Life events rather than genetics are largely responsible for mental disorders, say psychologists
Life events rather than genetics are largely responsible for mental disorders, say psychologists 
Mental illness is largely caused by social crises such as unemployment or childhood abuse and too much money is spent researching genetic and biological factors, psychologists have warned.

Over the past decade funding bodies like the Medical Research Council(MRC) have spent hundreds of millions on determining the biology of mental illness.

But while there has been some success in uncovering genes which make people more susceptible to various disorders, specialists say that the true causes of depression and anxiety are from life events and environment, and research should be directed towards understanding the everyday triggers.

Peter Kinderman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, told BBC Radio 4’sToday programme: “Of course every single action, every emotion I’ve ever had involves the brain, so to have a piece of scientific research telling us that the brain is involved in responding emotionally to events doesn’t really advance our understanding very much.

“And yet it detracts from the fact that when unemployment rates go up in a particular locality you get a measurable number of suicides.

“It detracts from the idea that trauma in childhood is a very very powerful predictor of serious problems like experiencing psychotic events in adult life, so of course the brain is involved and of course genes are involved, but not very much, and an excessive focus on those issues takes us away from these very important social factors”

Unemployment and childhood trauma are to blame for many mental disorders
Unemployment and childhood trauma are to blame for many mental disorders 

Almost half of adults will suffer from a mental health condition at some stage in their life and more than a third of GP surgery consultations are due to mental problems.

One in four people have been diagnosed with some type of mental health problem – most commonly depression. In addition, 18 per cent said they had suffered from such illness, but never been diagnosed.

The UK now has the seventh highest prescribing rate for antidepressants in the Western world, separate figures show, with around four million Britons taking them each year – twice as many as a decade ago.

Yet the MRC spends just three per cent of its research budget funding studies into mental illness, most of which goes towards genetics or neuroscience.

Prof Richard Bentall, also of Liverpool University added: “It’s a tragedy actually. The UK Medical Research Council is one of the biggest funders of medical research in the UK but if you look at the things that they fund, by far the majority are things like brain scanners or gene sequencing machines, almost none of it is going towards understanding psychological mechanisms or social circumstances by which these problems develop.

“It is impossible to get funding to look at these kind of things.”

The MRC said it was currently refreshing its strategic plan and was hoping to increase the amount of money allocated the mental health studies.

“I think it has been a longstanding debate, the issue of nature versus nurture, and the MRC needs to make sure it funds the research which his going to have the most impact wherever it comes from,” said Dr Rob Buckle, Head of Regenerative medicine at MRC.

“The issue here is that mental health is a very complex issue and the fundamental thing is to get a better understanding of the causes and progression of mental illness.

“We would like to spend more of our budget on mental health research and we totally accept this is interdisciplinary and involves neuroscientists and psychiatrists and social scientists and we do fund work around social impacts on mental health.”

However other scientists argued that finding out the root causes of mental illness could prove beneficial to the greatest numbers of people.

Dr Jeff Barrett, who is working on uncovering the genes behind mental illness at the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute said: “If we understand the fundamental biology of the disease it might be relevant in developing new ideas for therapies that are applicable to a wide range of patients.

“So if by doing studies like this we can strongly implicate one area of biology it gives a new lead for drug companies to try to develop new therapies.”

8 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist In My 20s

by Sandra Bienkowski

imagesThe psychologist I found for talk therapy in my 20s was funny and blunt. After our sessions, I’d go home and capture his insights in a notebook. I wanted to study my way out of the damaging effects of my tumultuous childhood. As we unraveled the tangled mess of growing up with an alcoholic parent, the pervasive denial, and the verbal abuse, my depression slowly lifted and life improved. I hope some of what he shared with me can help you too.

  1. You are stronger than you think.

Give yourself credit for what you have gotten through. You have coping skills you probably didn’t know you have, or that you fail to recognize on a regular basis. Or as my psychologist said: “It is like talking to a Vietnam Vet who doesn’t know what to do about a stuck elevator.” In other words, you really do have survival skills. And if you seek therapy (or even if not, and you are just interested in self-awareness and personal growth), you are empowering yourself.

You are strong for being you, and owning the things that you want and need to change in your life. Most people don’t sign up to face their issues head on. If you are recognizing the presence of issues in your life, that itself is a sign of strength.

  1. The most difficult step of character development is to enjoy being alone.

Truly being alone means getting comfortable by yourself and not filling your aloneness with unhealthy relationships or behaviors. This is one of the hardest things to do, but it is also profoundly simple, and essential for sustainable happiness.

  1. Sometimes you have to let go of your notion of a happy family.

As a 20-something in therapy, I was overly worried about one of my parents dying. When I asked my psychologist why, he said, “With them dying, your dream of reconciliation dies too.” My fear of their death wasn’t necessarily about death itself, but about deeper pain I felt in my relationship with my parents. I was waiting for apologies from them, and to become some version of the happily-ever-after family.

