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factors in mental illness?


hell2breakfast
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Guest GingerSnap

I think it depends on the type of mental illness. We have an adopted son with Down syndrome who has schizophrenia in the birth family so I have looked hard at that particular illness since the physicians and mental health professionals really are worthless because they don't know how to approach it because of the mental retardation. My son obviously has some serious mental health issue but, and this is just my guess in dealing and reading about such, when the stress levels are low and life is good, I see that he seems to handle life better. If he had grown up in his birth family with all the additional stressors (have read the diary of his birth sister online), I believe that he would have had serious, probably debilitating mental health issues. I have looked hard at genetics versus environment as I divorced my first husband when my older son was 4 years old and I can see what carried over to him that could not have been developed in those 4 years, I don't think anyway. It is really interesting to look at. Good parenting can take the edge off of genetic predisposition or so I think but I am just a mom.:(

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I think there can be environmental causation. Heavy metal toxicity in particular leads to many symptoms of mental illness and for those who live in cities, pollution is pretty unavoidable. Orthomolecular psychiatrists are pdocs who treat psychiatric illnesses with nutrients alone (vitamins, minerals) and they look for heavy metal poisoning as a first-line cause.

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I think there can be environmental causation. Heavy metal toxicity in particular leads to many symptoms of mental illness and for those who live in cities, pollution is pretty unavoidable. Orthomolecular psychiatrists are pdocs who treat psychiatric illnesses with nutrients alone (vitamins, minerals) and they look for heavy metal poisoning as a first-line cause.

That is definately something that should be factored in, especially if countries that have lax environmental standards like China and some other under-developed countries show a high incidence of heavy metal related MI.

Correct me if I am wrong but Schizoprenia tends to run in families, which might suggest a genetic factor. but after reading "conflict and resolution" I am inclined to believe the child "learns" it from the mother more than anything else...just a hunch.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi hell2breakfast,

Schizophrenia is not learned. It is a disease of the brain. We don't know if there is a genetic factor or not. There are many theories: A virus that affects the fetal brain in utero, etc. However, we do know that it is a very serious brain abnormality. No one causes a child to become schizophrenic. It is no one's fault.

Allan

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One big problem with doing population genetics on humans (trying to distinguish environment from genetics) is the difficulty in getting families to split up and go live in different places. I'm kidding, of course: it's the fact that they don't. So it's difficult to distinguish effects due to where they live from effects due to the fact that they're all related.

Poor parenting might play a role in reducing the child's ability to cope with different experiences, though, even if the experience itself arises because of something biological.

For me, this just illustrates the futility of attempting to assign "blame". It seems to me that our sole focus ought to be on how to help the sufferer to feel better now. That means investigating the past, if the past (such as a trauma) is the issue, but not necessarily, otherwise.

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Hi hell2breakfast,

Schizophrenia is not learned. It is a disease of the brain. We don't know if there is a genetic factor or not. There are many theories: A virus that affects the fetal brain in utero, etc. However, we do know that it is a very serious brain abnormality. No one causes a child to become schizophrenic. It is no one's fault.

Allan

Thats fine, but until we know for sure what causes it ,I will continure to suspect an environmental link, at least in an evolutionary sense. ie. an environmentally caused abnormality being passed on genetically, such as the birds on the isolated Island in the south Pacific that evolved shorter, stronger beaks as a result of the loss of fruit the longer beaks were designed for. The shorter beaks started to appear in the first generation.

Also, I just learned the other day about research indicating the human brain is not fully mature untill age 25 which is much older than the conventional wisdom. I don't know if its true, but I don't doubt it.

As you say, we don't really know for sure. But one thing I think it is safe to say is that modernity has brought with it a profound change in the amount, and quality of maternal care in the first years of life, the results of which you see on this board, and in society in general.

