For a site extremely focused on fixing bad thinking patterns, I've noticed a bizarre lack of discussion here. Considering the high correlation between intelligence and mental illness, you'd think it would be a bigger topic. 

I personally suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a very tame panic disorder. Most of this is focused on financial and academic things, but I will also get panicky about social interaction, responsibilities, and things that happened in the past that seriously shouldn't bother me. I have an almost amusing response to anxiety that is basically my brain panicking and telling me to go hide under my desk.

I know lukeprog and Alicorn managed to fight off a good deal of their issues in this area and wrote up how, but I don't think enough has been done. They mostly dealt with depression. What about rational schizophrenics and phobics and bipolar people? It's difficult to find anxiety advice that goes beyond "do yoga while watching the sunrise!" Pop psych isn't very helpful. I think LessWrong could be. What's mental illness but a wrongness in the head?

Mental illness seems to be worse to intelligent people than your typical biases, honestly. Hiding under my desk is even less useful than, say, appealing to authority during an argument. At least the latter has the potential to be useful. I know it's limiting me, and starting cycles of avoidance, and so much more. And my mental illness isn't even that bad! Trying to be rational and successful when schizophrenic sounds like a Sisyphusian nightmare. 

I'm not fighting my difficulties nearly well enough to feel qualified to author my own posts. Hearing from people who are managing is more likely to help. If nothing else, maybe a Rational Support Group would be a lot of fun.

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There are rationalists talking about mental illness, but mostly offsite. Ozy talks about BPD among others, Kate and theunitofcaring talk about eating disorders among other things, I'm probably forgetting some.

Thank you! I'll see if I can start compiling resources like this. If you think of any more, I'd appreciate it if you could message me.
I suppose there's Slate Star Codex [], which is written by a rationalist psychiatrist who sometimes talks shop but doesn't tend to dwell on mental illness stuff in the same instrumental way. (It is highly recommended for other reasons, of course.)
Brienne's Löb's Theorem Defeated My Social Anxiety [] deserves to be among your resources.

Disclaimer: My opinions are solely my own and not based on psychological science (at least as far as I know).

I've always thought that things like depression and anxiety have some genetic component (the mix of chemicals in your brain) and some environmental 'trigger' component. You may not be able to do much about the genetic component, but if you get rid of the environmental component you can go a long way towards getting better.

I also have anxiety disorder. A lot of happiness has to do with being financially secure, having a fulfilling job/career, having a good social circle, eating well, having a good mix of hobbies, and working out. I've noticed that in my life whenever I was lagging in one or more of these areas, the anxiety and depression started bubbling up again. But whenever I tried taking care of these issues, I was mostly happy.

If someone is depressed, I don't think it will do to just give them some medications or tell them to do yoga, as you say. But maybe giving them meaningful employment or an exercise regimen will make them happy. Of course, people who are depressed get 'stuck' in a cycle where they are unable to 'break out' and obtain these things.

Again, these are solely my own opinions. Some of them might be stupid, others obvious.

That's sometimes a very frustrating thing to read- the "get rid of environmental triggers" thing. Speaking solely for myself here, my triggers are either really, really difficult to do anything about (financial difficulties) or a bad idea to try and get rid of (my academics). Sometimes you're just stuck at a point in your life where you can't fix your triggers. I think there must be more we can do than get rid of triggers, or add more meaningful things. Maybe not as effective, but mental illness is a complex thing. Complex things have weak points. Sometimes I wonder of we're ignoring the trees and just seeing the forest here. Mental self-help advice is so... formulaic.
Just getting rid of stuff is one way to stop a trigger. Building up a way to deal with it is another. Like, you could come up with a plan for your finances, and practice bringing up your finances and saying that plan, so you build another association with your finances that isn't a loop of anxious thoughts. Like role-play therapy, where you plan out and practice your reactions to someone saying something before hand. I am assuming a heluvalot about you with that advice though, sorry if that doesn't even make sense.
Well, I'm not the only person who struggles with anxiety, much less mental illness in general, so while your advice may not apply to me it probably applies to someone else. Focusing all of the discussion of mental illness on the one mentally ill person who started the discussion is... well, not exactly what I started the discussion FOR. So, any advice you have is totally welcome and appreciated.
I guess that disclaimer was a bit of a cached reaction, since the main forum where I talk about mental illness issues is Tumblr, and I need to explain that I know I'm not omnecient on Tumblr, and can't prescribe treatments better than the people it would effect, just suggest ideas. I did catch the extra disclaimer that you are not to use cognitave therapy on other people without their consent or knowledge, because in lw I expect you already know that and I won't get status from pointing out that people have, like, agency and stuff. You can't just do things to people. Wow. So much friendship for hitting such a low bar of decency. All the applause lights. Ramble ramble ramble.
I sometimes think that LWers actually underestimate the help that individuals suggesting ideas can be. More than once, a friend has said something that made me think, "holy crap, I've approached this not just from the wrong angle, but the wrong freaking plane." I also have noticed that suggestions without disclaimers tend to get downvoted here, so I suspect the cached reaction is a good cached reaction. Also, thanks for the giggle.
[-][anonymous]8y 8

May I ask a stupid question? How do people find out they are mentally ill? Obviously, I mean the not too severe cases. Let's take this GAD or tamer panic thing. During your childhood and youth you have reactions that people call "timid", "nervous", high strung" or "cowardly", depending on the situation and on them. I see four possible courses there.

A)One is you don't give a damn, you just accept it. It makes you less than happy but why would you ever expect to be happy? So you just accept some aspect of your life sucks.... (read more)

The brain is an organ. Like any other organ, things can go wrong. It's becoming the consensus that mental illness is caused by imbalances of hormones and similar things. Dopamine and serotonin in particular. It's an invisible illness, though, and so sometimes it's hard for people to take it seriously. Parents who don't think of "clumsy kid" as a potential problem might just assume they'll grow into their limbs. That's what people thought clumsiness in childhood was for a while- uneven growth that would eventually normalize. People normally find out they're mentally ill when they realize the people around them don't struggle like they do. When I realized that constant soreness and tiredness and sense of dread was a thing most people didn't have, I called in to make an appointment and started searching the internet. Also, it's not a stupid question. Personally, I'm a mix of B and C. I hope you realize that it isn't your fault, because I haven't gotten there yet.

