Image courtesy pakorn /

Image courtesy pakorn /

Very little has been said about the communicational factors underlying the mental disorders, which remains one of mankind’s most enduring mysteries. The widespread distribution of these disorders across the general population proves to be of crucial concern to the social safety net. Mental illness is primarily regarded as a physical disorder or a chemical imbalance, although clear-cut signs within the brain have eluded convincing documentation. Indeed, the most obvious outward signpost is a disturbance in the ability to communicate in an interpersonal sense, often in an exaggerated or bizarre fashion. The emotions are similarly affected to extreme degree, as witnessed in the profound nature of the mood disorders such as mania or melancholy.

An overall communicational model of mental illness has conspicuously been lacking due to the daunting conceptual challenges at issue. As with many other such great enigmas, the solution often emerges from advances in a parallel field of inquiry. Here, great strides in Communications Theory prove highly relevant in this regard, particularly that encompassing the field of counseling and psychotherapy. In terms of a recent sequence of publications, a breakthrough in the understanding of affective (or emotionally charged) language has recently been proposed: wherein incorporating the communicational factors underlying mental illness within a general eight-part schematic: as partially depicted in the compact diagram immediately below.


        (Excessive Virtue     (Transitional Excess)

          (Virtuous Mode)        (Transitional Virtue)


        (Absence of Virtue)     (Transitional Defect)

       (Excessive Defect)    (Transit. Hyperviolence)

This diagram actually represents a radical expansion upon Aristotle’s enduring Theory of the Mean (originally defined as a more basic three-part model). According to Aristotle’s original paradigm, the realm of the virtues (such as courage) represent mean values interposed between the vices of defect and those of excess: in this case, the vices of cowardice and rashness, respectively. The resultant expanded format ultimately accounts for the entire 408-part complement of ethical terms (please see

The most salient feature of the recent modification is the centralized zone of neutrality, that default status representing the formal initiation point for all new classes of communication to follow (whether positive or negative in nature). The upper segments of the diagram (bordering on the zone of neutrality) represent the positive relationship aspects based upon cooperation, as further reflected in the dual categories of major and lesser virtues. The lower pair of segments, alternately, is based within the domain of conflict/punishment; namely, Aristotle’s vices of defect, as well as the related theme of criminality.

This basic core-nucleus of terms, in turn, serves as the foundation for the remaining set of categories relating to the realm of excess. For the virtuous mode, these extremes correspond to Aristotle’s vices of excess, as well as the affiliated classifications of mental illness. With respect to the darker realm of the vices of defect, this pattern further extends to the affiliated classifications of hypercriminality and hyperviolence. This grand-unified system of eight overall categories represents an unprecedented contribution to the field of ethical inquiry, expanding Aristotle’s “Theory of the Mean” into an all-inclusive explanation of the emotions in general. At the risk of appearing overly simplistic, each of these eight basic categories is further subdivided into numerous sub-groupings of individual terms. For instance, the major virtues encompass a total of 40 individual terms, whereas the lesser virtues are further specialized into 64 distinct terms. When the six remaining affective categories are further added into the mix, the grand total jumps to 408 individual terms (including 56 individual forms of mental illness).

This total breaks down into the eight forms of the personality disorders, eight forms of the neuroses, and twenty forms each for the mood disorders and schizophrenia: as partially depicted below:

Narcissistic  Personality >>>  Obsession  Neurosis
Confabulatory  Euphoria >>> Confab.  Paraphrenia
Enthusiastic  Euphoria >>>  Proskinetic  Catatonia
Non-Participatory Euphoria >>>  Silly Hebephrenia

Borderline  Personality    >>>    Phobia  Neurosis
Suspicious Depression  >>>  Fantastic  Paraphrenia
Self-Torturing Depression >>> Negativistic Catatonia
Non-Participatory Depression >>> Insipid Hebephrenia

Dependent  Personality  >>>  Compulsion  Neurosis
Pure  Mania   >>>    Expansive  Paraphrenia
Unproductive  Euphoria  >>>  Parakinetic Catatonia
Hypochondriacal Euphoria  >>>  Eccentric Hebephrenia

Avoidant  Personality   >>>  Anxiety  Neurosis
Pure  Melancholy  >>>  Incoherent  Paraphrenia
Harried  Depression    >>>   Affected  Catatonia
Hypochondriacal Depression >>> Autistic Hebephrenia

The latter extensive terminology (for the psychoses) in large part is due to a pre-existing system of nomenclature pioneered by German clinician, Karl Leonhard. The nomenclature for the personality disorders and the neuroses is alternately contained within the specifications of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (IV). Indeed, this advanced degree of detail should prove quite a revelation for those more at home with the American model of the psychoses, where manic-depressive disease and schizophrenia are generally treated as unitary entities. This enhanced range of detail, however, ultimately allows the current communicational approach to ultimately be proposed.

Here, mental illness is functionally consistent with an emotional style of communicational dynamic: one that encompasses certain other forms of human communication. Indeed, the extreme symptomology associated with mental illness effectively distorts or exaggerates the overall conceptual framework, generally obscuring the cognitive aspects being communicated. Consequently, the key to understanding these elusive factors ultimately resides in the context of more routine communication, where the various emotional parameters can be more accurately ascertained. A comprehensive and unified model for normal communication has unfortunately eluded identification due to the vast number of possible permutations. As stated earlier, however, it is here that the newly proposed ten-level hierarchy of virtues/values rightfully enters the picture: offering the potential for a truly integrated model of emotionality in general. The distinctive groupings of virtues and values (defined within this system) all appear linked on an intuitive level, suggesting a clear sense of underlying cohesiveness. When this virtuous realm is further contrasted with the parallel realm of the vices, the resultant master format expands to a grand total of 80 individual terms, offering a fitting contextual background towards resolving the enigma of mental illness. More details posted at these sites:

John LaMuth

About John LaMuth

John E. LaMuth is a 59 year-old counselor and author native to the Southern California area. His credentials include a Baccalaureate Degree in Biological Sciences from University of California Irvine, followed by a Masters Degree in Counseling from California State University (Fullerton) with an emphasis in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. John is currently engaged in private practice in Mediation Counseling in the San Bernardino County area. Professional affiliations include membership in the American Psychological Association and the American Philosophical Association. John has recently been granted two US patents for Artificial Intelligence - #6,587,846 and #7,236,963.