That said, I only suggest that their genetic predisposition to schizoprenia could (possibly) be the genetic seed that is watered by the post-partum schizoprenic behaviours/attitudes of the mom..an opinion, thats all. I don't know much about it. It is strongly linked to the mother, correct?

Henry

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Guest GingerSnap

Actually, if you look at stories about adoption, you will see the genetic links. We adopted our son when he was 4 weeks old and we were the 4th family that he lived with! I have a friend involved with special needs adoption also and have read piles of books looking for the answers. Personality disorders are another subject though versus psychosis and I believe that environment has everything to do with the development of those. A positive and supportive environment is going to go a long way in any circumstance toward anyone having a better life having learned coping skills, etc. or at least that is what I have seen.

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One big problem with doing population genetics on humans (trying to distinguish environment from genetics) is the difficulty in getting families to split up and go live in different places. I'm kidding, of course: it's the fact that they don't. So it's difficult to distinguish effects due to where they live from effects due to the fact that they're all related.

Poor parenting might play a role in reducing the child's ability to cope with different experiences, though, even if the experience itself arises because of something biological.

For me, this just illustrates the futility of attempting to assign "blame". It seems to me that our sole focus ought to be on how to help the sufferer to feel better now. That means investigating the past, if the past (such as a trauma) is the issue, but not necessarily, otherwise.

I agree with the negative consequences of seeking something or someone to "blame" but at the risk of seeming to seek a scapegoat one must continue to seek the "cause" of any problem.

While it is futile to blame A. for causing B. It is even more futile to live in ignorance and denial about what in fact caused B.

If someone dies of a drug overdose the drugs are not to blame but were never the less the cause of death.

When I say my mother caused me to become addicted to ciggarrettes at age 10 it doesn't mean I blame her for it, any more than I blame her folks for allowing/teaching her to smoke when she was a child

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The fact that I think mothers are the number one variable in a childs development (for good or ill) in no way means that I hate women, my mom, etc. or that I "blame" those women who lack the ability/will to nurture a child. The reason I SEEM to focus on women more (society itself is the culprit) is that women are most often the primary care-givers in the early years....So please don't go there. I love women.

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No one thinks you're a woman-hater, h2b.

One of the interesting things about "causes", though. You mentioned that in the case of a drug overdose, the "cause of death" that will be listed on the death certificate will probably be drugs. Yet I would suggest that there wouldn't be drugs in most people's systems without yet another cause, that may go back much farther: whatever caused the person to use drugs. And that cause probably has causes ...

Some knowledge of cause may be helpful, undoubtedly. The search for cause can't be allowed to overwhelm the search for a cure, though. It's not "ignorance and denial" not to know every cause; just awareness of the limits of such knowledge.

For instance, how does it help you to know that your mother "caused" your cigarette addiction? If it helps you stop smoking, then I think it's great that you know.

For me, if I find some personality trait that I want to change, I may be able to identify having learned it from, say, my Dad. But if it's a trait he still has, or I don't know how he changed it, if he has, I'm not sure how it has helped me to know the source.

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No one thinks you're a woman-hater, h2b.

One of the interesting things about "causes", though. You mentioned that in the case of a drug overdose, the "cause of death" that will be listed on the death certificate will probably be drugs. Yet I would suggest that there wouldn't be drugs in most people's systems without yet another cause, that may go back much farther: whatever caused the person to use drugs. And that cause probably has causes ...

One of the interesting things about searching for a cure is we often end up treating the symptom rather than the disease. Fine, I am all for it and it is necessary, but it does not mean we should give up seeking the cause, both are vital...sometimes they go hand-in-hand like in cancer

Some knowledge of cause may be helpful, undoubtedly. The search for cause can't be allowed to overwhelm the search for a cure, though. It's not "ignorance and denial" not to know every cause; just awareness of the limits of such knowledge.

Yes, there are limits to knowlege....I have not yet hit my limit, have you?

For instance, how does it help you to know that your mother "caused" your cigarette addiction? If it helps you stop smoking, then I think it's great that you know.