Reminder that CBT workbooks for specific problems have been shown to be almost as effective as in person therapies and that you can just buy them on Amazon.



referral link is for Slate Star Codex if you're wondering.

I got the anxiety book, and I'm starting to go through it. I absolutely recommend it- a few pages in and I was thinking "This guy just completely destroyed a lot of my justifications for having low self-esteem."
Oh, that's rather interesting. Do you have any citation for them being so effective? I've a friend for whom they might be quite useful, as he's a bit of a shut-in.
Popular take: [] There is a blog post floating around explaining exactly how much workbooks in particular were shown to be around 80-90% as effective as in person IIRC but I can't find it right now. Also IIRC Anxiety is one of the more responsive to treatment disorders.
One modified form of CBT that I have personally found very helpful (and - frankly - served as something of a primer for skills I have been learning through this website) is DBT ( []). Honestly, a lot of the skils are things I think any person could really use. (For me, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness were incredibly helpful and not something that had ever been spelled out to me prior to encountering this). As a disclaimer: I do think that my experiences may have been very influenced by the fact that I had a really good group and coach who didn't rely on the more rhetorical elements and was happy to provide research-based information upon request, but it's definitely another place to look.
Ooh, cool. I did not know that. Thank you for posting these!

On Akrasia:

And it goes on and on, with no victory in sight.

I feel like I could fight the rest of my problems effectively with what I have (or at least, quickly learn otherwise) if I wasn't so paralyzed by Akrasia that the only resource I actually have is the ability to type incoherent comments into a small selection of websites.

I couldn't so... (read more)

Exactly. LessWrongians focus so hard on akrasia that I think they often fall into the trap of ignoring some of the causes of akrasia. If akrasia is your only serious problem, it's really easy to find ways to help. If you have akrasia because the idea of doing your work is terrifying, LessWrong isn't much help. So people like us get left shafted- too on the fringe for the majority of help to help, too in the middle for the rest to help.
Agreed. Personal anecdote: once I redefined my "motivation problem" as a "depression and anxiety problem" a number of months ago, and began treating this depression and anxiety instead of wearily trying out yet another willpower hack, I have made more progress in being motivated in months than I had in the previous years.
This is exactly what I was doing- constantly looking for the system that would let me be successful while ignoring the root problems. I only accepted the anxiety when it got too bad to ignore. Can I ask what you've been doing that's been so effective?
Two Disclaimers: First, I am not a doctor. Second, beware of other-optimizing. This advice is working well for me, but it may not work well for others. The depression became obvious and major enough that I was forced to take action to stop it. The rationalizations had run dry, so I fully realized in both System 1 and System 2 that I was not "unmotivated", I was mentally ill. Years of life hacks and half-assed lifestyle interventions had accomplished some, but not enough, so it was time for medications, which I had previously feared due to bad experiences with bupropion years earlier. The constraints in my investigation: something effective for major depressive disorder in both the short-term to fight what I was then feeling and in the long-term to prevent relapse, non-serious side effects, anxiolytic properties, as there is comorbid OCD and social anxiety disorder (SA, also this is why I chose medications before psychotherapy), and a reasonable price. Tianeptine met these constraints, with the nice bonus of plausibly being a cognitive enhancer. Within six weeks of use, the tianeptine decreased the depression such that it was time to focus on the next most serious drag on my productivity and happiness: OCD. Not being majorly depressed allowed me to develop exercise and meditation habits that reduced the OCD down to a similarly manageable level. The anxiolytic effects of the tianeptine and the reduced stress of not being seriously depressed probably also helped. The depression and OCD were still there and still a nuisance, but they had become minor enough that it was time to continue prioritizing elsewhere. By then tianeptine's anxiolytic properties had faded to mildness due to tolerance, though it has continued to be effective as an antidepressant that at least does not increase anxiety, which was my primary issue with bupropion. Next on the list was either SA or an uncontrollable sleep cycle, both being about equally problematic. I chose to address the sleep cy
Wow. You've been thorough. Note to self: modafinil is probably something I want to avoid if it can exacerbate anxiety that badly.
If you do decide to try it, start with a very low dose.
i think I am inadvertedly doing something like this. Here is what I started recently: * stop drinking, the evening reward is only non-alcoholic beer * fairly heavy exercise, boxing 3 times a week and 100 pushups on other days * instead of feeling like fighting my addiction or laziness, doing the opposite, stopping fighting my better judgement (to work out and to not drink) even when I don't feel like doing so. I don't know how better to explain it. I am reinventing the bicameral mind basically: everything decided rationally is casted into an "upper self" that gives orders, and my normal self can only sigh and follow its orders even when it makes me feel not comfortable, still it is a submission to and not fighting the decisions of the upper self, instead of fighting the urges and instincts of the lower self * when having little to do at work, and spend a lot of time on LW or Reddit, schedule the day so that productive work is in the last 1-2 hours so I can go home with some pride and not feeling the day was worthless * counter-act the complete lack of socialization during work by listening to vocal music with interesting lyrics in the evening However I have no idea if I am depressed or not and I strongly suspect that if your upbringing or culture is not exactly optimistic it is not such a clear cut case. I have clear anhedonia, but it does not make me passive or dyfunctional: I am able to do my duty in a "shut up and soldier on, feeling good is not required" way. I think if people don't really expect happiness, it is hard to tell if they are depressed, if they find anhedonia normal and can function in it.
The similarity between our approaches is as you say: the realization that akrasia defeats frontal assaults with heavy casualties. The difference is that you are doing something like the "take right action without resistance" approach that I've encountered before in Buddhism, which matches up nicely with anhedonia (personally I am a hedonist, so this does not work for me); while I am attempting to root out the basic causes of my akrasia, down to the very sources, to change the way I feel in the first place. Both approaches have their merits, and I agree that proper choice of approach relative to the individual depends on factors like personality and culture. Have you encountered any other indirect approaches to defeating akrasia, as we are attempting at present?
That is interesting - you correctly predicted I was exposed to Buddhism (indeed practiced it for years, although this non-forced-action, wu-wei [] is from my earlier exposure to Taoism. But it has nothing to do with anhedonia! First of all anhedonia is not enjoying stuff, not not wanting to enjoy stuff. It is not a choice or attitude, it is the illness. If you have or used to have depression you had it too - it is rather part of the definition itself. Second, if anything, the attitude I gleaned from Buddhism was very optimistic about fun and joy, my teacher [] is almost extremely hedonistic. This has more to do with my parents being blue-collar, and my cultural background is Mitteleuropa - I tried to hint on that with "shut up and soldier on", it is a direct translation from "Maul halten und weiter dienen" (BTW my first language is not German but this saying describes the region rather well). Basically this is what you get from blue-collar parents. Don't like your job? Shut up, you have a family to support. Soldier on. And so on. Finally, do you think wu-wei prevents hedonism? I think if enjoyment means resting effortlessly in the here and now instead of hoping for or worrying about something in the future, it is more like a precondition for it.
Where this chain of reasoning breaks down for me is in the "without resistance" phase of "take right action without resistance". If the resistance, both conscious and unconscious, is too strong, there will be no right action taken, whether I will it or no. So what I do instead is undermine the resistance itself. This is my precondition for taking right action. Do you see what I mean? Wu-wei prevents hedonism if wu-wei is essential to hedonism but there can be no wu-wei.

