've suffered from depression myself and in my view, we should be saying:

    this is what depression is like, and it is absurd, but that's the point & why it's an illness. It seems real at the time, that's the problem. But it doesn't define who I am and you can tell because now I'm laughing at it”

    Oh your despair wasn't real? but framing it as an “illness” is real?

    Oh I get it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06647064768789308157 Neuroskeptic

    One diagnosis short of a DSM, this guy. Read what I said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/giles.shingler Giles Shingler

    How would a trained psychiatrist treat a grieving schizophrenic? Is it possible for a schizophrenic to grieve without the whole situation becoming pastiche?

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Neuroskeptic

No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.

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