Causes of Emotional Distress – Richard Bentall’s work on-line

The Social Origins of Psychosis

Many of the presentations from the Soteria Network Conference, Derby, UK are now available on-line.

I would like to draw your attention to these slide based on 763 research reports from around the world on the causes of psychosis: The Social Origins of Psychosis from Richard Bentall and his team at Liverpool University.

Click on the link and then click on Richard Bentall – Be aware that the slides can take a minute or so to load – it is well worth the wait.

It appears that emotional distress and hence what is known as mental illness is due to what happens to us, and so far as anyone can tell there is no direct link to our genes.

This probably comes as no surprise if you have been bullied and abused.

Prof Bentall – rethinking the causes of emotional distress

At the Soteria Network conference – Derby 2011, Prof Richard Bentall was the last speaker. Unusually for a conference people were not sneaking out one by one to catch trains home. Prof Bentall was brilliant! He knows his stuff.

I have noticed this article of his is being circulated on the internet. Re-reading it, I can see why. Even if you have read this before it is worth sparing 5 minutes. It is just 1,000 words and yet says so much.

Emotional… correction of link

There was an incorrect link – I am reposting whole thing. Sorry if any readers went off to the wrong site.

Here is the page and video you may have watched just now…

People who study causes of mental distress know it is events/things that cause it.

Businesses who thrive on telling us that it is genetic illness have had louder voices. Maybe Blogs and Twitter are now allowing us to get the word out there.

Blogs and Twitter may not be good for the big drug companies but are definitely good for anyone who reads this page at wellnesswordworks and then avoids being diagnosed and medicated. Mostly it’s not more medication that people need.

Quality listening helps a lot more than most people realise.

Emotional distress causes psychosis –

I have just read this page and watched a short video on it…

People who study causes of mental distress know it is events/things that cause it.

Businesses who thrive on telling us that it is genetic illness have had louder voices. Maybe Blogs and Twitter are now allowing us to get the word out there.

Blogs and Twitter may not be good for the big drug companies but are definitely good for anyone who reads this page at wellnesswordworks and then avoids being diagnosed and medicated. Mostly it’s not more medication that people need.

Quality listening helps a lot more than most people realise.

A diagnosis is not a cause

Chronic fatigue syndrome is ‘major’ cause of school absence: research

There is something very wrong with this headline from this morning’s  The Telegraph, that has gone on to be reported in much the same way on TV and radio news.

This type of headline where a diagnosis is given as a cause simply promotes illness, the need to see doctors/psychiatrists and the use of medication.

Yes, diagnoses do cause problems for people. If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder you may find the stigma associated with the diagnosis is longer lasting than any distress you have had before.

This is not what this type of headline is about. These articles typically say about under-diagnosis. This one says, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may be ten times more common than previously thought and be one of the major reasons children are absent from school“. [Have you noticed how often mental disorders  ‘may be ten times more common’?]

I want to point out that CFS is not the cause or even the reason for the behavioural problems. Something else is causing the children to be at risk of diagnosis. The article is about children who have not been diagnosed. Clearly these children are tired and there could be many reasons for that other than a diagnosable syndrome. There is something going on in their environment that is causing this behaviour and that is what needs to be addressed.

Readers need to ask where these ideas of diagnosis = cause come from. Is this type of headline ever from truly independent researchers who have nothing at all to gain from the diagnosis? Can we be sure that there has been no influence from people whose jobs depend in some way on increasing diagnosis?

How is this linked to ‘Rethinking Bipolar’? The claims with bipolar are going further. It has been said that 1% of the population have been diagnosed since the bipolar diagnosis was created in 1980 and amazingly it is now claimed that up to 20% of the population are now experiencing bipolar symptoms. There is nothing like saying that huge numbers are experiencing something to make it more acceptable and helping it to spread!

Story of the Brain

The idea of a disorder called bipolar is largely based on people having faulty brains.

Brain scans of people starting to display extremes of mood hardly ever show faulty brains. They in fact seem to be reacting to what has happened to them.

When traumatized, drinking a lot of alcohol or taking street drugs brain chemistry changes. This change is temporary. Some people take a lot longer than others to naturally get over disturbing experiences. When  given good support, good nutrition and reassurance that their reactions are what has always happened to people under pressure, then their brain chemistry gradually returns to be much the same as anyone else.