Doesn't help me at all, I was using her as an example in the difference between looking for reasons and looking for excuses

For me, if I find some personality trait that I want to change, I may be able to identify having learned it from, say, my Dad. But if it's a trait he still has, or I don't know how he changed it, if he has, I'm not sure how it has helped me to know the source.

I know there are a lot of new therapies that encourage people to work on the here and now and I think its about time, imo. But thats not what this thread is about. I want to know what others think about the causes of mental illness.

I am also interested in what you all think is the best therapy, but that would best be put in its own thread imo

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Actually, if you look at stories about adoption, you will see the genetic links. We adopted our son when he was 4 weeks old and we were the 4th family that he lived with! I have a friend involved with special needs adoption also and have read piles of books looking for the answers. Personality disorders are another subject though versus psychosis and I believe that environment has everything to do with the development of those. A positive and supportive environment is going to go a long way in any circumstance toward anyone having a better life having learned coping skills, etc. or at least that is what I have seen.

Has there been any late research suggesting schizoprenia is not linked to the mother? That is, schizoprenic mothers having schizoprenic kids?

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Schizophrenia WAS thought to be due to parenting. I emphasize WAS. Much mental illness was once thought to be due to poor parenting, in the absence of scientific method. More recent research points to the fact that causation of mental illness is far more complex and that genetics play a greater role than previously thought.

I do think you overemphasize poor parenting, h2b. It may have been so in your own case, I don't know, but it is far from the main cause in the field of clinical psychiatric illness. Psychologies such as Transactional Analysis which emphasized Parent-Child-Adult dynamics are also fairly dated now, as research reveals more and more of the complexities of the brain and how complex enzyme systems and destabilised membranes have much to do with emotional dysregulation, especially in the major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Once you have your own children, you realise that parenting is not as simple as it may seem to someone who has no children. Children grow and develop in part from learning resilience. The child psychologist DW Winnicott emphasized that no-one has to be a 'perfect' parent or meet a very high standard of fulfilling every need, one only has to be a 'good enough' parent. Generally speaking, the human personality, given basic love, has enough flexibility to cope with environmental insults, provided they are not overwhelming. There are many of us here who had 'good enough' parenting but still became mentally ill. Attributing a disproportionate amount of causation to poor parenting also gives no credit to the many who 'survive' poor or indifferent parenting, mentally healthy.

Again, I am in no way minimising your own situation or that of those for whom poor parenting had major causation in their mental illness, for they do, of course, exist.

Edited by Luna-
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Schizophrenia WAS thought to be due to parenting. I emphasize WAS. Much mental illness was once thought to be due to poor parenting, in the absence of scientific method. More recent research points to the fact that causation of mental illness is far more complex and that genetics play a greater role than previously thought.

I do think you overemphasize poor parenting, h2b. It may have been so in your own case, I don't know, but it is far from the main cause in the field of clinical psychiatric illness. Psychologies such as Transactional Analysis which emphasized Parent-Child-Adult dynamics are also fairly dated now, as research reveals more and more of the complexities of the brain and how complex enzyme systems and destabilised membranes have much to do with emotional dysregulation, especially in the major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Once you have your own children, you realise that parenting is not as simple as it may seem to someone who has no children. Children grow and develop in part from learning resilience. The child psychologist DW Winnicott emphasized that no-one has to be a 'perfect' parent or strive to meet a very high standard of fulfilling every need, one only has to be a 'good enough' parent. Generally speaking, the human personality, given basic love, has enough flexibility to cope with environmental insults, provided they are not overwhelming. There are many of us here who had 'good enough' parenting but still became mentally ill. Attributing a disproportionate amount of causation to poor parenting also gives no credit to the many who 'survive' mentally healthy.

Again, I am in no way minimising your own situation or that of those for whom poor parenting had major causation in their mental illness, for they do exist.

