My definition of health is maintaining a balance of physical, mental, and social characteristics. A person has their physical health, which would not only be the absence of disease or illness but the quality of your body and organs. Mental health can be the ability for higher cognitive function and stability of emotions. Lastly I believe our society must be healthy and be functioning as a cohesive unit of impressive individuals.

My definition for illness would be any condition that causes your body to not maintain homeostasis. When people claim to be ill there is not always a clear-cut answer for why they are feeling poorly or just not right. So I categorize anything that affects your bodies normal functioning and homeostatic state.

I view disease as a permanent, chronic, or serious change in the functioning ability of your body. Viruses, genetic mutations, or any foreign pathogen can cause or lead to disease. I also think of disease as something your bodies’ immune system has a tough time defeating and that’s why the changes can be permanent.

I think of cancer as a disease and not an illness because it is caused by damage to cells that causes mutations. The cells can be benign or malignant and can rapidly multiply depending on the genetic code. The one thing about cancer is that the disease can affects multiple body systems and can cause side effects that would be viewed as an illness like headaches or fatigue.

I would categorize HIV as an illness because HIV can stay dormant in a persons system in a lysogenic state and once it begins its lytic cycle AIDS will develop and now it has progressed into a disease with permanent altering effects. It is a very devastating disease because your bodies’ defense system and immune system starts attacking themselves. This leaves the body vulnerable to more illnesses and possibly diseases. This one was the hardest to classify for me.

I would classify erectile dysfunction as an illness because on of the main cause of erectile dysfunction is mental and psychological issues. This illness may not be permanent and can be treated with therapy. The psychological problems may they be anxiety or low self-esteem are not a disease. The inability to perform sexually is just a movement away from normal homeostatic function.

Old Age

I believe health to be a sense of wellbeing and having an absence of disease. Health is having a fully functioning body in the context of the physical and the mental sense. My deciding factors for health would be if the physical body was absent of any sickness, pain, injury and if the mental function was fully capable of working appropriately. My definition of illness would be the absence of health. I think my deciding factors for illness are if the physical or mental part of the body is experiencing pain, injury, infection or other unwanted symptoms leaving the body in distress.

I think my ideas of health and illness come from mostly conversations with friends and family about their thoughts on health and illness in their personal lives and what their health career related jobs have taught them. Also I think I have been exposed to a lot of health and illness topics from the media. Mostly from the television shows and the news. Personally I think my perceptions of health and illness are influence by both my personal conversation and the influence of the media in today’s world.

Old age was the hardest condition from the list to classify. I ended up stating that it was not an illness because I don’t see it as sickness but as a part of life and just a normal function of the body, but according to my own definition of illness I think I should categorize as illness because of my deciding factors. I also placed menstruation on the not an illness list. I think menstruation is another normal bodily function of a normal healthy human body. I classified cancer as an illness. I think that it is because cancer can cause the body physical damage, pain and other unwanted symptoms. Cancer will stop the normal functions of the properly working body and could cause death. That is why in my opinion the cancer is an illness.


I defined health as the general well being in the physical and mental state or the absence of sickness. I defined illness as any kind of ailment of the body or mind that results in poor health or sickness often in which abnormal physical manifestation of symptoms are present. It was difficult to come up with distinct definitions because the two are so dynamic so I tried to incorporate all the aspects of health and illness into one definition. I think my definitions of illness and health only apply throughout my culture and that people that identify with different cultures will surely have different definitions.

My understanding of the concepts of health and illness has developed through a variety of sources. I have taken a few courses dealing with health and medicine, which may have inadvertently given me concepts of illness. I may also have these impressions from experiencing illness first hand and going to the doctor. I think media and society also play a huge role in these views. What is considered all illness in one society may not translate as an illness in another. Also the media is almost always covering some sort of illness outbreak or the latest medicines, which could contribute to my views.