I think cognitive delusions often maintain themselves by being non-falsifiable, and an explicit knowledge of epistemology might help people better use logic to compensate.

I managed to get a schizophrenic acquaintance who had anxiety-causing delusional ideas which originated in mind-body dualism to reject mind-body dualism, after carefully explaining why parsimony is a good way to distinguish between the various non-falsifiable hypotheses and how one can roughly approximate what is and is not parsimonious and why the mind instinctively gravitates to mind-b... (read more)

For some reason, your first sentence gave me the urge to hug you. I suspect it was a reaction to the fact that someone understood that. I've never been able to explain to anyone why "but it isn't your fault" doesn't let my brain believe it's not my fault. Interesting. I suspect it did, except in particularly strong attacks (if her schizophrenia was periodic rather than constant).

Very important. I think a lot of us need to pool together one day and write and release a general F.A.Q. that people can recursively apply to help themselves. It's risky but worth it.

I like this idea. Sort of a "this journal article showed that this technique was statistically useful, this one said another technique was not" kind of thing?
Yes, we have the competence to achieve this and it would be extremely beneficial. For example people still say ADHD meds are equally as effective and you can't get legitimate discussion of efficacy because every conversation is just bogged down. Few people with ADHD know that Stimulants plus Intuniv should cover the broadest range of their symptoms and that having medication last longer because it covers a higher duration of symptoms is better. Random stuff like that is simple but there exists no place to get it.

If anyone is interested in actually being part of a support group of sorts, let me know- if enough people are interested, I'll see if I can find a good way to do it.

Considering the high correlation between intelligence and mental illness, you'd think it would be a bigger topic.

On what basis are you making that claim? Are there studies that suggest that such a correlation exists?