Thank you Luna for a well articulated and thoughtful response. I agree with every word of it. However the question remains as the title suggests; What Is causing the rise in the rate of mental illness? If not poor parenting, then what? Mind you I don't expect anyone to present documented research studies or a doctoral thesis, or even convention academic wisdom. What I would like is YOUR idea or "gut feeling" on the matter of say for example, WHY does the brain become chemically imbalanced etc.

Also, I would be interested in your reasoning for this. My reasoning for focusing on poor or no parenting is simple (in many if not most cases)

I can predict with a great degree of accuracy how well a person will do in life (happiness, functionality etc.) based on the total number of first-born children in the subjects immediate family plus extended (parents and grandparents) families.

for example, all my life has been a struggle to simply survive and keep a roof over my head and cloathes on my back. if you are very observant, my poor spelling and punctuation will reveal that in most areas of life I function on the fifth grade level, though I got a GED and some college later, courtesy of state prison. I have been homeless many times and am one social security check ($540.00) away from being homeless again. I am an ex-mental patient, ex husband etc. I have never been able to hold a job mor than a year or two. in short, I am as dysfunctional as one can be without being institutionalized.

So lets look at my family birth order solely on numerical basis (not counting sibling gender, which is probably 50% of the dynamic)...

I am a later-born child, (4th son) Both my parents were Later-born. Both my maternal grand-parents were later-born and am not sure about my paternal grandparents. However my step-dad (who I was raised with) was also later-born.

So I am a third generation later born on my moms side and a second generation on my dads. the implications are far reaching...In EACH AND EVERY family, the later the child was born the worse they fared financially ( since most are deceaced financial status was the only records I could find to use as a control)

How would you explain this phenomena which will be apparent upon a close examination of any family? could it be that being a 3rd generation later-born causes a chemical imbalance? What do you think?

My oldest Brother, who was a "victim" of later born parents is stable and functional (after a short stint in prison in his youth) and has been married 50 years. his 1st born daughter is upper-middle class, his last born daughter is a basket-case.

But suppose one is a 1st born child like my cousin "mary" who turns out to be an extremely mixed up alcoholic who gets drunk and sleep with whoever happens to be handy, beats her son etc. despite the fact that she has a very high IQ.....She is the daughter of not just a later born mom, but the LAST born in the moms family. in addition to all the other later borns on her moms side, her dad is also later-born. Is Mary the result of "tired genes"? something in the water or food that poor people eat? What?

To me it seems logical that given what we know about child development, the more kids one has the less attention we are able to allocate to each as a matter of simple arithmetic. this can not help but be reflected in their development and subsequent ability to cope/function in an increasingly hostile world IMHO

So I am looking for the opinions of others as to possible causes of mental illness OTHER THAN poor parenting, birth-order, etc. If not poor parenting..then what?

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Schizophrenia WAS thought to be due to parenting. I emphasize WAS. Much mental illness was once thought to be due to poor parenting, in the absence of scientific method. More recent research points to the fact that causation of mental illness is far more complex and that genetics play a greater role than previously thought.

I do think you overemphasize poor parenting, h2b. It may have been so in your own case, I don't know, but it is far from the main cause in the field of clinical psychiatric illness. Psychologies such as Transactional Analysis which emphasized Parent-Child-Adult dynamics are also fairly dated now, as research reveals more and more of the complexities of the brain and how complex enzyme systems and destabilised membranes have much to do with emotional dysregulation, especially in the major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Once you have your own children, you realise that parenting is not as simple as it may seem to someone who has no children. Children grow and develop in part from learning resilience. The child psychologist DW Winnicott emphasized that no-one has to be a 'perfect' parent or strive to meet a very high standard of fulfilling every need, one only has to be a 'good enough' parent. Generally speaking, the human personality, given basic love, has enough flexibility to cope with environmental insults, provided they are not overwhelming. There are many of us here who had 'good enough' parenting but still became mentally ill. Attributing a disproportionate amount of causation to poor parenting also gives no credit to the many who 'survive' mentally healthy.

