My definition of health is the overall effectiveness of your body’s normal functions to maintain homeostasis (ie. fighting infection, breathing, circulation, body temperature, etc.).  This is affected by diet and exercise as well as foreign organisms and other environmental factors.

My definition of illness is any physiological and/or psychological variances from homeostasis that are caused by foreign organisms or other environmental factors.  This could include infection, anxiety, anorexia, etc.

My reasoning behind deciding these definitions for “health” and “illness” was mainly based on what I have learned from school these past few years.  Before college, I based my idea of health mainly on weight.  I never really thought about whether I was living a healthy lifestyle or not since I was involved in sports most of the year.  After taking several college courses for Human Bio and struggling a little more with weight since I was no longer involved in high school sports, I’ve gained a lot of insight on what health really is to me and how much contributes to my health, from the molecular level to outside factors.

Two conditions that I thought were more difficult to decide whether they were an illness or not are anxiety and menstruation.  I strongly believe that anxiety, along with depression and other mental “illnesses” are something that everyone experiences as a normal human being.  Though I do believe there are severe cases that need more medical attention than others, I think if you are living a healthy way of life – exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep, etc. – levels of anxiety and depression should be normal.  However, if you are not exercising regularly, eating right, etc. your body’s balance is thrown off.  For example, I have a sister who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Her periods of depression were strongly associated with late nights, drinking, smoking, etc.  When she cut down on those activities, started exercising more, and tried to maintain a more regular schedule, her symptoms became much less severe.

At first I never would have thought of menstruation as an illness, however, having had extremely severe menstrual symptoms before, it was difficult for me to decide whether or not this is an illness or not.  After some deliberation, I decided that if menstruation doesn’t take away from your normal day to day activities it’s not an illness.  However, if menstrual symptoms are so severe you are unable to participate in normal activities, I believe menstruation could definitely be considered an illness.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Amy Sweetapple says:

    I am lucky to say that I have never experienced extremely severe menstrual symptoms before (knock on wood), but being a witness to my roommate’s horrible pain and discomfort, I could definitely see menstruation being considered as an illness when it hinders one from completing your daily routine.
    As I researched other culture’s perspectives on menstruation, I found that the Sambia tribe of Papa New Guinea are known for their “ritualized homosexuality” and semen ingestion rituals. To the Sambia tribe, power, strength and masculinity are gained from semen, and through sexual intercourse women are trying to “steal” that power. So, during menstruation the women are entirely shunned and forced to live in isolation with other women until cessation of their menstruation in order to protect the “sanctity of their semen.” In this culture, blood and bleeding are looked upon as a sign of weakness; women’s menstruation is a cleansing process, yet shows that women are filthy and contaminated.
    The Cherokee culture has quite opposing views when it comes to menstruation. In this culture, menstrual blood is a source of feminine strength and most importantly could be used to their advantage to destroy enemies in battle! Unlike the Sambia tribe, the Cherokee embraced menstruation and was not threatened by it.

    The Green Feminine Hygiene Queen. “Perspectives on Menstruation.” Accessed July 7, 2013.

  2. Taylor Young says:

    I agree with your belief that everyone, at some point, experiences anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses as a normal human being. There are different levels of each illness that an individual can experience ranging from minor to more severe. With that being said, depending on the severity of anxiety an individual experiences and also depending on their culture, their willingness to seek treatment can vary greatly. I researched cultural treatment of anxiety. One study showed the comparison between first and second generation students of Chinese heritage and their European equivalents. They examined these students’ willingness to inquire about treatment for their anxiety. Results showed that the students under study were willing to seek treatment for anxiety categorized at low and high-severity levels. But when the anxiety was classified as moderate anxiety, the first generation Chinese students were much less willing when compared to the European students. The study displayed that Asians in North America tend to delay treatment for mentally associated health problems. I think a large contributing factor to the seeking out of treatment for mental health disorders like anxiety is societal influence. Individuals may be reluctant to seek help when they feel the pressure of the society and the negative judgments linked within that society.

    Stefan G. Hofmann, Anu Asnaani, and Devon E. Hinton. “Cultural Aspects in Social Anxiety and Social Anxiety Disorder.” US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. Accessed July 7, 2013.

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