Theories on the Development of Disorder

When something, an emotion, an urge, an impulse, is so severely suppressed that a person becomes oppressed, we can often observe extreme opposite reactions. This is consistent with the laws of physics and the universe, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Except, one thing. I believe when it comes to emotions and behaviors, the opposing reaction is more like equal plus. The plus being an x-value holding place for a value with the meaning “a little more.” Determining that exact value in numerical terms may be difficult, since there is no numerical value for emotions.

It basically conveys the message that the situation perpetuates itself. Any potential absence of behavior or action can still be perceived as a positive value. Inaction can still be considered an action in this case, because there isn’t really such a thing as a complete absence of behavior.

This is potentially a huge factor in mental illness. Obviously, we are aware of the psychological damage abuse and neglect in childhood can cause, even throughout adulthood. It is thought to manifest in anxiety disorders, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. However, that does not account for people who did not experience what is typically considered childhood trauma.

Even as adults, we are susceptible to psychological damage. This is a fact that is well established through research involving war veteran and victims of sexual assault. However, we only consider extreme forms of trauma as something qualifies as such. Such is also true of childhood trauma.

Other qualifying trauma often happens over a period of time, and goes consciously unrecognized. This does not mean that it is also subconsciously unrecognized as well. In fact, the subconscious is likely keenly aware, but unable to translate to the conscious mind.

Once the conscious mind becomes aware that there is something amiss, the traumatizing behavior seems commonplace. The person has likely become desensitized to what was once a subtle, but generally constant external stressor. By then, it becomes internalized and often mistaken as an internal stressor.

Those are the seeds for maladaptive behaviors in both children and adults. At this point, unhealthy coping mechanisms have already been adopted as part of a person’s behavioral repertoire. This is directly the result of an extreme reaction to the accumulation of what may be considered subtle long term stressor(s).

The maladaptive behaviors are recognized as such, and perpetuate trauma through mistreatment of oneself. It can be behaviorally observed by an unusual response to certain unpleasant stimuli. Unfortunately, the subject is often unaware that their responses are abnormal. By the time it is either pointed out or realized by oneself, the original cause is well buried under layers of self-abuse / neglect.

The result of this is much larger than anxiety disorders. It reaches out to grab behaviors typical of a variety of psychological disorders. Behavior repertoires are often observed in personality disorders and mood disorders. it would stand to reason this is true, due to the nature of long-term external stressors, particularly subtle abuse and neglect.

Where I End and “It” Begins

There is great mystery and confusion that surrounds us when we try to differentiation symptoms and personality. James, who writes the award winning blog James Claims, inspired me to finally write a piece on this subject with his shout out. Which is which? Episodes surely have a profound affect on our cognition and behavior. Then, what about medication? Does medication give or take when we are defining traits and types in studying our own personality?

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test? If not, take a moment to review the MBTI. It doesn’t matter if you’re having an episode. The results are very reliable on a test-retest reliability scale, regardless. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

(Pause.)

Anyhow, this subject of personality and the MBTI spawned from a conversation with Brandon who writes The Daily Bipolar. I had mentioned the MBTI and how we can get a more stable idea of ourselves.

I started taking the MBTI in 2007. I have taken it every six months since then. Each time, I scored ENFJ (Extroverted, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging). That is, until the most recent retest. Suddenly, I scored Introverted, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging – INFJ. How could a person go from a well established extrovert to an introvert?

Before I was diagnosed, I was all over the place. When I was hypomanic, I was the life of all of the parties. I could throw down with the best of them. I was always prone to doing things that were strange, dangerous, and / or illegal. And having friends that would be in awe and amazement at my latest stunts only added fuel to thay fire.

But in those days, I didn’t isolate myself when in a depressive state. I really leaned on my friends. I had no other support system. If I lost my friends, I lost everything. In those days, friends would take 3AM crying phone calls. A boyfriend would dedicate his Friday night to talking me through a depressive compulsion, like self-harm, and not think of me differently. Before we were together, C.S. used to insist that I come to his apartment to stay for awhile.

I was already married with a baby when I was diagnosed. I have been in treatment for Bipolar Disorder II for two years. By treatment, I mean several different psychiatrists have shuffled pills at me, and I faithfully swallowed them. I went through a lot of life changes in that time, too. I settled into my domestic life and started a career path.

What’s different now?

Firstly, I am a mother and a wife. Week long benders and non-stop parties are out of the question. In fact, most of my social life crumbled. I have a strong dedication to my family. I will do anything to ensure their health, well-being, and happiness.

I had dedicated myself to school and am beginning my career. I have great enthusiasm for teaching and music. Many of the dreams and ideals that had been trampled in my past have begun to emerge once more. Arts, music, literature, philosophy, politics, and the pureness of real love were all resurrected.

My vast social network dissolved. And do you know what? I don’t really care. After all of it, I’d rather be alone. I much prefer using my time to enjoy family and intellectual pursuits. These activities would be art and literature mainly. That is opposed to wasting time investing in people who will never be a good friend.

Much of this wouldn’t have been possible for me without the medication. I have more control. Having the ability to regulate my emotions has enabled me to have a more solid marriage. It allows me to be the best possible mother I can be. Even on a bad day, I can still pull myself together and responsibly honor my obligations. My judgment is better and I’m more logical than ever.

I regained and retained all of the great things about myself with only a small fee. My short-term memory is shot. It wasn’t great to begin with, but Lamictal completely did it in. Unless I repeatedly write something down, like a name or a phone number, I will immediately forget it. And by getting the bipolar disorder under control, I unearthed a terrible underlying anxiety.

In my adult life, my attention has been focused inward. When I was officially diagnosed, I knew that I couldn’t escape it any longer. It is time to work on myself.

And my E changed to an I.