In response to this post currently on the rec list which did, unfortunately start off with a claim that teabaggers - I refuse to be nice about these people given their general meanness - are 'mentally ill'.

The post in question has re-titled somewhat but, having browsed the comments, it seems a lot of kossacks, also unfortunately, seem to not quite get what 'mental illness' is, so I thought I would post a brief clarification.

When we use the term 'mental illness' we mean - whether you know it or not - that somebody has an illness of the brain.

The brain is an organ with a number of relatively complex suborgans and with a relatively complex chemistry which can get ....'out of whack'. There are issues of 'brain illness or damage' and issues of "chemical imbalances' and, because Life is the way it is, often times people suffer from both at the same time.

The 3 Main Mental illnesses would be Major Depression, Schizophrenia, and Bipolar disorder. I recent years "Schizoaffective disorder" has been added to the mix as many people have numerous traits of schizophrenia - but not all of them - along with numerous - but not all - traits of bipolar disorder. (I often explain this to clients as the Reese's Cup of mental illness)

With schizophrenia you get a cluster of progressive damage to various sub-organs of the brain leading to general dysfunction. Schizophrenia is generally the most devastating of the illnesses, usually preventing people from being able to work much or at all.

With bipolar disorder, there is a much more mixed bag and a sort of roulette wheel as to what will happen to you and how bad it will be. In the Diagnostic and Statistic manual by which these things are diagnosed, there are a variety of flavors in which bipolar disorder can come. Sometimes it is the classic "manic-depressive bit; sometimes you get the manic phases, sometimes the mood is majorly depressed, other times people are just really irritable. Sometimes these folks can work (I am told that Ted Turner suffers from a form of bipolar disorder, as well as Mike Tyson) sometimes they can't - it's disruptive.

With Major Depression, people seem to often be able to slog through daily life, work jobs but never really be everything they could be. Often drugs and particularly alcohol are involved.

All three of these illnesses can render people susceptible to psychosis: psychosis is that stuff most laypeople think of when they think of "crazy' or "mentally ill". Hearing voices, seeing thing, delusional thinking, grandiosity, all the good stuff I get to work with day in and day out.

Now, most of the teabaggers one meets DO NOT MEET the criteria for being mentally ill. Please stop suggesting "mental illness" if you don't really know how to diagnose it.

What I think YOU DO SEE with the baggers and a lot of repubs is "Delusional thinking" without a diagnosed underlying mental illness.

I say that specifically because these people have developed what can be called a shared paranoid delusion which has been nurtured and encouraged by rightwing media and talk radio over the years.

Not only do they harbor these thoughts, they act upon them, make plans by considering them and thus end up at serious odds with the Real World.

These people, as nicely delineated in the post referenced and linked above, have developed a constellation of erroneous ideas which have congealed into a sort of 'ideology' which has little to no factual basis and to which they are quite rabidly and unshakably committed.

I have a client with a grandiose delusion that his mere presence in a business is good for the business because when he goes into a business - such as a restaurant - other people come in. I tell him I have a similar power: all I have to do is THINK about going to a business and many people show up before me and I have to wait. His commitment to his sense of power is unshakable, even when his medications are tweaked correctly and working well, he retains this delusion. This is a classic paranoid delusion but it is  due more to personality features than to his mental illness.

Similarly baggers demonstrate substantial paranoid delusion: famously now, they have what we can call the "Birther Delusion". You know this one well. You know they cannot give it up. Every attempt to dispel it only makes it more true. Obama released his birth certificate, but he's a tricky liar bent on the destruction of the USA. It's hopeless to talk to them about this.

Another one I heard some time ago was that "traffic laws cause more accidents than just letting people drive as they see fit". My teabagging friends ranted about a stop light that made us stop in the middle of the night: Why does that have to happen?" he asked irritably. I replied "It's a stop light. Stopping things is it's reason for being. We don't need go-lights". Then there was the rant abou Muslims driving too slow "because they fear they'll get their hands cut off for breaking the law.

The rest of their ideology you know reasonably well too - again I see it as a very loosely assembled constellation of ridiculous sound bytes and half-baked thoughts that are simply all whirled together, much like an asteroid or comet is made up of collected pieces of dirt and ice.

The teabag delusional system is held together by rightwing media and talk radio as well as by leading republicans who reiterate the Article of Faith regularly, reinforcing the belief system (and pandering to their base in one fell swoop).

So, what you hear when you hear these nutjobs ranting on about incomprehensible and disconnected ideas is not a treatable mental illness: they are hopelessly delusional and there is likely no cure for them. You cannot argue with this stuff, nor help these people out of their pathetic delusional state.

Please have mercy on the truly mentally ill and just try to just leave the teabaggers alone. Accept your powerlessness over their nuttiness and move along.

Originally posted to DFH Local No 420 on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM PDT.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness.

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