Text books about the brain tend to be too complex and go out of date. I have attended talks by experts and, even as a qualified chemist, struggled to keep up. What is needed is to have the facts interpreted and explained by a lay person with an extraordinary enthusiasm for sharing knowledge that up to now has only been available to a few doctors and pharmaceutical businesses.

Attending a talk by Robert Whitaker I met Catherine Clark who is one of those people with the energy and enthusiasm to share in a way we can all understand… See Catherine Clark’s > Story of the Brain

Less Assertive Can Still Work (Part 4 of 4 on bullying) #bully #bullying

Training and observing ourselves can help us to not be so readily passive or aggressive. It can help with adult-adult transactions where both sides can put their ideas forward and reach a constructive agreement.

Some training simply gives the ‘assertiveness is always good’ message. People who have been taught ‘assertiveness is always good’ and have practiced this for many years tend to be happy with their achievements through assertiveness. By clearly stating their case and repeating as many times as necessary in a clear calm voice, a less assertive person will usually back down. However, forcing others to back down is unlikely to have been the purpose of the assertiveness training.

A key point many people miss is: communication is never about just one person. It is of little importance whether we feel our communication style is assertive or not. The important matter is whether the person we are communicating with is experiencing assertiveness or aggression from us.

What observers of your conversation think or might describe afterward as what they saw and heard in the communication styles may or may not be useful. It is only the person who is backing down who really knows how they are feeling as they give up trying to be assertive and fall back to a passive state.

When we know we are right it is easy to start being assertive. When the other person has a point of view and puts this across assertively we have a choice as to whether to listen carefully and respond or to simply repeat what we said in much the same way. With either or both people not listening to the other, there is not going to be a ‘win-win’ outcome. One person has to back down. One person has to stop being assertive and no matter what the last thing is that they say or even the way they say it, they will have a feeling of having backed down. This is assuming no one becomes openly aggressive.

In this situation the person who continued to feel they were communicating assertively will most likely feel they got their way. However they have become the bully, whilst being unaware that the other person had experienced aggression from them. It is possible that if both communicators are good at appearing assertive, an observer will not have noticed any aggression or passive behaviour at all.

On encountering assertive bullies I would end up confused as they would keep repeating their point of view and not listening to mine. Body language plays an important part in assertiveness and they would be able to use this together with a fixed stare at my eyes. This staring they would say was appropriate eye contact. All was done in a way that would not seem aggressive, just extremely assertive, but it would feel extremely aggressive to me.

According to Covey* when two people have different but equally valid opinions it is best to seek a win-win solution, then he points out that win-lose or lose-win are not second best as with those options one person comes off worse. He sees the other option as ‘no deal’ and that is the only way to avoid assertive bullies pressuring us into agreeing to do something we feel is wrong.

On recognising the assertive bullies among health professionals I started to choose the no deal option. Having not coerced me face to face, they would sometimes attempt writing assertively. It is in these writings their bullying becomes more obvious. One thing to watch out for is how often they write, “you”. In speech we know that hearing a phrase that starts with “You will…” can sound aggressive. It can sound aggressive in a letter or email too.

This last paragraph has eleven words starting with “you” – see if you feel any over-assertiveness as you read it >> If you feel you are consistently assertive, now could be a good time to ask yourself how you are achieving this. Are you still able to listen carefully and are you able to compromise or even back down from a potential argument? If you are in doubt have a look at how often you are using the word ‘you’ when you are hoping someone will comply with your wishes.

* The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

This blog post is 4 of 4 – See first of these: Bullying as one of many influences on bipolar disorder diagnosis?

The Assertive Bully (Part 3 of 4 on bullying)

Prior to setting up my business I worked for a large multi-national for 17 years. The business encouraged employees to attend assertive communication training to more easily recognize passive, assertive and aggressive communication.

The message was clear that being passive or aggressive in a situation where assertiveness is needed would lead to poor communication and that would be bad for business. It made sense to improve communication skills through training.

I went on to study assertiveness as part of my stress advisor training and found that communication styles are more dependent on mood than many people appreciate. It is well documented that in depression people tend to be passive. When anxious or over-active more aggression is likely to be seen. The thinking at the time was that assertive behaviour was always best and steadier moods would allow assertive communication.

When employed in bipolar recovery training our package included help with developing assertive communication. The general message given was:

assertive is good

It is good to be assertive

As a general message this is okay. It is simple and memorable.

There are dangers in this simple message.

