Our western culture has in recent decades seen a literal explosion in the definition of disease. This is due to the exponential expansion of the definition to include ever increasing “mental health” issues. First it was the most adverse of mental conditions like insanity, schizophrenia, and so on. Then alcoholism was also labeled a disease. Now sexual deviancy is also getting labeled a “disease”.
Disease is literally a lesion of the cells. This means that cells have physical damage. That can be seen under a microscope. So cancer is obviously a disease. So is the damage cause by things like the flu virus or an infection or even a broken bone.
This dangerous expansion of the definition of disease started with serious mental health issues. Granted, serious conditions like schizophrenia and other conditions such as depression do in fact seem to be diseases. No one wants them, and such people do need serious professional medical care. The problem was when we as a society moved from what are mental health issues into labeling lack of self control as a disease.
In our lives, we are constantly bombarded by temptations to do things that are wrong and bad. It could be the temptation to steal something, or the temptation to say something mean, or the temptation to hurt someone. We all know that doing these things is wrong. But we still do them, hopefully only rarely, but we still do them.
Some give in to the temptation to do something REALLY bad. Like kill someone else, or to do them immense physical and emotional harm, as in the case of sexual assault. Committing murder or rape is not the symptom of a disease. It is the act of someone who has CHOSEN to do those things, and who, justly deserves severe punishment.
Labeling failures at self control is to diminish the responsibility of the person who chose to give in to temptation. Now some temptations may appear to be overwhelming, as is the case in addiction. But even in these cases, the addiction was created by someone giving in to temptation and choosing to do something harmful. Like drink too much, taking drugs, or start watching pornography. As they engage in the bad behavior more and more, they do lose self control, the ability to stop themselves from giving in to temptation. But this is NOT a disease. A disease is something you have NO CHOICE about. Drinking, taking drugs, watching pornography, or hurting someone is NOT a DISEASE. It is making bad choices.
When we label choosing to do bad a disease, we tell the person who has done something bad that it is not their fault. That they didn’t really have a choice. They were evidently compelled to do the bad thing. We know this is wrong. No one is forced to do bad. Only you control the muscles in your own body (and this includes the muscles that make words come out of your mouth). And you are responsible for your actions. Labeling bad action choices as a disease is to say that the bad actor bears no responsibility for what they have done.
When we start telling people that their bad choices are not their fault, and that they are not responsible, how do you think they are going to act? They are just going to do worse things, and do them much more often. After all, if they are not responsible, there are no consequences for their actions.
What To Do
Recognize that society as a whole is moving down this slippery slope of labeling things like addictions and lack of self control as some kind of “disease”. Such things are not diseases. They are choices.
We all have particular weaknesses. For some it is alcohol. For others it might be drugs. For a lot of us, it’s food. But no one and certainly no “disease” is forcing you to drink, take drugs, or overeat.
We must start by recognizing that we are responsible for our own actions, and that others are responsible for their actions.
We can gain and build self control through a number of methods. One of the best for physical temptations is to regularly fast. That means to go about a day without eating anything. This is hard to do (and should only be done infrequently), but as you do it, you show your physical body that your mind is in control. And you will gain the strength to handle physical temptations.