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 Marcia Purse

"No Genetic Proof of Mental Illnesses" - WRONG!

By January 9, 2012

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Quack FactsThe Citizens Commission on Human Rights recently tweeted saying there is no genetic proof of mental illnesses. "Get the facts," they say, "about psychiatric diagnoses of mental illnesses. Learn about one of the biggest so-called medical scams in history."

The CCHR, which touts itself as being a "watchdog investigating and exposing psychiatric human rights violations," starts with the premise that psychiatry is evil and goes on from there. In this case, "getting the facts" turns out to mean "read three quotes from doctors." (One of these quotes starts out, "In fourty years...." Okay, I admit I automatically downgrade the credibility of anybody who can't even spell forty.)

In fact, there is plenty of evidence regarding the heritability of bipolar and other mental disorders. There is abundant proof specifically that there is genetic component to bipolar. Studies have shown, for example, that a child of parents who both have bipolar disorder has a 50-75% chance of developing bipolar as well - far beyond the norm.

Get the true information: The Heredity Factor in Bipolar Disorder

As for the CCHR's so-called information - this "Quick Fact" should be called a "Quack Fact."

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January 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm
(1) rita says:

Not denying the quackery but its possible the fourty is a British spelling as they often use ‘our’ where Americans use ‘or’ as in ‘glamour/glamor’, ‘humour/humor’ etc.Just a stupid obsession of mine. OCD spelling? :-)

January 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm
(2) Faith says:

Nope, I’m British and that’s not how we spell forty :-)

January 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm
(3) Rebecca says:

Thank You! I recently left an online support group about overcoming medication side effects because a woman started hounding me about how wrong it is to call myself “bipolar” because it is a made up illness meant to keep me shrouded in sickness to the end of my days. I left the group because it made me so angry. Identifying as bipolar has helped me to stop feeling guilty about parts of my past, and has helped me to understand myself and my quest for wellness all the more. I found it appalling that someone would go on a discussion board and hound its bipolar posters for allegedly perpetuating the psychiatric myth of bipolar as a medical illness. It’s been nagging at me.

January 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm
(4) pat nelson says:

Mental illness IS genetic! I know because my maternal great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, myself and MY children have some form of mental illness. I have joked about how if squirrels saw my family tree, they would run off with the whole thing!

January 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm
(5) E says:

Have you ever considered that maybe the reason why bipolar disorder is said to be hereditary is because people whose relatives were diagnosed and labelled by the mental health system are more likely to seek the same flaws in themselves and when having found them will go get psychiatric help like their relatives did before them? Then the psychiatrist will be all too happy to validate his belief that mental illness is hereditary by giving the person a diagnosis of mental illness. However, another person with the same symptoms but no family history will pay no particular attention and be just fine.
As you can see, I pay much attention to those who disagree with me as well, for I have been following your newsletter for months, Marcia Purse. If you do pay as much attention as you say you do, I hope that you’ll read this comment…and perhaps even respond, for I would be happy to get more acquainted with your views.

January 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm
(6) VJ says:

For those who don’t understand when many of us had relatives with mental illness they didn’t go to the psychiatrist or any other behavioral health specialist. It is true there inheritable and genetic factors in Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and other disorders. Those who don’t believe it are like those who don’t believe anyone has actually been to the moon and walked on it. Facts are facts and dis believers should investigate to see if the truth unravels genetic and inheritable conditions before calling it fake.

January 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm
(7) uhm wow says:

wow I just read the link you had to cchr.org. lot of assumptions going on there. We who have BP and other disorders have absolutely no doubt about our disorder as it has affected our lives and the lives of our loved ones again and again.

Patients should police their head and GP docs. If a med is just not working out, don’t be afraid to tell them, “I want to go back to my old (generic) meds to stabilize, then we can try something else. If you’ve ran through them all, then you know what worked best and should run with it.

At first I thought this ccrh.org site was for real but if you look on the “About Us” section that states the foundation was founded by the church of Scientology. I’m all for everyone being able to worship what ever they please but I really have an issue with taking anything they are saying here at face value. While I do believe we get pushed into trying expensive treatments/drugs from time to time, we know better than anyone the value of a set of meds that make life livable.

