My definition of health is how well your body is functioning, and if it has anything adversely effecting it that makes it deviate from the norm, which would indicate a lack of health. My idea of illness is the what prevents you from fully functioning or what causes the problems. So the deciding factors on whether to include sadness as an illness was basically if occurred for a specific reason, or if it was a completely random and general feeling. The way I see it is that if you are sad for a specific reason such as a death in the family, then it is not a illness exactly, but a natural process that you must go through in order to cope. This would make it a healing mechanism. The other option is that it is a general feeling of depression, which is in my mind a different issue. This could be a symptom of a different problem, such as a chemical imbalance, or it could be your subconscious alerting you to the fact that you are not satisfied with your life. In this case I would say that it is in fact an illness.

These ideals mostly came from my family, and after that from society/culture. I believe that the largest influence in a persons life and ideals is from their family with the culture being the second most influential. Personal experience also plays a role in this, but most of the personal experience was in the context of family so it is drastically effected by how my family reacts.

I consider anxiety to be in a similar position as sadness in the context that it can be an illness if certain criteria are met, but otherwise it is just a natural response to external stimuli. I had a bit of trouble classifying menstruation, since as a male I have a bit more limited outlook on this, but in general I believe that it is not an illness, but is instead a natural biological function. Even being a biological function and serving a purpose, it still would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis to see how it effected the individual rather than just saying whether it is a illness or not. In my mind old age is most definitely not an illness. Although it has an adverse effect on your life, it is a natural part of life that all organisms must undergo and being old isn’t necessarily bad.

Healthy or Not?

My definition of being healthy is feeling a sense a well-being–not feeling physically or mentally out of sorts or feeling like I am sick. Nothing is out of whack so-to-speak.  I do not have a fever, virus, or any type of sickness that would require a physician, medication or anything to get back to my state of well being.  If you have cancer or heart disease you have an altered state of health and you are not healthy.

Illness however is not feeling quite right to put it simply.  Sometimes it is just as simple as a cold, fever or minor disturbance but you know you do not feel like you normally would.  A medical disease is an illness.  The majority of diseases you can code are illnesses.  Some are merely conditions–temporary states. You have an illness if you have a medical condition whether or not it is treatable.

I would not consider old age to be an illness, it is a stage of life everyone goes through. For some people it is a state of mind.  Some old people think young and some young people are very old.   It is not something you can treat like a cold or the flu.  Spirit possession is not a illness because it can be in a person’s mind and not real.  If a person is schizophrenic, they may think they are being possessed by a spirit but the schizophrenia would be the illness. That is not a healthy person, they have an illness, which can be treated. Menstruation is a condition that women get it is not a disease or a disorder.   These are the three that are experienced but cannot be considered an illness that one would seek treatment for unless the symptoms surrounding them are a reason for treatment.  Excessive menstruation could be treated and a person seeing things that are not there (spirits), may be a reason to initiate treatment for the underlying symptoms such as delusions.




Old Age

My definition would be any individual being in the normative state and free from any kind of disease or illness. I know its kind of a broad definition but it works pretty well too, it means that you are not suffering any kind of pathogenic disease and that your body is functioning properly and with out any issues. It also means that your mental state is normal too. Normal can have different meanings and definitions for different people but in this case it would mean was is generally considered normal for your society and culture.


Illness on the other hand I think is pretty much the opposite. Illness is the state of being anywhere away from “normal” whether that is biological, psychological, or even socially and culturally.


I really feel like these ideas came from how I was raised and is just part of the American culture. We generally see health as being able to function completely and illness as somehow being wrong or off and in some way not being able to function like everyone else.

The Flu: I consider this a definite disease, not an illness. it is something that is caused by the pathogenic inflenza virus that causes the bodies response to it. Definitely a disease.

Cancer: Again, I would consider this one a disease and not an illness.  Cancer is caused by a genetic mutation and some problem in the chromosome.  This mutation grows and effects many systems of the body.  While there are definitely some psychological and societal attributes of cancer, it is definitely more of a disease.