Autism and superior math ability seem strongly correlated [].
To my frustration, the majority of the results I found were not scholarly. Then again, the only database I have access to is Google Scholar, which is utter crap for finding specific results. If anyone has access to a decent scholarly database, I'd much appreciate a quick search. It seems possible that this idea "mental illness is highly correlated with intelligence" is just another Lucy-esque pop psych idea with little truth. I think my point still stands- mental illness is still really common. And I know a lot of intelligent people have a mental illness. I don't think we should ignore the skewed thinking of mental illness even if the ratio of metally ill to mentally normal people is exactly the same in average versus above average populations. The statistic I'm finding there is 1 in 5. I'm not finding anywhere that's properly sourcing that statistic, though. The article I read sourced the older report (in 2012) but didn't link to the newer one.
That is entirely a function of how widely do you define "mental illness". You set the bounds of normality narrowly and you get that mental illness is common, you set them far out and mental illness becomes a rarity.
Mayoclinic defines mental illness as such: "Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors." This seems to be the standard definition. The statistic of 1 in 5 that I used seems to pretty much only refer to diagnosed people with specific, named disorders. I don't think it was including "I feel sad sometimes" as a mental illness. And considering it was only used statistics based on diagnostics, it seems pretty clear to me that a LOT of people got left out. Many people can't get help. This also only covered the U.S.A., and statistics could vary widely in other areas of the world and based on methods. If you like, we can taboo the "mental illness" phrase and instead use something like "badly defined and illogically based thinking patterns." That would cover the schizophrenic fantasy/reality disconnect, anxiety, depression, etc. Then it becomes pretty clear that "badly defined and illogically based thinking patterns" are really common and often not as specific as biases. I don't think anyone would claim mental illness is rare. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 12.6 people out of 100,000 successfully committed suicide in 2013. That means over 41,000 people died, in one year, in the U.S. alone, not counting the suicides ruled as accidents or disappearances. The AFSP says it's not easy to get a good number for suicide attempts, but they believe based on self-harm caused hospitalizations that it easily exceeds 600,000 people a year. And that's just the people who want to die. Eating disorders are gaining attention as one of the more common kinds. Addictive disorders are so common almost everyone knows one or more people struggling. Depression, the same. There's a trend among students where anxiety and stress are causing serious issues. Also, there's
Actually, I think the "standard" definition is provided by the current DSM. The Mayo Clinic definition is way too vague and general to be of any use. Sure, but then you are defining stupid people as mentally ill. Are you willing to do that for everyone with, say, the IQ under 85? Go back a hundred years, for example. Under the definitions used then, was mental illness common? "Diseased thinking patterns" is a dangerous concept. In the Soviet Union disliking communism was a diseased thinking pattern and people were actually put into mental hospitals for that. Not long ago being attracted to people of the same sex was considered to be a diseased thinking (and feeling, and behavioral) pattern, to be treated as a mental disorder. If I want to lose weight, is that a diseased thinking pattern and who will judge that? If I feel dissatisfied with life, is that a diseased thinking pattern and what kind of a pill will I be prescribed?
Vague, yes, but I disagree that it's useless. It at least is an extremely basic overview that someone can build on. Hmm. I wouldn't call stupidity mental illness- low IQ doesn't necessarily mean they're an illogical person. it can mean they're slow, or challenged, etc. A person can be "stupid" and not, say, think the moon is made of cheese. Limitations on your complexity of thought doesn't necessarily mean the thoughts you have are wrong. No, 100 years ago, a woman getting mad at her husband was a sign of mental illness. Mental illness was considered very common. People were put in asylums for anything from homosexuality to being too smart, or being transhumanist, or atheist. I can see how the concept is dangerous, but only if misused. Cars are dangerous if misused. We use them daily. The idea isn't to toss pills at anyone unhappy or who happens to have different beliefs, the point is that some patterns are harmful and some people would like help with that. I think deciding for others what is harmful is, itself, harmful- if a person enjoys their hallucinations, and the hallucinations don't cause them to do harm, then honestly, we should leave them alone. If a person likes murder, we shouldn't. If you want to lose weight, you should get nutrition and exercise advice. It becomes a diseased thinking pattern if you think you still need to lose weight when you have a body fat index of 5%, or if you think no one will ever care about you if you weigh above 125. If you feel dissatisfied with life, the question is why. If you have everything going perfectly in your life and you're still constantly sad, that's a sign of a problem, and you should probably see a doctor. You might be prescribed therapy rather than a pill. I think most people decide for themselves if they like their thinking patterns. I don't like mine. I'm seeking help. A person might be friends with the voices in their heads. A person might be tired of them telling him to kill himself. A transgender person
You are on LW. Clear thinking is valued here and that involves debating how to talk about issues. Semantics matter.
Semantics matter to the extent that everyone is on the same page. Mental illness is pretty clearly defined.
Yes, and that definition leads to a field that's not productive at solving the problem. Plenty of criticism surfaced in the wake of the DSM-5 which currently contains the official definitions for mental illnesses.
I'm aware. I do study psychology, although my personal passion is microbiology. The question Lumifer raised was if mental illness is really that common. It's pretty hard to find any evidence saying it's uncommon, and a LOT of evidence saying it's common. I'm curious- from your comments here, you seem to have a differing point of view than I do. Could you explain what you think mental illness is, and your related opinions? I think that would lead to a more productive discussion.
I'm not sure that the term "mental illness" is pretty useful if your goal is to do change work. Part of the societal role of the term is to distinguish mental phenomena where it's legal to take drugs to solve them from mental phenomena where it isn't. To decide what insurance will pay for and where it won't pay. Those concerns dictate how wide or narrow we have our net as to what constitutes "mental illness". If we talk about anxiety I'm not sure that "mental illness" is a good framing. Every healthy human being sometimes has anxiety. There might be some brain damage that prevents certain people from having anxiety, but it's part of normal human functioning. That means it's useful to learn how to deal with anxiety in a productive fashion. There are a bunch of emotional management skills that are useful for everyone. I know little about schizophrenia but my general impression is that it's something that's qualitatively very different from a phobia.