Again, I am in no way minimising your own situation or that of those for whom poor parenting had major causation in their mental illness, for they do exist.

I understand that Schizoprenia is genetically based and accept that fact, I am not yet convinced that that the environment plays no role in the SHAPEING of those genes or in exacerbating the disease,all due respect.;)

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That's good to hear. I agree the mother's care and nurturing is critical to a child's development, or any other surrogate person who offers that same care and nurturing to the infant (father, grandparent, adoptive parent). I do feel that's is just too easy to blame the mother though ... as a mother I'm pretty tired of that ;) Mothers are almost forced to work today in order to make ends meet, and they are also often left alone to cope with parenting in cases of separation and divorce. So in my eyes women/mothers do an almost heroic job for their families, so to lay the blame on them for everything that could go wrong with the kids is not helpful in my opinion. I agree that it is a societal problem.

What I think you may be saying is that young children are not getting the individual attention they need today because mothers work now, or parents divorce and there is only one parent left at home, which gets all complicated for the children when the mother and father look for and find other spouses. That is indeed a societal problem. But I personally have a big questions about where the fathers afre. I have seen more women left to fend for themselves, alone with kids than I care to think about because I find it so discouraging... That may be a new trend of the times that we need to look at as well... men not worrying about moving on because they know the woman can pay the rent today...

Edited by Symora
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That's good to hear. I agree the mother's care and nurturing is critical to a child's development, or any other surrogate person who offers that same care and nurturing to the infant (father, grandparent, adoptive parent). I do feel that's is just too easy to blame the mother though ... as a mother I'm pretty tired of that :( Mothers are almost forced to work today in order to make ends meet, and they are also often left alone to cope with parenting in cases of separation and divorce. So in my eyes women/mothers do an almost heroic job for their families, so to lay the blame on them for everything that could go wrong with the kids is not helpful in my opinion. I agree that it is a societal problem.

What I think you may be saying is that young children are not getting the individual attention they need today because mothers work now, or parents divorce and there is only one parent left at home, which gets all complicated for the children when the mother and father look for and find other spouses. That is indeed a societal problem. But I personally have a big questions about where the fathers afre. I have seen more women left to fend for themselves, alone with kids than I care to think about because I find it so discouraging... That may be a new trend of the times that we need to look at as well... men not worrying about moving on because they know the woman can pay the rent today...

You have I think, hit the nail on the head. "Young children are not getting the individual attention they need today because mothers work now" etc.

The reason I always trot out the movie "Namesake" whenever the subject of social degeneration/deterioration comes up is it juxtaposes so clearly the difference between traditional marriages where the whole community is involved in the match and the other extreme where the only participants are the two involved.

In the movie, the parents from both sides bring together "suitable prospects" for the approval of the young couple (set in India) the couple marry, move to America and their kids don't fare so well in spite of having loving, stable parents because of being raised in a culture that emphasizes the individual and individual freedom over everything else.

The sexual freedoms made possible by modernity have not in hindsight, been the panacea that many dreamed. Precisely because kids who are free to have sex will have it and will tend to chooze a mate based on hormones rather than anything else. such sexually based marriages seldom last however, and the kids are left holding the bag in too many cases.

This has much to do with why 1st-born children fare better in general than later borns,...They are born into a marriage where the parents are still young, optimistic, and in love.

This idea that young, unsupervised, culturally diverse kids whose main guiding

influence is the rather abstract idea of "freedom" can and do make bad choices is born out by the fact that so many end in divorce, if they even bother to marry in the first place. And if personal/sexual freedom of choice were the "answer" why do so many choose a "problem" (as in the case of a man choosing a woman that takes the kids and runs to mama every time the wind blows, or a women who chooses that one man out of millions who is a wife-beating philanderer who refuses to work)

Thus, the "sins of the father are visited upon the son" in the words of one well known religion...the sexual freedom of adults is too often manifested in the oppression of children.

