Tuesday, September 26, 2017 13:05

What Is Causing My Psychiatric Problems?

Posted by on Thursday, October 22, 2009, 15:00
This news item was posted in Mental category and has 0 Comments so far.

This is much better worked out for some disorders than for others, but there are few general principles that probably apply pretty much across the board. Most psychiatric disorders result from an inborn genetic vulnerability that then interacts with all the many challenges our environment throws at us.

Our genes are just as powerful in increasing the odds that we will get depressed, experience panic attacks, become an alcoholic, or have a paranoid temperament as they are in raising the risk for diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.

But genes never work in a vacuum. How they are expressed depends on the stress and support we experience in our lives so much so that identical twins born with the very same package of DNA usually have no more than a fifty-fifty chance of getting the same disorder.

Scientific research is now hot on the trail tracking down with specific genes are involved in which psychiatric disorders and determining how they exert their influence.

The tremendous advances in neuroscience, brain imaging, and genetics are almost everyday giving us a clearer picture of how the brain works to produce behavior in both illness and health. It is a source of wonder that we live at a time when it will be possible to have answer to questions that have puzzled physicians and philosophers for at least the last five millennial. The practical return from the neuroscience revolution will lead to more specific and effective treatments and hopefully also improved methods of prevention.

There is another fascinating question that is related to the specific factors that cause psychiatric disorders. Why do they happen at all? If natural selection is so keen on promoting successful adaption, why has it tolerated the survival of all of these seemingly maladaptive patterns in our genetic repertoire?

The most obvious answer is that natural selection is far from perfect witness the many physical ailments our species remains prey to. But beyond this, it is likely that all the psychiatric disorders represent an exaggerated expression of the tendencies that in much more muted form confer adaptive advantages.

This is most obvious in the tendency toward the personality disorders being paranoid fosters alertness in a dangerous world, being antisocial is an extension of human predatory behavior, being narcissistic confers dominance leadership skills etc.

Somewhat less obviously, the same principle applies also to other psychiatric disorders. Depression an extreme form of the natural mammalian reaction to grief, stress, or loss of status. Panic attack are a “fight” response that occurs in the absence of an appropriately dangerous trigger.

Inborn phobias protect us from the things that we most dangerous to our ancestors two hundred thousand years ago heights, drowning, fire, dogs, snakes, and being smothers. Humans have a build in taste for binge eating because no one was ever quite sure where the next meal was coming from before the specifies got around to inventing the agricultural revolution and refrigeration. Psychiatric disorders survive because they represent a much too concentrated form of what in small doses has been a very good thing.

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