Anxiety transcends a normal thing and enters mental illness when it becomes pervasive and unreasonable. My anxiety about having used a wrong word in a conversation I had last year is unreasonable. My constant feeling of dread is unreasonable because I'm not constantly in a situation that should inspire dread. Mental illness is really hard to define properly- there always seems to be something left out, or something that's implied to be illness when it isn't. Honestly, I feel like the discussion has been derailed a bit- we're focusing on defining a very vague thing that we don't understand yet. I can't offer answers at to how we should define mental illness because that's a question that would take years to answer. And it seems like one of those questions no one will ever agree on, either. As a utilitarian, I think mental illness is a thinking pattern that causes unhappiness or harm over a period of time, or that blocks someone from being able to view the world realistically. Someone else might have a different set of values that has an entirely different set of "bad thinking patterns." But people ARE suffering, we know that there ARE diseased thinking patterns, and we know that people want help. Maybe "mental illness" is a bad frame, but at the moment, do we really have another to work with? I don't think so, which is why I think that this is an important question. All of the answers we're getting are mysterious, and thus not answers. Yes, I want to do change work, and I think that it's impossible to do anything if we refuse to start helping because we don't have a good frame yet. Sometimes you have to explore a problem for a while to even start to figure it out. We have an extremely flawed and basic understanding, and saying, "well, what can we do then?" is like throwing out a hypothesis because of one inconclusive experiment.
If the thought of asking out a woman for a date raises anxiety in me I don't care at all whether or not that's "reasonable" or "normal". It's a trigger that I don't want to have regardless of whether it's classified as a mental illness. Yes. I have multiple different one's. In Danis Bois perceptive pedagogy an answer might be: "You have problems with anxiety and worry about what you said last year because you constantly feel that you have to prove that you exist. If you would have a strong feeling of existence, your issues with anxiety would simply clear." In NLP it might be: "There are a bunch of situation where you are ineffective triggers that produce unproductive emotions. Let's do the Fast Phobia Cure on all of them and get done with the problem." Lefkoe Method would say: "You might have 40 limiting beliefs that produce that problem like "I'm not lovable", let's go and clear those beliefs by spending 30 minutes on each of them with the Lefkoe Method." I haven't been at a CFAR workshop so I don't know their exact answer, but part of it seems to be: "Let's get clear about how our emotional desires differ from our intellectual one's and train comfort zone extension." That's no complete list. But when we go back to how to discuss the issue on LW, framing the issue as being around anxiety is likely more productive than framing it as being about mental illnesses in general.
Interesting, I haven't heard of most of these. When I get the chance I'll have to do some research. Anxiety CAN be a good response. The fear-response that anxiety basically is can be a good "oh crap, I'm in a bad situation here." Getting nervous when asking someone out is uncomfortable and kinda useless. Getting nervous walking down a street at night when someone seems to be following you is normal, and helps you respond properly. The pervasiveness is a major part. If the anxiety is infringing on your life in a lot of useless ways, you probably have an anxiety problem. If a minor problem causes extreme fear, like an unbearable fear of close spaces, you might have a problem- almost everyone has to get in an elevator at some point, and having a panic attack because of it would be inconvenient and unpleasant. Perhaps tackling specific problems at a time would be more effective. But considering the sheer number of kinds of problems here, I'm not sure. If I wanted to write a sequence on "general mental illness" (sorry, I'm going to continue using that phrase because it's not confusing and it's a good, simple term that doesn't require a lot of terms and you all know what I mean), and wrote, say, one article per mental illness... Well, I could say goodbye to ever getting anything else done. The research alone would take a lifetime, just on what we know now. Writing something worth having on LessWrong is a pretty big endeavor. Once again, the problem is the sheer complexity of the problem. If we only tackled the really common ones (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.) we might be able to do some good work, though.
Not quite. I pointed out that mental illness can be defined in different ways (DSM was not brought back on stone tablets from Mount Sinai) and these different ways will give different answers about the prevalence of mental illness.
Oh, sorry. I misunderstood. I should hope not, that would make me seriously question a good deal about history and biblicism. That's very true, but narrowing the problem too much causes the same kinds of problems as opening it to everyone. If you give everyone with upcoming life changes a Xanax, you're not letting them learn how to cope. If you refuse to help someone unless their illness is ruining their life, you're letting a lot of people live seriously suboptimal lives. We don't have a good entry barrier for determining if someone is mentally ill or not. We simply don't know enough to make one.
Do you think that such an "entry point" could be discovered once and for all, an unchanging truth like a constant in physics, or do you think that the answer will always depend on who's asking?
It's possible we could. I certainly hope so. But it's such a complex question that, at the least, we probably can't have a simple universal answer.
I sometime do have some reservations against what happens in psychology departments, but I don't think they are completely hopeless. You could start a self help group with fellow psychology students. It would likely be a more productive road then seeking help on the internet. There are various CBT techniques in the literature for dealing with anxiety that you can do as peer training. You might even use the daily gratitude sharing exercise in such a group.
I agree that the relationship is separate question. I did find some links though: Here is a Swedish conscripts study [], finding that pre-morbid IQ was negatively associated with later adult depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, but positively related to mania, measured by hospital admittance. This New Zealand study [] replicates this: Low childhood IQ predicts depression, anxiety, while higher IQ predicts bipolar. These are about the best "large homogeneous" population studies I could find, in two more-or-less standard Western cultures. There is one study [] that tracked some particularly high performing children through adulthood, but the results weren't much different regarding mental illness than a normal high intelligence sample would be. Needless to say, it gets complicated when you look at populations that are preselected (college students, etc) or more diverse. Most popular articles that claim a uniform association are looking at some narrow populations (e.g. famous artists), or reporting how intelligence relates to different presentations of a given mental illness (e.g. intelligence seems to the presentation of anxiety). Even assuming genetic risk for a mental illness was unrelated to education or intelligence, you'd expect something like this given the environmental correlates: Better family conditions early on, better social status later. While there are some environmental stressors that are probably associated with higher intelligence (graduate/medical/law school, perhaps more status anxiety?), these are probably not severe enough to outweigh the stressors in the opposite direction.
If you do look, you will find odd little relationships and hints. Maybe there's more autism among the close relatives of mathematicians and engineers. Maybe there are little hints that ADHD and schizophrenia are linked to creativity. Maybe there's more bipolar disorder among performance artists. Maybe depressed people are better writers. Maybe. These little hints and bits and bobs of evidence indicating trade-offs are rarely as straightforward as finding elevated rates in a gifted population, the way you propose. You won't find any links between general intelligence and mental illness. It's never "intelligence", it's almost always some weird, specific, difficult to study thing. I really doubt that high IQ puts you at elevated risk of anything. Sometimes people do come up with stuff, like "existential depression" (which I'm pretty sure is just normal depression with an intellectual rationalization), but it's pretty sparse. There's supposed to be a body of literature (mostly pre-2000) with "gifted children" which I haven't really looked into demonstrating frustrations arising from atypical development, but I haven't seen any really good evidence for trade-offs or especially difficulties on that front either. It's been mostly collections of case studies. (That said, I haven't read that area much.)

