The implications of labeling behaviors as either normal or abnormal can be far-reaching for both the individual and the society. The main area of concern is stigmatization, for common people don’t have a proper understanding of what different mental illnesses entail. Historically, people carrying mental illnesses were loosely classified as ‘insane’, with all the attendant negative connotations for the term. But in truth, not all mental illnesses can be related to insanity, and in most cases, a bout of illness is transient and temporary. For example, a bereaved husband who has lost his wife can be expected to fall into depression. But it is unlikely that the person is characteristically depressive. In this case, his depression is a proper and normal response to the situation. It is also a well documented fact that most creative artists are temperamentally volatile and prone to display signs of bipolar mood disorder. The British comedian Stephen Fry has stated that his creative output increases greatly during the manic cycles only to dry up during the depressive episodes. This case illustrates the danger in labeling psychological behavior as normal and abnormal. (Daniels, 2009)
The classification certain mental traits as abnormal have in recent decades attracted criticism. This is especially true with respect to certain high achievers in art, science and literature, whose exceptional talents in their chosen field has correlated with deficiencies in other aspects. For example, the Nobel Prize winner for Mathematics John Nash is famous for both his mathematical genius and his lifelong schizophrenia. Going back a few centuries, Isaac Newton, one of the most influential physicists, was notorious for his socially reclusive lifestyle and pronounced introversion. Many great writers of the twentieth century, including Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, Iris Murdoch, etc suffered regular bouts of depression. Could abnormality be bad if it leads to such great creative output? Hence, labels such as normal and abnormal could at best be vague indications and at worst be totally irrelevant. Considering that society still attaches stigma to psychological disorders, one should exercise caution and judiciousness before using such labels.
Some of the most common psychological disorders presently include anxiety, phobia, panic attacks, major depression, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, psycho-somatic illnesses, personality disturbances, etc. A dominant diagnostic paradigm in acceptance today is that most of these conditions are induced by neuro-chemical deficiencies that could be rectified through oral intake of medicine. Anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin and other anti-psychotic medicines have become part of common parlance. Each year, mental health professionals write millions of prescriptions for these drugs. But the effectiveness and safety of these drugs are highly contested. One of the main criticisms leveled against these medicines are their poorly designed trial runs which last a mere six weeks. Obviously, it is impossible to predict the long term effects on a patient based on the results of a six week trial. Moreover, many of the side effects of these drugs are either suppressed or underplayed, leading to adverse reactions in unwary consumers.