Yesterday, I mentioned that the preferred term for mental problems, typically called "insanity," "craziness," or "madness," is "psychopathology." "Pathology" is the study and diagnosis of disease. The word "pathology" is from Greek πάθος (pathos) meaning "feeling, suffering"; and -λογία, (-logia) meaning "the study of." Pathologization, (to pathologize), refers to the process of defining a condition or behavior as pathological, e.g. a pathological gambler, or a pathological liar. "Pathologies" are synonymous with diseases. Therefore, Psychopathology is the study of mental illness, mental distress, and abnormal/maladaptive behavior. The term is most commonly used within psychiatry where pathology refers to disease processes. Abnormal psychology is a similar term used more frequently in the non-medical field of psychology.
Mental illness, or disease, may be caused by food allergies, brain tumors, a chemical imbalance in the brain, head trauma, or by recognized diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, a group of brain disorders that cause progressive loss of intellectual and social skills. Another well know mental disease, Schizophrenia, is a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking and behavior. The ability of people with Schizophrenia to function normally and to care for themselves tends to deteriorate over time.
Most Theologians agree with much of what the mental health professionals have to say on the subject, but they hold somewhat different views on the cause of mental illnesses. The Bible teaches us that mankind chooses to live contrary to the teachings of God's Word; that is, man chooses to sin. Sinful behavior that is repeated over and over again, produces "cognitive dissonance." Cognitive dissonance is a stressful feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. In other words, in order for man to continue to do what his conscience tells him is wrong, he "overrides" it. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 has this to say on the matter: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron."
Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will discuss Romans 1:23-32 as it relates to the "madness" we see in our world today.