As for no proof of genetic ties to mental illness, I know its complete hogwash. major depression/BP/schizophrenia runs through my family just like blue eyes and blonde hair. My wife who grew up on the other side of the US has a similar thing. This is real human suffering, suffering that is so great that some disorders (BP) have a 1 in 2 chance (50%) of attempting suicide and a 1 in 5 suicide rate (20%! ) I have known 2 1-in-5 people in my life, my uncle took is life when I was young, and my cousin just a few years ago. both were diagnosed with manic depression (uncle in the 1950s) and my cousin (BP+other disorders)

January 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm
(8) uhm wow says:

sorry, i just read my post one part seemed to not convey exactly what i meant in regards to the church of Scientology.

I said: ” Iím all for everyone being able to worship what ever they please but I really have an issue with taking anything they are saying here at face value.”

I’d like to clarify, I’m not trying to single the COS out here, I would have that opinion if the organization was founded by the Catholic Church, Baptist Church, Anglican Church, Bay Area Buddhist group, Emeryville mosque, ford mustang motor group of St. Paul, or the local pipe fitters union.


January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm
(9) trish says:

Amazing how some people who have NO IDEA what they’re talking about think they can tell others that their problems are a myth!

January 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm
(10) E says:

The anti-psychiatry movement isn’t saying that your suffering isn’t real; it’s only challenging the fact that this particular form of human suffering is the symptom a disease that can be cured by inducing brain damage (which is what psychiatric meds and electroshocks do). As for those who say “mental illness runs in my family” and give their family history as proof, that is no proof at all. First of all even if this particular form of suffering is something that is common to a lot of your family members, it does not prove that the suffering is a disease. The brains of mental patients are in no way different to those of “normal” patients, that is if the mental patient has never been medicated. If bipolar disorder is a disorder, then where is the disorder? Psychiatrists cannot answer this simple question. Besides, if you knew more about anti-psychiatry groups, you would realize that most of their members are ex-patients who call themselves “psychiatric survivors” and who’ve come to realize that the treatment they received could be better qualified as abuse…I would advise you listen to some of the shows on Madness Radio (http://www.madnessradio.net/), which contain testimonies from ex-patients…you might be quite surprised!

January 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm
(11) trish says:

You have your opinion, i have mine. I’m at peace with my “nonexistent problem” and the psych meds that keep me on an even keel. Thank God for Marcia and the other people like her who give their time and effort to offer information and facts on my so-called non disorder.

January 12, 2012 at 12:49 am
(12) Rich c says:

I live in Clearwater, Fl which is home to the Church of Scientology and have been diagnosed and treated professionally for over 30 years. Your readers should bewarned that anti-psychitrist activities are a backbone of the activities of the COS. This is first hand observation, not conjecture from afar. If you believe youself to be mentally ill you should run, not walk, away from anyone attempting to cure your ills by consulting with this organization.

This group uses expensive ‘audits’ using GSR (galvanic skin response machines) that will ‘clear’ you of unhealthy thinking. The COS is devoid of any traditional religious trappings such as transcendant life, worship rituals or free education in church dogma. In short, it is a only a cult, and a very wealthy one indeed.

March 28, 2012 at 5:46 am
(13) Tom says:

What if everyone just has different levels of sensitivity? I was labelled with OCD 10 years ago, I looked it up read loads about it and of course identified with pretty much everything I found. I was given this label OCD and thought ” ok great here is the reason I feel like I do, I’m an an anxious person with OCD. The problem was that I looked at the whole world from the perspective of someone with OCD thus keeping the condition alive. It wasn’t until someone came to me and said what if you haven’t got OCD, what if it is just a part of your learned behaviour to worry massively about everything, what if it is just thinking that makes you feel the way you do? He taught me that I don’t have to listen to that voice / thoughts in my head, that I have a choice whether to react to it. Guess what, once you stop reacting to it, like a bully, after time, it goes away. You deserve to be happy and free to live the life you want. Break the patterns of the conditioned behaviour we pick up from our parents, it really is our choice. For more info look at “three principles movies.com”

October 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm
(14) Rebecca says:

Mental illness isn’t solely genetic, I don’t think anybody is arguing that. Learned behavior is a part of it. And I’ll the psychiatrists I’ve dealt with (Canada) have discussed mental illness as existing on a spectrum.

