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The Hunt For The Mad Gene

The hunt for the mad gene, despite setbacks, continues.

According to an article in the World Of Psychology authored by John Ghohol Psyd:

While I believe understanding human genetics and the neurological basis of mental disorders is important, invaluable work, I think articles like Kandel’s sort of miss the point. This work is slow and arduous, and for every one step forward, we take two steps back. Indeed, we are making progress, but it is not progress one can easily track or summarize in a mainstream news article of this nature.

In the treatment of mental disorders, we have plenty of approaches that work just as well as (and, in fact, work better than) any medical treatment for a medical disease. (Honestly, Kandel should look at the research behind the vast majority of surgical procedures to see the lack of rigorous scientific data that he’s demanding for mental illnesses.)

Genetics may one day hold some sort of key to our understanding of mental disorders. But that’s a line that’s been repeated hundreds of times over the past two decades, and one that seems no truer today than it did in 1989.

Hold on. I’ve skipped to the end of the article when we should begin at the beginning.

For decades, scientists have been making claims about the genetic roots of mental illness, ranging from schizophrenia and depression, to bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). And for decades, they’ve largely been chasing ghosts.

Eric Kandel, writing for Newsweek, makes the at-least-annual appeal that scientists are making “certain advances in genetics” which give “us new reasons for optimism” in understanding the biological basis for mental illness. As someone who’s been tracking the progress of such genetic advances over the past two decades, I have to say, I remain squarely skeptical.

I’m more than just a little skeptical, I’m an unbeliever. The religion of Mental Illness, the gospel of the DSM, the monastery of the asylum/hospital, are no longer subjects of very much interest to me, nor are they my present stomping grounds. I relax, work, and play much better in a less restrictive environment. The true believers have their world, and I want no part of it.

ADHD is a disorder that didn’t exist 100 years ago. Oops. I stand corrected. Some of these looney bin doctors and their psychosomatic cohorts have fabricated a history for this bogus disease. It just took until the 1980s for them to come up with a name for it. Yeah, and if you buy that one, I’ve got some property I think you’d be interested in purchasing. Look, at one time few people went on to college to get a degree, now almost everybody is expected to get that scroll of paper. If you need a little help getting there. I’m looking the other way. Whatever. If it works, use it.

And depression? You have got to be kidding! So some people bounce right back, and some people take to their beds for a few weeks, months, years. Those things happen, or don’t happen. Kick yourself! Beat yourself up! Blame yourself! Take to your bed! Don’t get out! You did this to yourself. You are a bad person. You can’t do any good. Gosh, you’re your own mama and papa talking. Go to Oz and do the tin woodsman thing. Go get a life, but don’t blame yourself if it all goes awry. Yeah, right. It was your genes beating you up. That’s makes it all right, huh? Yeah, sure. I know. The doctor has this pill, but geez…

Bipolar Disorder, or Britney Spears Disease, is popping up everywhere these days. It was always thought to be inherited. Funny thing though, it has experienced a forty fold increase in incidence of occurance of late. It used to be much rarer. Now it’s almost twice as common as schizophrenia. This Dr. Joseph Biederman figured a lot of these ADHD kids were actually early onset Bipolar cases, and viola! Lithium anyone? Hmmm. Do the math. Something is wrong here. Genes may mutate but they don’t jump from body to body without a little hoochie koochie unless they don’t belong to those bodies in the first place. Maybe its viral. Anyway, it keeps the doctors in business, doesn’t it?

In the meanwhile, the wild ghost mad gene chase continues.