Anxiety: this is one that I would consider more of an illness. Though it has some physical attributes I would say that it is largely a psychological and social effector. I would say that because it effects more in these realms that it is an illness and not a disease.


My definition of health is the harmony of the body and mind, clear of disease or physical deformity.  This could be being physically active, and stimulating the mind with some brain teasing puzzles or games.  Illness is the perception of the mind that something is wrong, causing the person to feel a symptom that is not really there.  My definitions of these words have come from things I learned in school, and from my own observations of others.  Also, I am able to draw from my own personal experiences, especially with the illness part because if I did not want to do something and if I thought about it hard enough I could cause my own symptoms.

I do not believe that “Infertility” is an illness.  Some people and animals are born infertile and there is nothing they can do about it.  It is a part of them just like any emotion we may feel.  There is no escaping it and it is accepted into their everyday lives.  I do not believe that “Poverty” is considered an illness as well.  Poverty is an economic status felt by those in low class and should not be confused with a state of mind that people choose to live in.  Nobody wants to live in poverty, but some are forced due to the choices they made at an earlier point in their lives.  It is reversible, but it is not treatable like an illness.  I do not consider “Sadness” to be an illness as well.  Sadness is an emotion that everyone feels, but it is in no way an illness.  Depression, which is a much more severe version of sadness, is an illness, but depression is not felt by everyone.  If someone is exposed to sadness on a regular basis, it may upgrade to depression, but sadness itself is not an illness to me.


I think of health as how alive someone is – or perhaps how close or far away they may be from dying. For example, someone who may be very underfed and malnourished would be unhealthy. They may not have long to live. On the other hand, someone that maintains a physical lifestyle and a balanced diet is healthy. They can likely prolong their expected life through maintaining their lifestyle.

Illness, I believe, is an attribute of someone when they or their body is behaving in a way outside of their control, outside of the norm, and possibly operating in a negative way. For example, someone with a mental condition is said to have a mental illness, because they do not act in the typical behavior that we would observe other people acting in. Someone who is sick may also be ill or have illness, because their body isn’t acting how it should. It may be causing someone pain and may need to be healed as a result.

I believe these ideas were ingrained due to our culture. I have grown up in the United States, and the definition of healthy is the same definition that I posted – because that’s what our culture idolizes: people who work out, eat healthy, are physically active. However, we might compare ourselves to people living in Africa and say that we are more healthy because of these reasons, although someone from Africa may think differently as they have a very different view of “healthy”.

Firstly, cancer can obviously seen as an illness. A tumor grows, and eventually it doesn’t stop growing. Other cells become cancerous, and it can easily result in death unless untreated. This falls in line with illness because the body shouldn’t become cancerous – it should be healthy and grow normally. Regardless, cancer can happen, and it’s certainly not in line with a normal, healthy lifestyle.

Secondly, I would say sadness can be classified as an illness. At least, depression can. Everyone becomes sad at one point or another. In fact, if someone didn’t, I’d believe they were ill. Depression has been shown to happen through a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s not something that can be helped, and someone who is depressed is sad more often than someone who isn’t, which to me sounds like an illness.

Finally, there is shyness. This was the hardest to classify for me. On one hand, it can be an illness, as someone may have mental issues and not have the same social capacity to be outgoing like others are. This would be an illness. On the other hand, everyone can become shy at one point or another, and this is due to human behavior. It’s not a defect or something caused by being unhealthy, it’s simply a personality trait. Due to this, I believe shyness can safely be classified as not an illness. If someone is particularly shy, it may not be that they are only shy – there is likely another mental condition contributing to the issue, and that is the disease, not shyness.

Old Age

I started by defining health in biological terms. To me, health means being having a certain functional capacity that keeps the body balanced, and being in general free from disease, injury, or other malady. A deciding factor in this definition could be the absence or presence of clinical symptoms of a disease, or the ability or inability of the body to function normally. A person’s illness is the perception of a state of negatively altered health that detracts from his or her health, and which fits within the person’s cultural context. A deciding factor for this definition of illness could be what the person’s culture designates as an illness, and if what the person is feeling fits within that perceived definition.