So who is it that has dropped the ball? men or women? who is to "blame"?

I believe that nobody dropped the ball because we no longer HAVE the ball

Technology has grabbed it from us and is running like hell toward its own goal of HUMAN OBSELECENCE..but thats just me.

That said if I were to have to assign blame to one gender it would without doubt be MEN..for it is the men (politcians) who allowed it to happen by pandering to the whims of the majority (or really only a very small minority of the super-powerful, but lets not go there.:)

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I see it as a overarching issue with regards to the emancipation of women in societies across the world, juxtaposed against a patriachy that is no longer working but nevertheless continues to be very entrenched in culture, business, administration, finance. The role of family has been severely challenged in the process.... But I see so many young people going back to some basic family values today, because they now know the value of family because their own was often broken... I find that encouraging :)

Edited by Symora
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Guest GingerSnap

People suffered from mental illness a long time before women/mothers entered the workforce. When I worked for 8 hours, I spent every other waking hour with my children - quality time too. Articles are available on the website by doing a "search" on the front page of mentalhelp.net and those are experts in the field who have done or read the research.

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I see it as a overarching issue with regards to the emancipation of women in societies across the world, juxtaposed against a patriachy that is no longer working but nevertheless continues to be very entrenched in culture, business, administration, finance. The role of family has been severely challenged in the process.... But I see so many young people going back to some basic family values today, because they now know the value of family because their own was often broken... I find that encouraging :(

This is a thought provoking post. It brings to the front such concepts as freedom, equality etc. Both words are loaded and subjective in their definition by different people according to the personal perspective of those individuals

For example, my definition of freedom is being out of jail...period. Everything else is highly subjective legalese. One might be free (to) but not free (from, of) A child may be free (to) to whatever it pleases but not free (from) starvation, neglect, etc.

I agree the family has been challenged by the many pressures exerted on it by modern life, The consenting adult law of the 70s basically rendered the legal contract of marriage null and void. the integration of men and women in the workforce assured the inevitability of temptation (People are sexual beings)

That said, I would phrase the social cataclysm of the death of marriage not so much as the emancipation of women as the DISPLACEMENT of the traditional roles of women by machines. To use the term emancipation implies women were set free from something or someone.This leads to the following question...What was it exactly that they were set free FROM? Spousal abuse? (more battered women today than ever in America) Political power? (America is in worse shape now than it was in 1922 when women won the vote)...Again, this is mostly due to the catacysmic changes wrought by technology..not by women, but the fact remains, women are people too, and just as susceptable to corruption, greed, ect. (almost) as the men. Just saying that it is not so much whether men or women rule, but WHICH men and women rule that counts IMO

Your last point about hope for the future leaves me with mixed feelings, I am like you, encouraged to see many young people today that actually have a clue, but on the other hand, I doubt than most of them are the result of learning from the past but are in fact the product of good families, which still leaves the majority floundering in misery. Especially considering the divorce rate is going up (assuring that a greater share of the future adults will be dysfunctional)

Our best hope IMO is that those well adjusted and brilliant few will act to change our system for the better....Abolish organized war, institute government of the wise, control the population, etc.

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People suffered from mental illness a long time before women/mothers entered the workforce. When I worked for 8 hours, I spent every other waking hour with my children - quality time too. Articles are available on the website by doing a "search" on the front page of mentalhelp.net and those are experts in the field who have done or read the research.

America leads the world in mental illness and recently the rate is increasing dramatically. Also women have always been in the "workforce" its just that machines have taken away the traditional "jobs" of both men and women. The result is that for the last 100 years or so they have been fighting over the same rapidly dissappearing jobs....this is not good

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My uncle is a schizophreniac. The only way I learned to understand him was when I developed lots of anxiety. My dad had the same experience, so did my other uncle, both brothers of my schizophreniac uncle. Anxiety is not a "disease" or "disorder," at least no more of a disorder than an addiction is. Becuase that is all it is, an addiction to thinking. If you stay addicting to thinking too much, the anxiety type of thinking, then you will likely develop a form of schizo.

