PDA

View Full Version : Are Slayers too mentally healthy?



ghoststar
11-12-18, 05:44 PM
Given the healing factor of Slayers and vampires, the proportion who suffer from long-term mental illness is pretty baffling. Buffy clearly has PTSD after her first “death,” and depression in seasons 5 and 6; Faith’s problem is harder to diagnose, but is, in broad strokes at least, consistent with bipolar disorder and some form of intrusive thoughts; it’s anyone’s guess how much of Angel’s broodiness is depression and how much is his “aesthetic”; and Drusilla, well, is Drusilla.

Take away the healing factor, and it makes sense: These characters have been through a lot. However, you can’t discount the healing factor, because mental health problems overwhelmingly have their roots in physiological problems. Too much of one thing, not enough of another– either your body makes your mind sick, or it doesn’t have the resources to keep painful experiences from doing so.

No one’s saying the characters shouldn’t have bad days, but bad years? Not if their bodies are in peak health. Mental (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3741070/), disorders (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4612505/), strongly strongly linked to autoimmune disorders, and in turn to problems with the microbiome (https://www.livescience.com/49373-google-hangout-on-brain-and-microbiome.html). In the case of one gene variant associated with depression, scientists have found specific diseases against which it provides protection. Lower microbial diversity (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160425161324.htm) and chemistry-regulating (http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-study-identifies-first-genes-231248) gene (https://www.mcleanhospital.org/biography/kerry-ressler) variants also raise the risk of suffering PTSD. GABA levels (https://www.newsweek.com/hippocampus-memories-gaba-intrusive-thoughts-701142) in the hippocampus directly correlate to one’s ability to suppress unwanted thoughts.

Inflammatory effects on the brain don’t happen in a void; they take place in the context of the body’s overall immune responses, which is why asthma (http://https://www.smh.com.au/national/study-links-asthma-and-mental-illness-20031202-gdhwcc.html), acne (https://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1924464,00.html), and gut disorders (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-health-may-depend-on-creatures-in-the-gut/)are so closely tied to mental illness.

Obviously, we have no Slayers or vampires who are wheezing from asthma, or covered in cysts, or too busy running to the bathroom to fight. Whatever demonic power gives them strength also keeps their immune systems functioning within the optimal range (in the case of the Slayer) or allows them to survive with no immune system at all (a possible interpretation of vampires’ health).

Considering that long-term mental illness generally stems from, or at minimum is exacerbated by, physical health problems, I can’t think of any good reason why characters with Slayer-level healing factors should suffer from it. Their systems should either provide the chemicals that enable them to function at optimal levels, or compensate for chemical excesses and deficiencies. It makes sense for them to experience temporary sorrow, fear, etc.; you need some capacity for unpleasant emotions to make good decisions; but their emotional resilience should be toward the upper end of the normal scale.

Priceless
11-12-18, 05:58 PM
I'm sure that a persons physical health does affect their mental health, without a doubt, but I don't think that's the only thing that affects it. In the UK we have recently (last few years) had lots of sports men and women opening up about heir mental health. They've suffered from depression, intrusive thoughts, OCD etc. even when they were at the peak of physical fitness. There are so many other stressers, that suggesting it's all physical seems a bit too simple.

ghoststar
11-12-18, 06:22 PM
I'm sure that a persons physical health does affect their mental health, without a doubt, but I don't think that's the only thing that affects it. In the UK we have recently (last few years) had lots of sports men and women opening up about heir mental health. They've suffered from depression, intrusive thoughts, OCD etc. even when they were at the peak of physical fitness. There are so many other stressers, that suggesting it's all physical seems a bit too simple.
Fitness isn't quite the same as health. It's usually easier for a healthy person to exercise, but people can be both fit and unhealthy. For example, professional ballerinas are incredibly fit, yet they're at risk of amenorrhea and related osteoporosis. Certain endocrine disorders can make a woman develop muscle more easily, but at a cost of sometimes-excruciating reproductive disorders. NFL players can bench hundreds of pounds, but some of them have brains that look more like a septuagenarian's than an average twentysomething's. Steroids can improve your athletic performance while wreaking havoc on your internal organs.

But Slayers are on call all the time. There isn't a second-string Slayer, a Slayer understudy, or a team that can compete for the gold without them. Neither are there referees/umpires, cautious co-leads, or an audience with set expectations. A Slayer who suffers from weak bones, ovarian cysts, liver failure, or pathologically poor judgment is not only going to die; whoever she's fighting, or would have been fighting if she'd been able to leave the hospital, is going to get away with their agenda. A Slayer has to be healthy, not just fit, and that's something that should affect her mental state.