There's risk involved in giving medical advice over the internet. It's hard to fully understand another person if you just have text and no face to face interaction.

I can debug someone's phobia in a face to face interaction, but it's much harder to do anything productive over the internet.

It's difficult to find anxiety advice that goes beyond "do yoga while watching the sunrise!"

Did you actually do that exercise and tried whether it's helpful for you?

That's true, obviously, but I was looking more for "people seeking out solutions together." There was a thread a while back where people ated akrasia fighting methods. Anxiety fighting methods could be rated the same way. Of course. I love yoga. It's relaxing and fun. But it's no cure for anxiety. Yoga gives a very short "mental high" and doing it for months had no effect on the anxiety. This approach may work for a lot lf people, but as always, there's a fringe that needs some new approaches.
At our last LW meetup in Berlin one participant A said that he wills anxiety about the upcoming social interaction X. We did a Hamming Circle (spelling for Hemming might be wrong) and I was mainly leading the discussion. At the beginning he was shivering because of anxiety caused by thinking about the issue. Half an hour later he felt courage. I checked up later and he faced situation X in a relaxed way. Another member of the circle B mentioned that it was like me talking a different language to A. The flow of the whole process was intransparent to B. As such it's unlikely that describing what I did in a LW essay would be much help. A lot of what's written in the akrasia fighting methods carries little risk. Doing some form of trauma regression to combat your anxiety while you sit alone at home is qualitatively different. A month ago the loud drilling machine of my neighbors produced an uncomfortable feeling in me. I recognized that having that trigger is stupid and removed most of it. Does that mean I can write a text that teaches you to get rid of it? No. If I would meet you in person I would have information about your bodily state that helps to put the answer into perspective. Without that it's hard to estimate your state.
It's awesome that you're able to help people so well. At the same time, though, I get the feeling that you're falling into the trap of other-optimizing. In-person support is probably a lot more helpful than internet-based support, I suspect. But when the right people aren't around you, and you can't go to them, having instant communication over the internet is a good second-best. Certainly over the internet there's things you can't do, like determine a physical state. But if people refused to use any method but the absolute best, we'd spend more time trying to find optimal strategies than anything else, and humanity would die out because we'd be too busy designing soylent to eat.
It's not like I don't give out any internet based advice. In this thread I did make a point to recommend gratitude journaling. It's good even if you don't do it in a group. I haven't heard from anyone messing themselves up with gratitude journaling. Another recommendation would be meditating. Meditating is more risky. It makes suppressed emotions come up and you have to deal with them. I have no way of judging to what extend a person like you will handle that, because I don't know much about you. I know that on average meditating is great, but it's not without risks. The standard advice would be to find a good local meditation teacher but I can't say anything about the quality of your local teachers. I don't think it's impossible to give good advice via skype in principle but it's not a skill in which I'm well trained.
I meditate regularly- not quite daily, because when I get into a meditative state, I tend to not want to come out. When I do meditate, I'm still and quiet for at LEAST an hour. If I try to meditate for, say, 30 minutes, I end up setting another timer because I didn't get deep enough into quiet state. Meditation doesn't bring up suppressed emotions for me, though. I do journal, but not gratitude journaling. I haven't tried that one because it seems more suited to a sad, apathetic person than a person who cares too much about everything and tends to minimize the good and maximize the bad. I like tracking the anxiety, though, and writing down thoughts lets me temporarily remove them from my mental state.
To me that description suggest that are not meditating in an effective way. An hour meditating alone is likely too much. You likely aren't present but are disassociating. Doing 20 minute sessions where you focus on feeling your breath in your hara while sitting still in a stable position would likely bring up emotions from time to time. Otherwise meditating with a good teacher beats doing it alone. But of course I don't know the quality of teachers where you live.
Huh. That actually does sound like what I do. Everything I've come across has suggested that's what you're supposed to do, though. And it is very relaxing. I have no idea if any good teachers are around, but if they were, I couldn't afford lessons. Is there a reason why dissociating is bad? Because it's really enjoyable and makes me feel energetic and relaxed- even more than a full night of sleep does.
If you don't process the emotions that are in your body, they build up. In your case from time to time they release themselves in a panic attack. Detachment from emotions is useful disassociation isn't. In detachment an emotion can dissolve on it's own. You are aware of the emotion but you don't get meta emotions. You don't do anything with it. Without a new trigger that usually means that the body can go and work through the emotions. If there only one emotion in your system and no meta-reactions towards it, then the full processing ability can be used on that one issue. That's what happens during mindful meditation. Instead of doing 10 things at once, there's actually rooms to really process on thing at a time. That doesn't have to be a case, it's quite frequent to have meditation events on a donation basis.

I overcame depression a few years ago and have been meaning to write about how I did it, but honestly, the current me is so different from the old me, that I don't even remember how being depressed felt.

I do remember some of the things that got me out of the depression:

  • Coming independently to the insight that I should "Avoid Misinterpreting my Emotions". One day, I was sitting there thinking the same old depressed thoughts I'd usually thought. Something like "what's the purpose of doing anything." But, I realized that when those wor

... (read more)

I have anxiety/depression/ADHD and aspirations in conflict with my abilities and situation in life.

One strategy I have learned to employ which I consider "rational" is to approach maintenance of my mood and mental health as a limited resource allocation problem. One of the big leaps was learning to see my good mood as a limited resource which is spent as I think about potentially difficult or disturbing topics.

It is not "free" for me to consider all the ways I might do better in life, or past mistakes I have made, or ways the world is m... (read more)

Stimulants are extremely effective for ADHD, definitely make sure to take them if you are not.
[-][anonymous]8y 3

My advice for anyone with any mental illness is to talk to somebody you can feel comfortable around about your problems. Often a therapist is that person, but not always. If you don't think your condition is serious enough to require medication, trying to discern the often minute differences between therapies can be more trouble than it's worth. Even if you discover the optimum therapy, there's no guarantee you'll get optimum implementation, eliminating the difference in value.

It's hard to give good advice on the topic of mental illness without falling into the trap of Other-Optimizing.

Agreed. But mental illness is such a weird and complex thing that it's even hard for trained professionals to help with. A lot of the posts here about Akrasia helped some, didn't touch others. I suspect we'd see the same results with this.

There are two battling narratives of mental illness. The first narrative says that mental illness is a disease of the mind, the second that it is a disease of the brain.

The "mind" story is that these illnesses come from bad ways of thinking, whether this be childhood trauma, diseased patterns of thoughts, etc. The treatment is therefore in psychotherapy, CBT, or other such. To the extent that this narrative is true, discussion of mental illness is likely relevant to rationality.