"Stress" and therefore "environmental" factors can influneunce your addictive thoughts and your need for the addiction- similar to any other type of an addiction-some people drink when they are stressed, others get anxious, others do other things. It gives you a home to come back to when you are lost or scared, or disatisfied.

The physical changes in the brain are a "result" of addictive thinking, not a "precurser." -also similar to many other addictions with drugs an others.

Is that learned or genetic based? it probably was some roots in genetics but in the end, it's a learned habit to become addicting to thinking.

obsessive thinking of any kind, is a habit and an addiction, and these can lead to various forms of "mental disorders"

Ultimately it is the inability to distinguish between yourself', and your thoughts that makes those addictions stronger, or worse, a consious preference for your thoughts over yourself-- that is on the edge, the begining of shizophrenia.

Can we blame our mothers for our addiction to over thinking? Can we blame them for making us alcoholics? Can we blame them for making us angry? Can we blame them for making us feel depressed? I don't really differentiate between any of those in that they are all addictive patterns we learn. They are coping mechanisms, hopefully, and most probably, it takes a greater influence than our mothers to push us into those patterns.

We use coping strategies when we are too busy or too distracted to understand ourselves. I'm generally against organized religions for what they have become, but religions like Buddhism used meditation for this purpose:to understand our f'up and confused minds and make peace with ourselves. Unfortuntely religion got f'up and exploited, which lead to very intriguing and valid marxist type theories and ultimately, the secularization of western society. This was a good thing in many ways because of what religion had become, but it came at a price.

Today, western society has no or little spiritual sense (which if done right is mostly, and most importantly, about becoming comfortable with your own thoughts) on top of that, everyone is too busy with the daily routines to have time for that. IF you consider that pretty much all societies that ever existed had some kind of spirirtual customes if you will, And you also consider that the fast passed nature of capitalism is but a fragment of our evolutionary experience, it really puts things into perspective.

Of course mental health is a problem on the rise, we ignore our mental health. I guess thats another price we pay for our capatalist ideals.

Thats my naive narrow perspective anyway.

Edited by nathan
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So I am looking for the opinions of others as to possible causes of mental illness OTHER THAN poor parenting, birth-order, etc. If not poor parenting..then what?

Several, I think. It's complex and not easily reduced to one thing.

1. To some extent social/economic conditions. Information overload in our faster- and faster-paced world (back in the 70s Alvin Toffler was already calling it Future Shock - a good book for its time, btw.)

2. To some extent the spread of Western notions of illness.

3. What medical insurances will pay for. I'm serious. This is known to affect the sorts of diagnoses.

4. Fads. "Flavour of the Month" illnesses - mental ones are great as where exactly do you draw the line? - it's open to interpretation. That is very lousy if you really have a serious case, as the diagnosis then tends to be trivialised - if every second person is bipolar, then several really aren't but then no-one realises you do have a bad case.

5. The latest version of the DSM. Again, I'm serious. They're discussing the 5th now and there have been proposals that the "threshold" for several illnesses be lowered, which of course will define more people as "mentally ill", again trivialising the diagnosis. Still under discussion.

6. Social security benefits if you can get someone to diagnose you. Again, trivialising it for those who really have the illness and need it. (Let's call the hermit who talks to himself, "schizoid". Maybe he is, maybe he's just not very social and thinks a lot. "But I heard once, on Oprah, that ... and he's just like that man on the show, so that must be it!")

7. People wanting fancy names for their difficulties to escape having to take responsibility for them. Again, trivialises things for us.

8. Add your own opinion here.

9. And here. :) In other words, lots. ;)

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