The issue I have with COS is they discount all of the mental health profession, which includes a lot of good non-drug therapy and research. It is hurtful to have an organization and its followers act as though you aren’t an active and intelligent person because you take drugs and see a psychiatrist. It just feels like such a betrayal that they would judge those working toward their own health with such superior disdain. Dealing with stigma in every day life is hard enough without this “church” stoking the fire, and doing it under the mask of “human rights” is a little bit sketchy. Sure psychiatry has a questionable past, but so do many things….

January 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm
(15) Terri says:

I wouldn’t be alive today if it were not for psychiatry and psychiatric meds. Yes, I was unfortunate enough to be misdiagnosed several times by inferior psychiatrists at a county mental health center who really messed me up. But, part of the problem was that my seizure med, Tegretol, can mask manic symptoms so that it appears you have only unipolar depression and also, they did not know my son had bipolar as he was away at college. Then the drugs that you are given for unipolar depression make bipolar worse! Then, instead of questioning their first diagnosis, they give you anti-psychotics which really mess you up! Made me catatonic! Then I had to have ECT to fix that! But my son, who is bipolar stepped in at that point and got me to a psychiatrist who knows what the heck he’s doing. Because my son is bipolar and because he realized that, YES, bipolar is genetic, he put me on the same meds that were working for my son, and I am so much better! Still a long way to go but, without these meds I would have committed suicide as I had had it with everything. Now I have hope!

January 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm
(16) Fred Coats says:

It is clear that the people in CCHR have never experienced real mental illness up close as in their own family.

January 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm
(17) Anonymous says:

E – I have PCOS. This condition cannot be detected with a medical test. It is diagnosed purely by secondary symptoms and clinical assessment. In this sense, the physical disorder, PCOS, is similar to bipolar disorder. As for the bipolar brain being the same as the “normal” brain, hence, no illness, well we share like 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees. Would you say that humans and chimpanzees would look exactly the same given the same set of environmental factors? Finally, the heritability of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia has been studied at the University of Minnesota, which developed the twin test. The twin test studies single-zygote (i.e. identical) twins that have been adopted by different families and raised apart yet still develop mental disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Moreover, at the time the twin studies were first conducted, adoption records were sealed at least until the subjects reached adulthood. Thus, participants might not have even been aware of family history when reporting symptoms. Based on your comments, I might very easily conclude that you are “brainwashed” by anti-psychiatry conspiracy theorists in much the same manner that you claim bipolar people have been duped by the pharmacology industry and psychiatry profession. Also talk radio and anecdotal evidence do not yield statistically reliable evidence in the same manner that double-blind randomized studies do.

January 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm
(18) Edie says:

E – I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1998. To my knowledge, I was the only person in my family ever diagnosed with any mental illness. I have family in Norway, but they didn’t know about the diagnosis. In 2009, one of my first cousins in Norway, who was older than I, was diagnosed with bipolar. He did not know that I had bipolar, so he could not have reported that anyone else in his family had a mental illness.

This seems to me to be a pretty clear indication that mental illness is genetic.

January 29, 2013 at 2:58 pm
(19) Will says:

E (if that is indeed your real name), joking aside you need to f**ck off. There is scientific proof that the brains of the mentally ill ARE different from “normal” (illness free) brains. Scans that show brain activity clearly show a distinction. From that statement alone I can tell you have no idea what you’re talking about.

January 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm
(20) kathykeltsy says:

Then why did I see things and hear things all my life, especially when manic…when I had never heard of BP or manic depressive. I never had relief until I was diagnosed and put on the right medication and now my life is so much better. Obviously…I don’t see things all the time. It’s turned my life around, to the better. I’m one of the lucky ones who responded to treatment and I stay on my meds and take care of myself and my symptoms are kept in check.