However, the other narrative is that mental illnesses come from chemi... (read more)

To the extent that LW is a hive of reductionism, we believe that the mind is the brain, and psychotherapy and medicine can both be used to treat its diseases.
I'm afraid you're missing the point. If mental illness comes from (say) bad patterns of thinking, then pharmaceuticals won't work as a treatment, except as a temporary and generalised mood-alterer. According to this narrative, giving a depressed person SSRIs is like giving painkillers to a patient with a broken leg; worthwhile as a temporary measure, but unimportant compared to the crucial task of setting the bone, which only trained therapy can do. Advocates of this point of view typically cite the unimpressive performance of certain kinds of pharmaceutical therapies when compared to placebo. If mental illness comes from (say) faulty synaptic function, then therapy won't work as a treatment, except as a placebo. According to this narrative, giving a depressed person CBT is like a nurse providing reassurance to a patient with a broken leg; worthwhile, but unimportant compared to the crucial task of setting the bone, which only biochemical intervention can do. Advocates of this point of view typically cite the impressive performance of pharmaceutical regimens in dealing with certain mental illnesses, the poor performance of various talking therapies compared to "placebo therapy"+, and the historical lack of interest of talking therapies in empirical validation. Now I call these "narratives" because they are deliberate oversimplifications; riparianx is right that it may well be that some mental illnesses are "mind" and some are "brain," and some a bit of both. Nevertheless they express very real ways of thinking about the problem. In 1940 the medical consensus was that the first narrative was broadly true. By 1990, the medical consensus was closer to the second. * i.e. allowing the patient to discuss their problems with an untrained, sympathetic listener.
Coming from a reductionist "mind is brain" viewpoint, therapy actually does help. This is pretty well documented in the fact that 73% of patients who go through it say it helped in the long run. (statistic from my psych 101 textbook) Talking to a therapist may not increase your serotonin levels, but it does help teach you new mental "patterns" and ways to cope with the results. Saying the brain doesn't follow patterns is, well, wrong. The more you have a thought, the more the thought comes to you. If a chemical imbalance puts you in a mood that leaves you susceptible to a kind of thought, then you'll have that thought and start a negative pattern. So even then, if the chemical imbalance is fixed, you can still be stuck with the results. Therapy helps you build more positive patterns and maybe even let the old ones fade.
You have to admit, this is weak tea. What would you think of a pharmacological study that relied on the fact that 73% of patients "say it helped." We don't need no stinkin' effect size or control! As I'm sure you're aware, there is a great deal of controversy about the effectiveness of talking therapies, and it is even controversial [] whether such therapy really does anything more than "just talking." Now look, I too am in the reductionist "mind = brain" camp, and I too think therapy can be effective in principle. I am actually very sceptical of the idea that mental problems such as depression, anxiety and OCD result from a generalised "hardware" problem (such as faulty neuroendocrine function). Yet just by mentioning the (very widely held) notion that these problems do have such a basis, I'm apparently espousing dualism. It's very strange. Who exactly said that?
The issue isn't that you mentioned the notion that the problem might be due to faulty neuroendocrine function but that you assume that talking can't do anything about that. If you limit talk therapy to the goal of changing the mind and ignore hardware than you lose effectiveness. Granted it's impossible to get good feedback to do targeted interventions on the biochemical level but the body is still vitally important. But even given SSRI isn't targeted intervention on the biochemical level. According to a recent article []: SSRI might also work by reducing inflammation. They also hit targets outside the brain. Depression correlates with inflammatory cytokines. There are efforts underway to focus on diagnosing depression with blood tests and if those tests come the prime measuring stick the official definition of depression might even include inflamation.
Or that distinction simply doesn't make any sense.
Do you really think it doesn't make sense to make a distinction between: * Mental illnesses are caused by negative patterns of conscious and unconscious thought. * Mental illnesses are caused by biochemical imbalances in the brain. Or are you just trolling?
If I hug a person and the person feels better I can explain that with a raise in oxytocin or with changed unconscious thoughts about how the person feels liked. Making that distinction isn't useful for guiding actions. Any psychopharmaceutical is going to affect thinking patterns. Furthermore there are issues in depression that are neither mind nor brain. Above I spoke about releasing a trigger against my neighbors drilling machine. That involved noticing that part of my head get tense in response to the sound and releasing the tension. There's no mind-body dualism in that approach.
No-one's saying anything about mind-body dualism - except you. Maybe a building is toppling over because of faulty design. Or maybe because the materials are substandard. These are separable issues, even though it is quite true that the design of the building is completely explicable in terms of materials. Yes, psychoparmaceuticals affect thinking patterns, and yes, thinking patterns are fundamentally explicable in terms of biochemical states. But it is nevertheless the case that no amount of talking is going to fix someone's pre-synaptic uptake processes.
Using substandard materials is itself a design flaw.
Distinguishing the mind from the brain is what mind body dualism is all about. I have no reason to believe that's true. Talking can trigger hormonal release and those hormons can change pre-synaptic uptake processes.
My opinion is that saying that all mental illness falls into one camp is oversimplifying. Someone who's schizophrenic is definitely in the brain category, according to the current consensus I've seen. Depression is moving into that camp. Anxiety is on the fence- it can be chemical or mental. If I were to answer "is mental illness a mind thing or a brain thing?" my answer would be "neither, both, one, or the other" because the brain is a complex thing and breaks in a lot of different ways. Anxiety, for instance, is typically treated with temporary medication and long-term therapy. We treat it as "mostly mind, hint of brain." Depression is treated with long-term therapy AND medication, or just medication. It can be a product of thinking patterns, but the consensus now seems to be that it's mostly a hormone thing. It feels, to me, like if two groups were arguing "grass is yellow" or "grass is blue" when most grass is green but there are weird variants that are yellow or blue.