By projecting my feelings onto this relatively concrete fear of death, I was trying to cope. But my psychologist helped me make the connection, and told me I should allow the dream of the happy family to die instead. Sometimes parents aren’t capable of love, and that isn’t your fault. “This is their problem,” he said. “They are unable to give you the love and support you deserve. They don’t know how.”

  1. You need to accept you.

When you act like you need the approval of your parents, other people, or even the entire universe, what you really need is your own approvalAccept your own mistakes and actions and let them go. We are all flawed humans. No one gets a blank slate or gets through life regret-free. Self-acceptance is liberating.

  1. Don’t take the blame for your parents’ behavior.

I thought my parents’ behavior toward me was a sign of me being a defective child. That is, if only I could be a dream child, my parents would be different and treat me with the love I needed.

It took me a long time to learn not to take responsibility for my parents’ behavior. My psychologist encouraged me to only play my side of the tennis match. I could serve the ball — e.g. learn to be authentic and interact with my parents as an adult, rather than as a child trying to please them. Then I would need to learn to accept whatever it was that my parents did in response; nothing on their side of the net has anything to do with me.

In any relationship, really, we only should play our side, never try to manipulate the outcome on the other side. Setting and recognizing healthy boundaries takes practice, but the better you get at boundaries, the better your life will be.

  1. Watch out for repetition-compulsion.

One of my behaviors that fueled my depression was getting into relationships with men that replicated the drama of my childhood. I was with a guy who was controlling. He engulfed me with his needs, wanted me to change to please him, and I walked on egg shells so he wouldn’t get angry. Just like home. Sometimes we get stuck trying to replicate our childhood in adulthood. Healthy relationships are positive and energizing. If a relationship drains you and makes you exhausted, exit stage left.

  1. Practice being real.

I got a lot of practice being fake as a kid. I had a childlike belief that I could help keep the peace at home if I tried hard enough. I was more likely to tiptoe to try and please everyone than I was to be authentic and honest. In one of our sessions, however, my psychologist asked me, “Do you think I would have been able to help you over the years if I always made sure I didn’t piss you off?” The answer is no.

Sometimes being real won’t make other people happy. But we are only responsible for how we play our side. And that is what empowers us to make change.

  1. Fully accepting what your parents can’t give you frees you.

When you grow up with abuse, it can be a long journey to forgiveness and acceptance. In my case, I decided to have the best relationship I could with my parents while fully recognizing their limitations. Letting go of any fantasies of fixing my family freed me. No longer did I seek things from them that they aren’t capable of giving me, and I took back any power they had to hurt me.

Soon I realized my life was now my own. The same goes for you: your life is yours and no one else’s.

This article can be found here


Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy?

3282093961_aebeedf676Smart people don’t have problems. Smart people will be fine on their own. Smart people don’t need help.



But that’s what you hear. And that’s probably what you think.

If I were really smart, I would be able to solve it, rise above it, fix it, ignore it, rethink it, or forgive it. Fast.

Not necessarily.

Not when it comes to serious emotional distress, or high levels of sensitivity, or childhood trauma or your crazy Uncle Fred.

The thing is, you probably took on lots of responsibility in your family when you were younger. If things were dysfunctional or traumatic, you may have been the one who picked up the pieces. Or protected your siblings. Made everyone laugh. Or got out as soon as you could. You were likely quite resilient at the time and developed very effective coping strategies.

But now you may notice that you’re anxious or depressed. Maybe you keep picking the wrong partners. Or you’re way too angry at your kids. So, of course, you say you should know better. Smart people don’t fall into painful patterns that are the result of early losses—losses of confidence, identity, safety or trust. 

Oh, yes they do.

Sometimes, even you, with your gorgeous rainforest mind, need to find a guide, a counselor, someone to walk with you on the path when you run into all of those boulders and can’t see how to get past them. Someone who will hold the ladder for you as you climb out of the abyss.

Now I know what you’re thinking. CC

I’ve always had to solve problems on my own. No one will be able to help. I’ve tried and I can out-think them all. They can’t keep up with me. I’ll overwhelm them. I’ll talk too much. I won’t talk enough. I’ll end up taking care of them. I’ll be bored. I’ll be boring. I won’t do it right. I can’t be that vulnerable. It’s too complicated. The past is past. What’s the point?

Am I right?

I knew it.

Here’s the thing: Therapy is a very helpful process. Especially if you’ve experienced any type of abuse, neglect, trauma or even a garden variety dysfunctional family. At its best, it can provide guidance and support for healing the past and for rediscovering your creativity, your self-acceptance and your authenticity.

But how do you find the right person?

Shop around. Look for someone who understands g-g-giftedness or who is willing to learn about it. Ask your questions and see if they love your intensity or are intimidated by it. They need to love it. Use your intuition and see how you feel when you’re in the office. Find out about the different types of psychotherapy and look for a counselor who practices in the areas that appeal most to you. Make sure the person is highly sensitive and empathetic. Look for a rainforest mind.

Oh, yes, and check to be sure the counselor has been a client in therapy.

And has been to the abyss.


