Based on what understanding are we diagnosing “mental illness?”

In medical school, medical students hold the human heart in their hands. They inspect the heart from all angles. They dissect the heart. They see how its anatomy relates to its physiology. Informed by this understanding, they later go on to diagnose and treat heart disease.

In medical school, medical students hold the human liver in their hands. They inspect the liver from all angles. They dissect the liver. They see how its anatomy relates to its physiology. Informed by this understanding, they later go on to diagnose and treat liver disease.

In medical school, medical students do not hold the mind in their hands. They do not inspect the mind from all angles. They do not dissect the mind. They do not see how its anatomy relates to its physiology. All of which begs the question…

Based on what understanding and authority are we labeling, diagnosing, and treating “mental illness?”

What is the mind?

Where is the mind?

What is the range of the mind?

What patterns does it follow?

We would not diagnose a heart condition correctly if we only knew about one ventricle of the heart. We would not diagnose a liver condition correctly if we only knew about the portal vein. Why, then, do we expect to diagnose the condition of the mind correctly when there is a greater depth of literature on the mind outside medical science than within medical science?

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the upcoming book Is This a Dream? He tweets @DrAnoopKumar.