1) Passive is not always bad. Humans use passive communication in a similar way to many other animals. When we are threatened or do not have the energy to argue a passive response will often get us through a difficult situation.

2) Aggressive communication is rarely good but sometimes a short sharp response to inappropriate behaviour can be very effective. I found from an early age that when done in the right way bullies always avoided the kids they knew could deliver a short sharp aggressive response. Bullies go for easy targets.

3) A small number of people interpret ‘assertive = good’ as ‘the more assertive the better’. The danger here is that there is a thin line between extremely assertive and powerfully aggressive. When people who strongly believe in and practice assertiveness skills cross this line bullying is probably inevitable.

It is this third point I explain/discuss here: Less Assertive Can Work

Invisible Bullies / Do you see bullying at work? (Part 2 of 4 on bullying)

“Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile and repeated behaviour by one or more people, which is intended to harm others” –

In the case of Helen Green versus Deutsche Bank the employee was awarded £800,000 damages, as the court agreed with her that she had been bullied at work. The bank was also ordered to pay more than £350,000 in legal costs. These large sums are exceptional but illustrate one way that an unchecked workplace stressor can lead to litigation that might have wrecked a smaller business.

Sometimes we will witness and recognise bullying at work and our duty is obviously to point out that it is unacceptable. Doing so will save a lot of pain and might even save you or your company ending up in court. At Deutsche Bank it seems hardly anyone knew about any bullying and perhaps predictably the alleged bullies and their managers said they were not aware of the bullying.

We probably all recognized bullying while we were at school, but in the workplace it is rarely so obvious. There rarely seem to be witnesses, while employees who are terrorized, stressed and traumatized feel there is no point in speaking up. This can go on for years until the employee starts to suffer mental illness and may like Helen Green no longer feel able to work.

To eliminate (or perhaps more realistically minimise) bullying requires us first to be able to see it happening and to do this we have to be able to see the world from the victim’s point of view. The chance is that the victim will have been picked partly because they are stressed or suffering variable moods and the bullying will be making this worse. When stressed or suffering variable moods we are more likely to misjudge the motives of others. This means that the victim who is getting more and more stressed is likely to be seeing more bullying activity than anyone else. It also brings into question the definition at the top of this page. If you believe like me that there are very few truly evil people in the world then it is likely most “bullies” believe they are just ‘messing about’ and ‘having a laugh’ without realising the pain they are causing. Even the worst bullies probably did not start out with “conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile” attacks.

For many people it takes a paradigm shift to see workplace bullying as starting out from seemingly harmless leg-pulling, jokes, name-calling and so on, but only by realising behaviours most people tolerate can be intolerable for the very stressed employees, can we avoid more court cases and people struggling to ever get back to work.

Next time: The assertive bully

Recognising bullying as a cause of mood disorder (Part 1 of 4 on bullying)

I was thinking about how bullying has been identified as a factor in the onset of psychosis and bipolar disorder. Then I remembered two articles I wrote about bullying in 2006 and thought these were worth republishing. These are about bullying sometimes being subtle and unseen and where the line might be between… well see what you think to this first one of the two…

Cruel to be Kind – Roger Smith 2006

“Singing involves giving pleasure: you can’t.” – Simon Cowell

“You dress better than you sing and you got dressed in the dark.” – Simon Cowell

This morning an email arrived from a friend that included a question about a straight talking judge on TV talent shows.

“So what do you think of Simon Cowell?”

During the day I found myself coming back to this question about Simon Cowell. I am aware that most TV audiences either love him or hate him because of his brutally honest comments. Fortunately, Simon has years of experience, is respected around the world and is mega-rich, so he can easily afford to speak his mind. But it leaves me wondering if maybe the world would be a better place if more of us dared to be more honest.

Then these words from the 1979 song by Nick Lowe came into my head:

“Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you”

I just do not see Simon as, Mr Nasty. There are times when people need to be told the truth about themselves and sometimes such a message only seems to get through when delivered in a brutally honest way. I see Simon as cruel to be kind. Like in the song this must be a good thing providing it is, “in the right measure”.

In the work place, school or even at home this cruel-to-be-kind behaviour can be mistaken for bullying. There is a massive difference though as the bullies are either not seeing, or not caring about the hurt they are causing. Bullies also tend to be unaware of that their cruelty leads to stress that in turn can lead to poor work performance, absenteeism, depression and even suicide. There is a very serious side to the divide between not-bullying and bullying. It is this that will be discussed in the next issue.

