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.

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.

Giving people choices

Giving people choices is mainly what this whole web site is about.

If you do not yet have a bipolar diagnosis then you have a choice of trying to get the diagnosis or avoiding it. It may sound strange that people want to be diagnosed. The thing is that when we get desperate it can seem that almost any diagnosis is better than having one professional after another look at you and say, “We have no idea what is wrong with you.” Or “We cannot understand why that medication didn’t work for you. Let’s try this new one.”

There are only so many times you can hear this before you want someone to say they know what is wrong and that they have a plan for you.  A Community Psychiatric Nurse told me, “If you are going to get a mental health diagnosis then the best one to have is bipolar disorder.” I suspect this was not an official view, but certainly it is a common view when looking at a choice between; bipolar, schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. Bipolar disorder has a lot of stigma attached but nothing like those other illnesses. I interviewed a man who had been physically attacked when his neighbours discovered that he had a schizophrenia diagnosis. Fortunately this does not seem to happen with bipolar (well I have not heard of it in the UK)

In the media we see many examples of rich and famous people who:

  • have been diagnosed with bipolar
  • are said to have bipolar disorder even though they have no such diagnosis
  • and some who may say they are a bipolar type of person with little evidence of any disorder

A lot of these people seem to be doing OK. Even those who struggled for a while often seem to be doing okay again. All this celebrity bipolar can make it seem like an OK thing to have. I am hearing, “Bipolar, that is the latest celebrity ‘must have’.”

The biggest impact of seeing bipolar celebrities is likely to be on young people who are yet to see close up how awful it can be for those who have been diagnosed. Very few people are lucky enough to be diagnosed and then be able to claim to have ‘Bipolar Lite’ – the variety that gives you the creative, energetic, humorous edge with not so many of the dark days and destructive flings. Stephen Fry must be one of the most famous bipolar people. He is open and honest about having problems however, what most of us see is the cheerful confident and competent Stephen. It is not his fault but it all adds to the illusion (or delusion) that bipolar is not so bad and a diagnosis could be a way to a better life for those who have struggled with depression and changeable moods.

If you have avoided the diagnosis so far, you have a choice, you can start finding out how people control their moods. Start talking to people who have been through the bipolar thing and come out the other side. How did they eliminate their disorder? If they have also eliminated their diagnosis, how did they do this? What they did will give you clues for avoiding the diagnosis in the first place.

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