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Mental disorders for environmental (and other) activists


Benjamin Sibelman
Living Worlds Productions

Mental disorders for environmental (and other) activists

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I seriously think most of these should be in DSM-V.

Scale Paralysis: The feeling of helplessness that comes from looking at oneself and one's "puny little" activist group(s) in comparison to the immense size of the global problems we face, as well as the apathetic populations we have to convince to change their lifestyles or at least write to their Congresspeople. The only known cures are denial, becoming a celebrity, and election to high political office. Joining more activist groups can lead to temporary remission but is unlikely to prevent a relapse.

Political Affective Disorder (PAD): The malaise associated with living through hard political times, like when the President is largely ignoring global warming and there's a revolving door between polluting corporations and the government agencies that are supposed to regulate them. Cures include denial, moving to Western Europe, or just not reading the news. (Similar to SAD, but episodes usually last much longer.)

Self-Abnegation Syndrome (SAS): Caused by a feeling of guilt for failing to spend every waking hour fighting for the sufferer's chosen cause(s), this syndrome's symptoms include malnutrition, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, and (ironically for environmentalists) the pallid skin tone that comes with spending little to no time outdoors. For married activists, this disorder is usually temporary, as the sufferer's spouse will attend to his/her well-being until said spouse gets fed up, and then force the sufferer to start caring for him/herself again using whatever motivation is necessary. For single activists, SAS can be quite rapidly lethal; any single, politically conscious person who quits his/her job and doesn't have another one lined up should be tested for it immediately.

Too Many Causes Syndrome (TMCS): Triggered by continual bombardment with information about a large number of different ecological, social, and economic problems that cry out for impassioned activism (even when that actually only involves signing an online petition), this disorder presents as an inability to prioritize some causes and ignore others, resulting in a gradual decline into apathy. Treatment usually requires that a mental health practitioner come into your home and spend an hour unsubscribing you from all of your political email lists. (This one needs an indecipherable Latin name to legitimize it, of course.)

Radicalitis: This disorder progresses from initially mild worries about the incompetence of our current political and economic systems to deal with various crises, to an increasing desire for rapid change, usually accompanied by frequent use of the phrase "the root of the problem." In its final stages, the sufferer will conclude that only through an immediate fundamental shift in society can the world be saved, and s/he may actually get as far as purchasing one or more automatic weapons (despite a previous aversion to firearms of any kind) and attempting to recruit friends and neighbors for the revolution. When caught in the early stages, this disorder can sometimes be cured through election to high political office, or by showing the sufferer graphic depictions of the death, destruction, and tyranny resulting from the actions of previous idealistic revolutionaries. In the later stages, once an extreme ideology is hardwired into the neural pathways, there is no cure.
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