M is for Mental Illness

Following on from yesterday, this one is another difficult topic.

“Mental illness in EDS is frequent, diverse, and strongly associated with pain” is literally the title of a paper I was reading a few weeks ago, and I am honestly not surprised.

Or, to put it another way “I’m not shocked that being in unpredictable, incurable pain is going to make someone a bit mental.”

As far as we can tell though, there’s even more to it. I’ve mentioned before that we’ve got slightly strange adrenal systems – For whatever reason (possibly because of all the pain, actually) we get spikes of adrenalin at the slightest provocation, which causes, amongst other things, sudden spikes of anxiety. And it doesn’t take all that much for a disposition towards anxiety to turn into generalised anxiety disorder, or OCD, or anxiety-and-depression, or bipolar, or any number of other things. Likewise, I saw an article (which I should have saved the link to, actually) which suggested that hypermobile brains and autistic brains shared a lot of basic similarities, and there’s a known statistical correlation between hypermobility and autism (though that’s a correlation, not anything more definite than that, and there’s correlations between all sorts of unrelated things).


It shouldn’t be a shock that our brains aren’t quite “normal” – There’s collagen in the brain, after all.


This, though should be balanced with what I always think is a fairly sensible and obvious statement, but at least a few medical professionals that I’ve known have completely misunderstood; Hypermobility is not the mental illness. Being in pain is not the mental illness. It is possible to be completely mad, and still be factually correct when you say “My leg hurts more than I can bear” or “The reason I don’t walk is because I can’t walk”.

Because some medical professionals still see someone that’s in crippling pain, that can’t manage their daily activities without serious fatigue and loss of function, and automatically decide that they’re just “functionally impaired”, as in that their mind has convinced them that they’re ill. Somatisation, so to speak. This is especially cruel with things like subluxations which resolve on their own, resulting in trips to A+E ending in “But I wasn’t fine when I got here” and assumptions that you’re either mad or drug-seeking.


Honestly, today will be a short entry because I am actually feeling pretty bloody mentally unwell anyway. Sleep time.


(Notable runners-up to be “M is for…”; Molluscoid pseudotumors, morphine, motion sickness, muscle relaxants)

4 thoughts on “M is for Mental Illness

  1. As I believe I have written previously, part of yer problem here is that most clinicians of whatever stripe have little experience of severe pain and almost none of chronic pain and so have little grasp of what you and other zebras and the likes of Maria experience. And then they forget a basic of clinical practice: listen to your patient!

    Then throw in the puritanical attitude to pain relief…And some dubious assumptions about addiction…


    • Spot on – It’s pretty telling the number of doctors (both physical health and headpokers) that I’ve known who’ve never really realised that “pain” means “pain” – It’s not just twenty minutes of screaming in A+E, or a metaphor. No idea how we teach them, really.

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