I feel that these ideas about health and illness have developed from a number of sources, including society, personal experience, and formal education. Society influenced these views because it is the cultural context I grew up in, and gave me a basis for comparison of health, illness, and disease. Personal experience has also been a factor, because there have of course been times where I considered myself ill, and other times when I considered myself health, or anywhere in between. Lastly, as a science student, I have taken biology and medicine related classes that have given me more precise frameworks for what each field considers illness and health.

The conditions listed in the video lecture were all difficult to define, because I feel that each could possibly be considered an illness. For me, the distinction is subjective because it depends on the person experiencing it; the deciding factor is if they perceive themselves to be experiencing an illness. Old age was difficult to classify. From an outsider’s perspective, as a person who has not experienced old age, I found it hard to classify as an illness. Old age is a natural experience and part of a natural life cycle, and in and of itself not a deviation from wellbeing. Sadness was also hard to classify, because it is a normal emotion experienced at some time or another by most people. However, in excessive amounts, it can largely contribute to depression, which is an altered health state I would consider an illness. Lastly, I found shyness difficult to classify because it is an intrinsic characteristic of a person, not generally something that is “contracted” like other diseases can be. If the people experiencing shyness do not consider themselves to have an altered state of health, I would not consider shyness an illness.


Health is a state of physical, social, and psychological well-being within a given social, cultural, and environmental context. Sometimes we describe being healthy as eating the right foods and exercising, but I think the true definition goes beyond that. Not only does it mean to be without illness or disease, but you also have to take into account the mind. So, an illness is an unhealthy condition of the body or mind. When the body is out of homeostasis and loses some stability, it becomes ill.  The lecture slides describe illness as the human experience and perceptions of alternations in health, as informed by its broader social and cultural contexts.

I would say that a combination of things have influenced me on what I think it means to be healthy or ill. When I think of health as described by the media, I think diet and exercise. Now almost every restaurant/fast food place has a “healthy” section of the menu to try to entice people to eat at their establishment. On top of that, you cannot go a half hour without seeing an infomercial for some new workout routine that will get you in shape in no time. That’s the physical aspect of health. School has definitely had an impact of my definitions of the two. Since I can remember I have learned about the human body and how it works. Lastly, my family has played a part in my knowledge of health and illness. When I got sick as a child, my parents would take care of me depending on what my symptoms were. If it was a little more serious, I would visit a doctor.

The three conditions from the list that I chose to discuss were migraines, old age, and illness. Trying to decide whether or not migraines were an illness was probably the most difficult choice. I would have to say the migraines are an illness. People who suffer from migraines face moderate to severe headaches and nausea, which affects an individual’s well-being. Old age was the next item from the list to decide. In my opinion, old age is not an illness. For those who are lucky enough to live long enough, old age is just a natural part of life. Just like grey hair and wrinkles, getting older happens to everyone. Lastly, I would not classify poverty as an illness. Poverty means that one is lacking material things or money. Though I don’t think poverty is an illness, I think it can lead to things that would affect an individual’s well-being.

Old Age


Health, in my own words, could be defined as not being ill, sick, or having a disease. Illness, on the other hand, I would define as being sick, or in other terms, not healthy. Illness can describe an actual condition a person may have, or just the mental state of not feeling well. I think these ideas came from a combination of multiple sources including family, culture (society), media, school, etc. One of the most important influences on these ideas I would say is society, because society teaches us certain ways to think about and deal with our health and illnesses and each society deals with these things differently.

One of most difficult conditions to place in a category, for me atleast, was old age. After contemplating whether old age would be an illness or not, I decided that it is, indeed, not an illness. Although there can be many illnesses associated with old age, old age itself is not always something that affects health. Aging is a natural process that every person must go through, and although illness may come with getting older, it does not necessarily always bring on illness.

Three other conditions from the list include migraines, cancer, and HIV. All three of these I would consider an illness. Migraines are something that I personally suffer from, and something that has greatly affected my life in a negative way. Most migraines are caused by imbalances, or nerve interactions, in the brain, and can be very painful. Continuing on, I do not think that anyone would not consider cancer an illness. Cancer has many side effects that cause illness in many people all over the world, and has a great emotional toll. Finally is HIV. HIV is a virus that can be transmitted person to person, and has a large effect on the immune system of its host. Overall, all three of these conditions can have a great effect on the mental, physical, and social stand point of their victims which is why I consider them illnesses.


