In my opinion, health and illness hold a synonymous position within the world, or at least in the world that I see. Based on my worldview of individuals, societies, countries, human behavior/tendencies, and medicine, I have come to believe that no one is every truly healthy or immune to illness. My definition of health would mimic the definition of a utopia. A person who is completely free from attaining any form of disease, sickness or troubling thoughts, would be a healthy person to me. However, no one is free from getting sick or somewhere in his or her lifetime meeting health issues, therefore being completely healthy isn’t a ‘real’ word in my vocabulary. As for illness, I believe that all humans in one form or another, depending on extremities, are all ill at one point in their lives. It all depends, as I stated, on the extremities of that illness. In my view, if a young girl who has no history of biological illnesses one day decides to think about committing suicide, then she is confronting an illness. My definition may sound a little strong or absurd given the definition that illness holds today, but if you remove any previous notions of what illness has grown to mean in our societies, then you can see it in a different light. It’s the same as telling someone they should go to a shrink. The person will automatically assume that you are proposing the idea that perhaps they are crazy or have some kind of mental problem, because society has led them to believe that only people with mental problems or who are insane visit psychologists-a notion which is no where near true. The truth of the matter is that an illness doesn’t have to be a life-threatening matter or an extreme conclusion. There are different levels to illness.
For this reason, I chose old age as being an illness that I wouldn’t and would classify as an illness. We will all be stricken with old age sometime in our lives. Because no one is immune from becoming old, I believe that it is an illness, however low-leveled it may be in my scale. Nevertheless, classifying it, as an illness would be otherwise a little extreme unless it was coupled with some other issue which it -more often than naught- is. No one who is going through old age is free from sickness. Vast majorities of elderly people have heart problems, respiratory difficulties, diet imbalances and/or depressive streaks or thoughts of dying and sudden bursts of sadness or happiness among other things.
Determining whether, lets say: menstruation, old age, and anxiety are illnesses depends on social, personal, and biological conceptions (which isn’t limited to a bunch of other factors). Whether we decide to label them as illnesses based on what we think or on what others think or beliefs ultimately depends on the individual. All in all, I think it’s almost impossible to come up with a concrete definition of illness that I’d feel comfortable with since there are so many levels to it. If someone were to ask me if I had an illness, I wouldn’t be able to see that I am free from it. Not because I have cancer or asthma or irregularities, but because at certain points in time I can breakdown, I can catch the flu, and I can be depressed- as all humans are capable of as well. Not to mention that I am not completely insusceptible to acquiring cancer or asthma in my lifetime. If anxiety can fall under the list, then depression, social disorders, random sad moments or being too happy can also be considered illnesses. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but perhaps disassociating the way we think of the word “illness” might help us analyze how it holds a better meaning or significance within the categories that fall into medical anthropology.