On of the best studied interventions for increasing happiness and thus help with issues like depression are gratitude exercises.

With a few friends I just started a group where everyone posts an audio message into a "What's up" before going to sleep about 5 good things that happened to him the last day. I'm just at day one, but I would expect the exercise to be very beneficial for both increasing happiness and creating group cohesion/friendships among LessWrong Meetup participants.

Bragging may be more useful. I came up with that idea after reading this: [] If depressed people feel like burdens on others i.e. have low self-worth,self-esteem, it may be better to boost that than to feel lucky. I mean, I always had this opinion, I felt good about myself, why would I have a reason to feel bad about anything? To feel still worthless but lucky - which gratitude exercises may cause - does not sound like fixing it. The opposite extreme, feeling worthy and great but unlucky, would sound quite cool to me, it sounds like being a tragic hero whom people respect. That is why I think bragging, feeling better about yourself, may be a good idea.
So you think the idea of a rational support group could work? I'd certainly be interested in one. Any idea how one could be set up? Meetups are a little too far and few to be really effective, I think.
It's a vague general label. Part of what happens at our LW meetup in Berlin could be called a "rational support group". I don't think that's true. If there's no LW meetup nearby, start one. Bootstrapping trust is easier when one meets in person.
A meetup sort of requires more than one person. There aren't even any other HPMoR readers in my area, except the person I introduced to it. I'm sure this is a problem for others, too. Being the sole LWer in your area that you can find is frustrating. I'm in central Oklahoma, and according to surveys and the like, I'm pretty much the only Oklahoman here. And I'm pretty sure this is a common plight- Berlin is a big city full of interesting people with interesting viewpoints. What if you're from, say, Ukiah, Oregon, or Mobile, Alabama, or a place even smaller or further out of the way? Physical meetups are most effective, but kind of a luxury.
Yes. I'm in Northeast Arkansas. I considered trying to reach the St Louis Meetup Groups (my town's only cheap way out for someone who can't drive just happens to be to St Louis, and only St Louis), but for a number of reasons that never happened before that meetup group was defunct. did briefly have a skeptics group in my town. Briefly--before I could get over my panic at the "describe yourself" requirement, it, too, was defunct. Otherwise, the meetups within 50 miles of me appear to include moms and a group of board gamers in Memphis.
-5ChristianKl8y seems like a great resource to find supplements to help with different types of mental disorders.

[-][anonymous]7y 0

One of the more useful books I've read on the topic of mental illness is Adventures in Psychiatry by Dr. Abram Hoffer, a research scientist and medical doctor. He did the first double-blind studies of using vitamins to treat schizophrenia in the 1950s. He gave LSD to an architect to help the architect understand what patients may experience, so as to make the design of a clinic better. Those are just two examples of interesting things he did in his life.

The book can be hard to find on Amazon, or in brick-and-mortar book stores, but it can be ordered fro... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y -1

Why should LW be a mental consuler? No offense intended - but I bet there are people out there who will help more than anyone one LW can.

You're right that LW is definitely not going to be a cure-all, and obviously I'm not asking for everyone on LW to band together to fight this one problem. A lot of the people here have their own projects. But I think that LW could be a great help to people who are trying to get help and can't- either because they can't afford mental health care, or because their health care isn't helping. LW is a brilliant educational place that bases a lot on science and cognitive studies. I think this could easily extend to helping with mental illness. Mental illness is a complex thing, and everyone who has one is complex in a different way. That's why mental illness is so hard to treat. Most of the theories about what the causes are (genetics, brain chemistry, etc.) aren't supported well enough by science to help. It can take years to find the right cocktail of drugs to fight a specific mental illness a person has, and that same cocktail won't work for someone else with the same problem. LW sort of has a talent for sorting out bad science.
I wonder if MetaMed does mental illness. Last I heard, they're still in the early, way-too-expensive-for-the-likes-of-me phase, but they're more or less "LW-affiliated rationalists try to filter the science to optimize your solution".
Argh. This post sounds like a lot of inefficiencies. Let's be practical and use the KISS principle the right way. What are your problems? What are you trying to improve? I'm no therapist, and my english is too bad to produce a decent quote, but I'm still quite sure that you can get amazing results if you cross off "mental illness" and open a new page with "self improvement". You're free to ad hominem me. You're free to do whatever you want. But the bottom line is that as long as you don't strive to better yourself, you're doomed, no matter who you are.
Your english is better than the english of a lot of native speakers. Well... yeah, online discussion is inefficient. But when you're cut off from the efficient options, you probably shouldn't throw up your hands and give up. I'm not sure if that's what you meant, though. I think you may be disregarding the viewpoints of others, here. You can't do any efficient self-improvement if you refuse to call your problems what they are. It might feel nice to say "You know what? I'm not mentally ill. I just need to improve myself." I WANT to improve myself. Most people here do. I've hit a roadblock here, and I want to talk to other people that have, or have in the past. I'd like to hear the viewpoints of others. What worked, what didn't, etc. Group therapy/discussions with people with the same problem or similar have been extremely helpful to a lot of people. Also, "keep it simple, stupid" is only helpful when the problem can be simplified further. Simplifying things is really hard when we don't understand them, and mental illness is one of science's big question marks. I'm not trying to ad hominem you, and I'm sorry if I came off that way.
I doubt it. Who cares about mental illness? There's action and inaction. Action WILL lead to something and if you do it well you'll get GOOD results.. Inaction gets you nothing no matter what you do. No, it's always useful and is a good way to think about things in general. Why should things be more complex when they can be simplier? Do you begin with a simple (or rather, minimal) model and later expand on it or just build a complex theory and try it? The time investment, effort, and return are way better on the simple route, the complex route sucks because by the time you do both you WILL get a sharper pencil using the simple way. You should also remember that complex things are built out of simple things, so you won't be a complex master before you're a simple superhypermegaultragrand-master. I think I need anger control.