Link to original article

 Child Psychology & Mental Health

child development psychologyUnderstanding your child is one of the most important things that you should learn as a parent. It is very helpful in becoming effective in guiding and nurturing your child as they grow and mature. You need to bear in mind that your child has a unique personality trait that remains consistent throughout life.One of the ways you can understand your child is by observing them as they sleep, eat, or play. Look for the consistent traits. Which activities do they like best? Is adjusting to changes easy for them or do they need time to become familiar with these things? These things are the normal characteristics of a child and your child may not be an exception.As much as possible, have time to talk to your children as this is crucial to gaining information and understanding. In the case of young children, they require less verbal language and more facial expression and body language in order to understand their thoughts and feelings. Asking them questions will allow them to share their feelings to you.Self-esteem is a major key to success in life. The development of a positive self-concept or healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of children and teenagers. A positive parent-child relationship provides the framework and support for a child to develop a healthy respect and regard for self and for others. Children crave time with parents. It makes them feel special. Parents are encouraged to find time to spend playing with their kids on a regular basis. This should include one to one with each child and group time with all of the adults and kids in the home. If you are a single parent or have an only child, occasionally invite family or friends over to play.For one reason or another, some children do not develop social skills as easily as others. They may earnestly seek peer relationships and then, having endured rebuffs, if not downright cruelty, retreat to the safety of home, family, and their own company.  There is probably nothing so painful for a parent as the rejection of his child. Parents need to take the long view of social problems and to map out a plan to solve them quite as carefully and thoughtfully as they would consider academic or health problems. There are guidelines which, if followed, will help these children if the parent is willing to take time and initiative.Most parents will encounter a few bumps in the road as their child moves from baby to teen to adult. The Child Psychology section provides guidelines and referrals to trusted resources for such problems as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD, Anxiety, Autism/Aspergers, Bedwetting, Depression, Oppositional Defiant Disorder – ODD, Shyness and more.


shades of blue book coverInteresting Read

In 2013 (the most recent year for which full data are available), there were 41,149 suicides reported in the U.S. Someone in this country died by suicide every 12.8 minutes, and suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. And while there was a slight decline in suicides from 1986 to 2000, over the next 12 years the rate climbed steadily. Given these sobering statistics, Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide and Feeling Blue, edited by Amy Ferris and just out from Seal Press couldn’t be more timely.  The 34 essays represent a wide range of perspectives ranging from writers who reveal their own failed suicide attempts to survivors struggling to make sense—if not peace—with the wreckage left by the suicides of loved ones. Fiction editor Yona Zeldis McDonough asks Ferris about how she came to compile these accounts and what she hopes readers will take away from them. – See more at:

Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences at UCI, led the study. Photo courtesy of Amandine Nabarra Piomelli.   Download image

‘Love hormone’ helps produce ‘bliss molecules’ to boost pleasure of social interactions

UCI study uncovers role of oxytocin in triggering marijuana-like neurotransmitters

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 26, 2015 — The hormone oxytocin, which has been associated with interpersonal bonding, may enhance the pleasure of social interactions by stimulating production of marijuana-like neurotransmitters in the brain, according to a University of California, Irvine study.

The research provides the first link between oxytocin – dubbed the “love hormone” – and anandamide, which has been called the “bliss molecule” for its role in activating cannabinoid receptors in brain cells to heighten motivation and happiness. Results appear the week of Oct. 26 in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To investigate the role of anandamide in social contact, UCI’s Daniele Piomelli – the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences and founding director of the drug discovery & development department at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, Italy – and his colleagues measured levels of this marijuana-like neurotransmitter in mice that had been either isolated or allowed to interact. Anandamide is among a class of naturally occurring chemicals in the body known as endocannabinoids that attach to the same brain cell receptors as does marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, with similar outcomes.

The researchers discovered that social contact increased production of anandamide in a brain structure called the nucleus accumbens, which triggered cannabinoid receptors there to reinforce the pleasure of socialization. When cannabinoid receptors were blocked, this reinforcement disappeared.

Piomelli’s team then looked for a possible connection between anandamide and oxytocin, which is well known for its role in promoting social contact. A small number of neurons in the brain make oxytocin and use it as a neurotransmitter. When the scientists stimulated those neurons, they saw an increase in anandamide creation in the nucleus accumbens. More importantly, they found that blocking anandamide’s effects also blocked the pro-social effects of oxytocin, which implies that oxytocin reinforces social ties by inducing anandamide formation.

Adding medical interest to this discovery, the researchers showed that interrupting anandamide degradation enhanced the pleasure of social contact. Animals treated with a drug that stops anandamide degradation behaved as though they enjoyed spending time with their cage mates more than animals treated with a placebo, Piomelli noted.

Oxytocin has also been called the hug hormone, cuddle chemical and moral molecule due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and female reproductive functions. A 2011 study by Dutch scientists revealed that oxytocin makes people feel more extroverted, and clinical researchers are investigating it as a possible treatment for the symptoms of autism. But it’s very hard to deliver oxytocin, a small protein, to the human brain.

“Our findings open the exciting possibility that drugs that block the degradation of anandamide, which are currently being tested for various anxiety disorders, could give a boost to the brain’s own oxytocin and help people with autism socialize more,” Piomelli said.