I had the most trouble defining migraines as being an illness or not. On the one hand, migraines appear to be tension or sinus headaches that are temporary afflictions with no long term consequences on a person. However, when I further researched migraines, I found that they result in a number of symptoms along with a pounding headache including nausea and vomiting. According to my illness definition, I ultimately decided migraines would in fact be considered an illness because of the resultant sickness and physical symptoms of them. I found HIV to be a chronic illness because it causes AIDS, which then allows for opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive in the human body. There are also physical symptoms of sickness including flu-like symptoms, a rash, ulcers, and diarrhea and the HIV infection can last up to ten years before it develops into AIDS. On the other end of the spectrum, I did not define shyness as an illness. Feeling apprehension among unfamiliar people does not place shyness in my definition of an illness resulting in poor health or sickness. I find shyness to be a condition and although there are some symptoms of anxiety, there are no medications used to counter it. Shyness is also something that is often self diagnosed. Because it is a personality trait and there are prevention techniques, I do not consider it an illness.

Old Age

My definition of health and illness vary greatly. Some people may believe that these two words are closely related. The way I define health is the mental and physical condition of an individual. Illness, on the other hand, is a disease that is affecting the body and mind. Illnesses can either be temporary or permanent. That being said, a person can have an illness one year, and be healthy the next. I’ve had many factors help me formulate my own definitions of these two words. My parents both work in the  medical field, so I have always been exposed to these words in everyday conversation. Another factor helping me define health and illness is the fact that in high school, I worked in a hospital as a patient sitter. I would be exposed to patients who were healthy and ill. Being able to analyze each patient and see where they stand on the continuum of health and illness also helped me formulate these responses.

The first condition that Taz mentioned on the slide that I would like to discuss is anxiety. I have known many people who suffer from anxiety, either mild or severe. In my books, anxiety is definitely considered an illness. Anxiety affects a person psychologically and physiologically. This illness can create feelings of concern, worry, and dread. It is normal for people to experience nervousness occasionally, regarding work or school related events. If the nervousness turns into an obsession and constant worrying, this is when anxiety becomes a problem and should be diagnosed as an illness.

Most people would not consider infertility an illness, but I do. My cousin suffers from infertility. A lot of times, infertility results from other illnesses, such as poly-cystic ovary syndrome. Not all fertility drugs work for women, and they will never be able to conceive in their lifetime. A lot of times, the woman’s body works against the drugs, making it almost impossible to become pregnant.

The last condition I chose is shyness. I don’t consider this an illness. In your lifetime, you will experience people who love to get out of their comfort zone and socialize with unfamiliar faces. Other people like to stay to themselves and don’t feel comfortable being around people they don’t know and places they’ve never been. Unless this problem turns into social anxiety, then to me, it is not considered an illness.

Old Age

My definition of health is the absence to disease or illness that puts one in an overall, well mental, physical, and emotional mind set. I would characterize illness as an alteration of the mind and body based on cultural context.

I would say my definitions came from the media, and people around me.  The media portrays health and illness the way they want you to see it; television shows for example. School is another influence. I have taken many biology and science classes since high school, and all of them have given me similar definitions.

I think Old Age was the hardest to place in the category of illness. First of all, at what age is a person considered to have reached old age? Aging is a natural process – we are all aging, everyday. Although I agree there are some disabilities that appear with older people, it is not an illness.

I do not think shyness is an illness. Shyness is part of someone’s personality. While some people might be loud and outgoing, others keep to themselves. Just because someone is shy doesn’t mean they have something wrong with them. I also don’t think poverty is an illness. Living in poverty could just mean they don’t have enough resources. However, living in poverty could potentially be a huge factor in creating an illness down the road. Lastly, I believe The Flu is an illness because it results from a foreign substance attacking the body. It leaves signs and symptoms, and is curable.

Spirit Possession

I have rather simple but classical definitions for both health and illness. I defined “health” as the absence of disease or illness. To me “illness” is a known or perceived pathology causing direct detriment to the body or mind. Upon categorizing all of the conditions, I found that it was also important to distinguish a pathology from the cause of the pathology. For example, cancer is most caused by mutations in genes which predisposes or causes cancer in the individual, but we do not refer to the mutation itself as the pathology. Therefore, I had to distinguish true pathologies from conditions which simply predisposed an individual to other true disease or pathologies. I think that my intuitions and ideas about health and illness have come from many factors such as my post-secondary education as a pre-medical student as well as American society and media in general.