My definition of health is not only the absence of infection and chronic conditions, but also represents a state of biological, cognitive, and social well-being. Likewise, illness is any affliction that causes deviation from a state of optimal living, whether it be a foreign organism, a congenital defect, or a physiological aberration in function or structure. My deciding factor for the manifestation of illness is the experience of distress or disorder in psychological, emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal realms.

These ideas originated both from Western biomedicine and my empirically-rooted background in science, and from my Culture, Health, and Illness course.  I also think the resurgence of a movement towards natural and organic remedies in the media has perpetuated a more holistic, integrated perspective on health and wellness.  This, in conjunction with the advent of germ theory and vaccinations to immunize against acute disease, has shifted emphasis from health as absence of pathogens to health as an all-encompassing, ideal state of physical, mental, religious and social harmony.

Accordingly, ADHD is classified as an illness, since it detracts from optimal performance by disrupting learning and attention. It can have disabling effects upon academic, occupational, and interpersonal aptitude. Moreover, it qualifies as an illness due to the implication of anatomical and neurotransmitter perturbations.

Similarly, HIV is an illness since it is a communicable retrovirus, which is intrusive upon biological, psychological, and social spheres. The decline in immunity leads to opportunistic pathogens and bodily degeneration; this compromises ability to remain employed, and diagnosis can cause stigma that affects emotional welfare and constrains relationships. In contrast, I think HIV is a disease and not an illness in its early stages, as a person that is asymptomatic while the virus is latent may be ignorant of their HIV-positivity and will not experience debility or negative social or psychological consequences.

However, I do not think sadness is an illness unless it is of sufficient duration, frequency, and severity to inhibit normal functioning in any of the realms discussed.  Unlike clinical depression, sadness is a disposition on a spectrum of normative emotions, and would not be an illness unless it interfered with the person’s daily living, caused social alienation, or was perceived by the person to cause significant distress. Here, it is the person’s experience of being unwell and their illness narrative that determines whether their affective state can be considered an illness.


I defined health as having a fully functioning body and mind, but also think of it as the absence of disease.  Illness, on the other hand, is an abnormal condition or disease that impairs the body and/or mind from working properly.

I think that my idea of health being the absence of disease came from the way I experienced health care growing up.  At my annual check-ups, so long as none of the tests came back with negative or abnormal results, I was proclaimed healthy.  Illness in my mind was distinguished by clear signs and symptoms of disease.  As I progressed in school, I further developed my concept of health.  We were taught that health has many components besides the physical aspect, including social and mental health.  Growing up with a mom who works as a dietitian, I was also raised to think of health as stemming from a healthy lifestyle and diet, kind of like the “surplus health” mentioned in the lecture.

Sadness was the hardest condition to classify for me.  I have grown up with many of my family members suffering from depression and can see it as a disease.  It definitely can have physical manifestations like low energy and over- or under-eating, and prevents people from fully using their mental energy.  On the other hand, sadness takes many forms, and while chronic depression might fit my description of illness, sadness is a normal emotion that everyone can experience periodically or in response to events.

One condition that I would not classify as illness is poverty.  While poverty often leads to diminished health and disease, the term refers to a socio-economic status that is outside of the body.  The living conditions of poverty often do manifest themselves in poor nutrition, sanitation, and health care, but rather than seeing these as illness in themselves, I see them as leading to illnesses of different names.

I would classify HIV as an illness, since it can be transmitted and diagnosed, and impairs the health of its hosts.  This virus disrupts the body’s immune system and eventually causes the body to fall susceptible to many diseases.  Even in the latency period of HIV, before symptoms of full-blown AIDS begin, a diagnosed patient would most likely describe himself as experiencing illness.  The knowledge that his body is losing proper function can lead to anxiety and depression, even if his body shows no outward signs of disease.