(tw: ableist slur in the image*)
(Image description: A chart comparing frequency of mentions for different illnesses, disorders, and disabilities in two journals, Neurology and the American Journal of Psychiatry. Meningitis has the highest mentions in Neurology, at over 95%. The chart scales down (less mentions in Neurology, more in the AJoP) with Epilepsy, Parkinson, and Headache all at over 90%, and Dementia, Alzheimer, and Huntington between 80 and 90%. Then there’s a drop to mental r*****ation (see note at bottom) at 70%, and a massive one to Autism, which has only 30% of mentions in Neurology, and 70% in the AJoP. ADHD rests at just over 20% (almost 80% in the AJoP), depression between 10 and 20%; and Mania, Panic, and Schizophrenia all between 0 and 10% in Nuerology (over 90% in the AJoP)
We tend to think of mental illness and other disorders that fall under psychiatric medicine as separate from our bodies, and even the language we use reflects this - think of the usage of “physical” illness or disability as opposed to mental. I’m not suggesting we change the terms, but it does accurately convey the way most people think of the divide between the two.
What tends to go unmentioned is the obvious fact that the brain is physical. The chemical differences that often cause mental illness and distress are tangible phenomena, even if we as of yet don’t have the tools to properly assess them. Even the damage done by trauma, or other life stressers, are reflected in the physical makeup of our most fundamental organ.
This chart, created by the neuroscientist who runs Neuroskeptic, compares mentions of brain illnesses, disorders, and disabilities in two major scientific journals, one for the study of neurology (aptly named Neurology) and the other the American Journal of Psychiatry. It’s hardly conclusive about the kinds of illnesses we tend to consider physically tangible, but it does point to some interesting outlooks. In fact, many illnesses have traversed the (somewhat illusionary) boundary between psychiatric and neurological illness, notably tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, and alzheimers.
This divide (and unwillingness to examine a condition from different scientific viewpoints) has also led to incredible setbacks and harm in the treatment of particular groups of disabled people. Notably, CFS/ME is currently still often treated as psychosomatic pain, despite devastating results. Furthermore, it should be noted that psychosomatic pain (despite still being pain) is often dismissed as being “only in your mind”. I’m not a neurologist, but I do understand basic biology and and someone who experiences intense psychosomatic pain as a result of an illness I’d like to point out the obvious here and say that all pain comes from the mind. All physical sensations, psychosomatic or not, are processed in your brain.
read the author’s take on his chart @ the source
*while we absolutely do not agree or support people using the slur listed in this image as a descriptor, “medically” or otherwise, we acknowledge that in this case it is used as a reflection of the (unfortunate) fact that medical journals do use it, and that to reflect accurate data it was used as a search term. When responding to this article please censor it if you refer to it.