Based upon what I discussed above, I believe that it was most difficult for me to classify Spiritual Possession as an illness or not an illness. I believe that in this case, it really depends heavily upon the cultural context of the affected individual. If he or she truly believes in spiritual possession because of his or her cultural context then this psychological mindset may manifest in physical symptoms and pathologies. I could only classify this condition as an illness based upon the technical clause of perception which I included in my definition of “illness”. My original definition was simpler but upon evaluating the conditions I decided that perception was very important in order to distinguish an illness from a non-illness.

Three conditions which I did not classify as illnesses are ADHD, Menstruation and Poverty. I chose not to classify these as illnesses because they are not direct pathologies with detrimental effects upon health. Complications may arise from these conditions such as anxiety and depression from ADHD, anemia from extreme menstruation or stress due to poverty. In this case, I would categorize the possible complications arising from these conditions as pathological illnesses since they have direct detrimental biological effects. Since by themselves, the states of Menstruation, ADHD and Poverty do not directly have negative pathological effects I therefore did not consider them illnesses.


Having taken several anthropology classes, I was very familiar with the distinction between health and illness. My definition of health was having a absence of any symptoms and overall well being, while my definition of illness was having symptoms and feeling ‘off’. After listening to lecture I also added that illness is culturally and socially constructed. I chose ADHD as being one of the harder ones to put into a category because I remember one of my professors saying how pharmaceutical companies make drugs for creation behaviors just to make money. An example that my professor used was ADHD, and how this used to be described as bad behavior in children, but now since there is medicine it is classified as an illness. I decided to classify it as an illness, but I definitely think that my decision was socially constructed. I think that where you grow up, how you were raised, education, and media all helped to form my idea of what an illness is or not.

To me, menstruation is not all illness. It is a normal body process that all women have. The media definitely portrays it as a bad thing, and how women are moody and irritable. They have even made medicine specifically for PMS which makes people think it can be classified as an illness. If someone is going to classify menstruation as an illness then I believe every normal body function could be classified as an illness such as going to the bathroom.

I believe that HIV is an illness because it is something that you can receive from someone else and you can become sick. HIV eventually will turn into AIDs and that will at some point, lead to death. It’s a virus that attacks your immune system and kills vital cells.I think that if something that kill you it should be classified as an illness.

I believe that cancer is an illness because it is unregulated cell growth and can spread throughout your body and cause death. It has no cure, but only treatments that can help. I think it’s an illness because there are many forms of it, and we don’t know how all of them are caused. It’s a very mysterious illness and that has a lot of unanswered questions. It also causes a lot of physical and mental pain.

Spirit Possession

I have to admit that the definition I first wrote down describing illness was not the same as when I finished doing the categorization activity. I found myself judging the various states of being on more conditions than the ones I had previously listed. I shaped my definition as I came to realize my personal beliefs. I ended up defining illness as ‘a state of being unwell or sick, either physically or psychologically or a combination of both, that arises due to environmental factors, as infection from bacteria, the presence of a virus or a disease.’ I still can see the fault in it because it contains culture specific terms but at the same time, I believe they can only be defined culturally. These terms or just the distinction between the two might not even exist in the languages of some people and therefore absent in their realities as well. I believe that all of our experiences are so deeply intertwined that you cannot pinpoint the source of these terms. Everything around us works together to shape our grasp on reality. American society, our foundation in science, the tendency to visit doctors on a regular basis, the media, all contribute to how we view illness and deal with it.

I had trouble with ‘spirit possession’ because I have no personal experience with it. I have experienced the flu, heard about cancer from friends, and seen people with old age but I have only read once or twice about spirit possession and it still lies so far away from my sphere of reality that I cannot come to define it at all. Shyness, on the other hand, was an easy one. I believe that it is purely a personality trait in American culture. It is a way someone behaves and communicates and it is not a bad thing nor should it necessarily be cured unless the individual feels the need to break out of their “shell”. Anxiety fell in the middle of the distinction for me. On the one end, it can be a temporary emotion, such as when an individual is nervous for a test or job interview. If it is something that starts to interfere with daily life and happens frequently and without obvious reason, then I think it begins to become a mental illness. This is when an individual in our own culture would think about seeing a psychiatrist in hopes of sorting out and dealing with his/her stresses.