Next time: Invisible bulliesDo you see bullying at work?

Now we know bipolar is not a genetic disorder…

The idea that mental illness was caused by bad genes was put forward by the Nazi party in 1936. Their propaganda, prior to World War II, altered opinions around the world and being such a simple concept it has stuck.

Science has not helped the situation by describing bipolar disorder as heritable, because it is influenced by the environment. It is now known that the Nazi idea was based on bad science. The heritable observations were entirely due to the environment, such as what was going on in the home that all family members were experiencing

All genetic studies to date:

1)      show no link to genetics

2)      environmental factors are the major cause of psychiatric problems

3)      fail to be repeatable

It turns out anyone can be diagnosed/labelled with bipolar disorder regardless of their genes. Genetics is not at all relevant to bipolar disorder. This has been proven by looking at all the published studies across the world.

On Friday 11th November 2011 Professor Richard Bentall presented a summary of evidence to date for the causes of psychotic illnesses. Major studies around the world have again and again shown that genetics are not significant.

Here is an example of how the myth been perpetuated: Four siblings were all diagnosed with schizophrenia and this was presented as evidence for a genetic link even after it was discovered that they had been repeatedly sexually abused by their father, with sexual abuse being known to be a major factor in developing psychosis regardless of a person’s genetic make-up.

Examination of 27,572 research papers has shown the following are all significant factors, sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, being of a very different skin color compared with the bulk of the population, being a homosexual, bisexual or trans-gender person in a place where people are not tolerant of such differences, diet, being from a poor family in a rich community, stigma of almost any kind, use of illegal drugs, use of legal drugs, living in a city. There will be other causes. This research did not show genetics to be a significant factor.

It has recently been found that the false teaching of genetics as a possible cause of mental disorder increases stigma and makes life more difficult for sufferers. This can be explained in the idea that, it is easier to live next door to a neighbor who seems to be struggling mentally due to stress, as most of us have experience of this, but it is difficult to relate to a neighbor who you believe has a faulty brain from birth. It will seem that they will always be different from you and you will not be able to help them.

There is no doubt at all that absolutely anyone can be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder regardless of race/genetics. Just look at the bipolar people we know – there is a complete spectrum.

When a diagnosis rate doubles…

When a diagnosis rate doubles, health professionals get concerned.

After a talk I gave on ‘recovery from mood disorders’ a psychiatrist asked my opinion on the bipolar diagnosis rate reaching a new alarming high for young women in their city .

I remembered this conversation when I read “…the number of disabled mentally ill in the United states tripled over the past two decades…”

No one knows for sure why rates for diagnosing bipolar are increasing in so many countries.

Could the answer to far higher diagnosis of young women than the young men (in that city in 2010) be linked to medication? The young men certainly had alcohol as their drug of choice while the young women were more likely to tell their doctor about their troubles and be given antidepressants. Both drugs can make bipolar diagnosis more likely just that the more powerful drugs may take people to this place quicker?


Have you read…

Whitaker, Robert, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. 2010, Crown (Random House). ISBN 978-0-307-45241-2.

Diagnosis plus medication is not ideal

Here is a second quote from Robert Whitaker’s book.

“…before medication, 15 to 20 percent of bipolar patients became chronically ill. Half remained symptom-free in long-term studies after a first hospitalization for mania or depression. Seventy-five to 90 percent worked, and showed no signs of cognitive decline.”

I would have been one of the 75-90% who stayed well without medication having no significant mood swings for 17 years and no talk of bipolar disorder until I was persuaded to take an antidepressant.

This is not about everyone giving up medication – some people need to stay on their meds. I am wondering how many others would have stayed relatively well if they had not taken that first tablet?

Whitaker, Robert, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. 2010, Crown (Random House). ISBN 978-0-307-45241-2.

When bipolar follows on from antidepressant meds

“Today, one percent of all American children have it, and more than 65 percent of them developed bipolar after being treated with a stimulant or anti-depressant” Whitaker

Most people I know and work with who have a bipolar diagnosis say that they took an anti-depressant shortly before they were diagnosed.

Health professionals need to think carefully before giving antidepressants to people who show any signs of bipolar disorder.

Whitaker, Robert, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. 2010, Crown (Random House). ISBN 978-0-307-45241-2.

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