As I attempted to define both health and illness, I realized the extent of ambiguity and subjectivity that each of them possess. After a moment of careful consideration I ended up defining them as follows:

  • Health: an absence of unwanted and negatively impactful biological (physical or mental) abnormalities
  • Illness: the presence of unwanted and negatively impactful biological (physical or mental) abnormalities.

My first decision in defining these two words was that they needed to be antonyms; that is, the presence of one is the absence (or at least the diminishment) of the other. Based on an abnormal psychology class I had taken, I recalled that illness encompasses both physical and mental aspects. In that same class, we discussed that illness is a lack (or decrease) in normalcy, even though “normal” is another ambiguous and subjective term in itself. For purposes of brevity, I chose “abnormalities” to mean events or conditions that affect less than 50% of a relevant population. I then decided that these “physical or mental abnormalities” are usually unwanted and negatively impactful because I couldn’t think of an advantageous illness upon a bit of contemplation. All of these factors allowed me to form my definition for illness. From there, I used that template as the definition for what health is not.

Infertility was the first term that I chose to ponder and categorize. Based on my definition, infertility does seem to check off the box of “abnormal”; that is, I consider fewer than 50% of people to be infertile. However, the rest of the definition makes this simple check insufficient. Is this condition unwanted and negatively impactful? I would say yes and no. In my case, I personally have an extremely high chance of being infertile due to eight months of high-dose chemotherapy. However, I would not categorize this as an illness that I have personally because right now it doesn’t necessarily seem to affect me. However, I may consider it an illness in the future if I want to have biological kids because at that point infertility is unwanted and negatively impactful. Therefore, my definition seems to rely heavily on individualistic cases.

Migraines is the second term that I chose to think about and classify. First off, to quell potential confusion, I am referring to migraines that are chronic and moderate-to-severe rather than a generic, occasional headache. This being said, I would consider migraines abnormal in that fewer than 50% of people have them. I had a teacher in high school who suffers from them, and it is apparent that they are unwanted and negatively impactful. From first-hand experience, I observed them to be utterly debilitating and both mentally and physically harmful. With all three major points of my definition being accounted for, I would classify migraines as an illness.



This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Danielle Gittleman says:

    It is very interesting how you chose to answer this. I really like how you made two very similar but actually opposite definitions and then decided whether your topics should be classified with one or another. When I answered this I had previous conceptions about but I would categorize certain topics as and maybe if I would have thought in a more broad sense I could have come to the same conclusion as you did. I defined illness as something that forces a person to suffer most days of their lives. The first thing I actually thought of was chemotherapy. I also believe that timing is an interesting topic because you can characterize something as being an illness at one point in time and categorize it differently years down the road. In my response to this question, I attributed the timing to the definitions having a “grey area”. Like you said, chronic migraines could be considered an illness but people who may come about them once in a while could be considered very healthy people. On the topic of infertility, I do think that the stage a person is at in life is going to have a major influence on how infertility is going to be categorized.

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