The Science of Mental Illness – Infographic


4 thoughts on “The Science of Mental Illness – Infographic

  1. Good to see you returning to the blogosphere Moniba.
    I like your new gravatar too, though I’m going to miss that little flower ;).

    I hope you recognise that a lot of the information on this graphic is pretty arbitrary and much of it comes more from drug company marketing than impartial scientific research. I would have put ‘science’ at the top of the graphic in scare quotes.

    For example, it has been estimated that the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – DSM-V – will push the prevalence of ‘mental illness’ in the US from around 28% to over 40%, simply by virtue of relaxing diagnostic criteria for many mental illnesses. On the other hand, Asperger’s Syndrome has now been abolished and it is likely that the number of people with autistic spectrum disorders will begin to decline (or at least rise more slowly) as a result. In 1973 homosexuality was abolished as a criteria for mental illness and the number of ‘mentally ill’ Americans immediately dropped by 2-3%.

    The neurotransmitter theories of mental illness have almost all been reverse engineered to explain the supposed therapeutic effects of medications that were already in wide use. Neuroleptics were originally called ‘major tranquillisers’ and were developed to manage patients in asylums, not ‘cure’ them. They do suppress some of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia – they suppress a lot of brain functions – but they either don’t touch the negative ones or make them worse. The idea that the D2 dopamine pathways are linked to schizophrenia was developed to justify the use of drugs that interfere with them, not visa versa.

    Social phobia (more often ‘social anxiety disorder’) does exist in a disabling form in a very tiny proportion of the population – far less than the one in fifteen implied by this graphic – but drug companies have been pathologising normal shyness so they can rebrand SSRIs and SNRIs as new kinds of medications to treat a new ‘disorder’. This is called ‘evergreening’ and is more related to US patent laws than decent medical practice.

    The dead giveaway about the supposed ’causes’ of mental illnesses is that in spite of billions spent on research there is still no physiological test that is useful in diagnosing them – not blood tests, not histological examination, not brain imaging, nothing. They are still defined entirely by their symptomatic manifestations. Common sense tells most people that depression, for example, can be caused by many things – grief, social oppression, disruptive life events such as job loss, physical illness … However drug companies tell mental health professionals and their patients it is caused by serotonin deficiency and they swallow both the explanation and the pills. If a doctor tried to tell you that coughing was caused by the lack of some chemical that comes in a pill, rather than asthma, emphysema, influenza, smoke inhalation, etc you would immediately recognise him as a quack.

    Obviously you will have to go along with much of this propaganda if you wish to pass your degree, but if you go into practice I hope you will bring a lot more skepticism to bear before prescribing pills to your patients that have very little efficacy as compared to placebos but often carry serious side-effects.

    • I agree with you 96%. And yes, I hope to study this in depth and do something for this if/when I go into this field.
      It has been hectic here, Ramadan and now eid, also my words were taking a not-very-deserved vacation I guess, because they just weren’t coming to me.
      I love this gravatar!! It represents me. The flower was very nice too though. I’m going to miss that cheery smile.

  2. BTW, clumsiness and involuntary movements of the tongue and mouth in schizophrenia sufferers are most often (not always) extra pyramidal symptoms. They are caused not by the ‘disease’ but by the drugs used to ‘treat’ them.

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