My definition of health is the state of feeling physically and mentally good. Illness would them be the opposite, the in feeling physically or mentally poor or invasion of disease. I would considered all diseases an illness but not all illnesses a disease. I came up with these because I feel like health isn’t just a state of physical well being it is mental too. Illness doesn’t mean disease so I think it is more a state of feeling or cultural perceived view.

A lot of these ideas for me came from my family because I used to call myself sick a lot which was usually just with the common cold, and unless it got really bad was taken to the doctors. So I never thought that you could only have an illness if you were diagnosed. They also came from school. Before taking an abnormal psychology class there were many things I would never consider an illness like depression. I always thought people needed to just push themselves to get out of that feeling but it is actually considered a disorder and people are prescribed medication for it. Anxiety was hard to choose for me because through personal experience I have seen a friend who had such bad anxiety she had to be in a 5 mile radius always of her house or else she would have a panic attack. To me at first this sounded so crazy and I wanted to just help her and be like just keep driving and say to yourself you can do it, but she really never could make it. She just had her good days and bad days. It is how I considered a mental state but at the same time I have a hard time calling it an illness because anxiety is so off and on.

Cancer is a illness. It is because it is a disease caused with a biological mutation of your cells. Sometimes with cancer people don’t know they have it but other times people go seek medical attention because of an abnormal bump or growth or just feeling sick. Cancer also one of the leading cause of deaths in the U.S. I think the flu is an illness because usually no matter what when you get the flu you know it because of how terrible you feel. Your whole body is achy and in pain. It is not something that you have to go to the doctors for because it is a virus and normally just need sleep and to let it pass. I do not think that poverty is an illness. I think that some illnesses because of the cost or the mental state of someone could lead them to being in poverty but I would not consider it an illness. I think that some people in poverty could be completely healthy while getting food and clothing from shelters. Illness I think can develop from poverty or lead to poverty but poverty itself I do not consider an illness.

Old Age

Over the course of my life and education, I have encountered several different implied and defined meanings of health and illness. Before taking any health classes, my ideas of health and illness were based solely off of implications from parents, doctors, peers and the media. At this point of my life, my definitions of health and illness would be very much based off of if one looks or acts healthy. I would have assumed illness to be something that only occurred when one was home with the flu or in the hospital with cancer.

As I began taking health classes in high school and into college, my ideas on health and illness began to shift. We were told that health was not simply the absence of disease, but a balance of ones physical and mental wellbeing. I had accepted these definitions until just last year when I took a class that challenged the modern ideas of health. What does it truly mean to be healthy? Can one be a lifetime smoker and still be healthy, can someone that has cancer still be healthy? Through this course, my ideas of health and illness were completely flipped and have created a new set of definitions in my mind. First, I do not believe that there is one concrete definition of health, but rather, health is an idea that is defined by the individual.

My most recent personal definition of health is, “ having the ability to perform mental and physical activities that help me to reach my most absolute potential “.  For me, optimum health is something that will never be reached, but striving to reach that goal both physically and mentally ensures good health. My definition of illness, would be “any unnatural feeling or ailment that manifests itself in ones body or mind, disrupting their ability to strive for optimum health.

Using the words given in class, I have chosen three conditions to apply my definitions to. The first of these is old age. Although it may seem that older individuals are more susceptible to illness, I do not that that age itself can be considered an illness. The aging process is on that is natural over the course of time, and is simply a factor in human life. For example, it could be compared to hair texture. One can achieve their own personal hair health having curly hair, just as they could with straight hair. The way of achieving this optimal hair health is individualized for the hair texture and must work around the present conditions. Just as having curly hair is not an illness, being 70 is not an illness, but rather, just a different condition of the body or mind.

When applying my definitions to poverty, I decided that poverty is not an illness. However, it could be considered something of a “social illness” putting one at the bottom of the economic ladder. Although it seems that poverty is a large contributing factor in the development of physical and mental illness, the poverty itself is not manifesting itself in the body or mind.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is an illness by my definition. Living with anxiety for my entire life, I have come to find that it disrupts my ability to strive for optimum health. Anxiety is rooted in the mind and is not an external source like poverty. In fact, anxiety may be the illness that is caused by an external source.