January 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm
(21) Anonynous says:

Twin test should read twin study. Was all fired up and did not catch this error.

January 29, 2013 at 11:19 pm
(22) rowdy1 says:

I have a whole family of bipolar sufferers, I can only begin with my grandpa and his siblings, as I didn’t really know anyone before that. He had 13 siblings and i know at least 10 had problems, including his twin brother. Bipolar is scattered among many relatives on his side of the family. I was sick for years before they discovered i was bipolar. Tests showed I was born bipolar. If it had been caught 30 years earlier, they said I wouldn’t have been an alcoholic/drug addict. It took a lot of time and trials to find the proper med’s, but once they did, wow. I function the same as anybody these days. And if you didn’t know I was bipolar, you would never guess it. So in my opinion, bipolar is very genetic. I think the disorder was added on so we don’t refer to ourselves as bipolar, instead we say we have a disorder.

January 30, 2013 at 12:37 am
(23) Anon says:

I was diagnosed with BP1 after major manic episode, so was my brother & mother, but theres a fine line between hereditary & circumstantial illness. We learn so much from our parents, even early on we start mimicking their patterns, including for me at least the way I handle stress. I’m not saying BP isn’t real but from my perspective, it is treatable, perhaps it can even be put into ‘remission’ by the choices we make in our every day lives whether about what supplements or meds to take or how we react to the many stressors in this upside-down world we live in.

Here is some real science that might change your view about genetics & hereditary illness as a whole. It discusses how our gut flora, which is both inherited & cultivated from the foods we eat, can affect our genetics:


January 30, 2013 at 10:08 am
(24) Clarice says:

ADHD & ODD definitely genetic from husband’s mother’s family with many of them affected; now several of our children & grand-children have it.

February 1, 2013 at 1:45 am
(25) cheryetc says:

Well for all you non believers whether you belong to that COS cult or not, all I can say is you better hope and pray YOU don’t ever actually become mentally ill yourselves. Mental Illness wreaks unbelievable havoc on your life and everyone around you that knows and loves you. Left untreated it will cause you many years of misery that I suppose you deserve since you’ve taken it upon yourselves to become self-proclaimed experts on something you obviously don’t know a d..mn thing about. Have you ever heard of Karma? Well I hope you’re just as much a non-believer in that. So when it sneaks up behind you, you’ll never see it coming either…

February 6, 2013 at 1:38 am
(26) jinxx says:

Hey, E– I’m all for a good argument. But please, do your own research and get the facts. Oscar Wilde said: I refuse fo engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man.
Science and research has in fact proven that the brains of those with “mental illnesses” (now called brain diseases) ARE different from those without. That’s why meds have different effects on those of us who suffer with brain disorders than people who don’t.
Check out research done by Dr. Daniel Amen (with photos). It’s fascinating.
And: a psychiatrist’s beliefs have nothing to do with how a diagnosis is made. That involves tests and observing the patient.
Yes, I am a card-carrying member of the Bipolar Collective. I also have ADHD and anxiety disorders. I find modern psychiatry amazing, and a real source of hope. It is not infallible, but it is starting to get more right than wrong. In my book, that’s a plus.

February 22, 2013 at 10:26 am
(27) matt says:

Mental illness. Can stress be cured? No. We will always be stressed. But to cure it with drugs is not the answer. The pharmaceutical industry is so huge they’ll never want you to unhook yourselves from the lies. Medication cannot cure or relieve stress. Drugs cannot find the REAL reason why people get stressed. Someone who stole, lied or did something wrong might be stressed because he or she did something wrong. There might be so many reasons why people get stressed but it’s not because “You need medication”.

February 28, 2013 at 5:03 pm
(28) Cora says:

If these are normal chemicals in the brain which are being added to “balance” the ‘imbalance’ then why do these pills cause severe birth defects, horrible side affects, and ‘side affects’ that negates the reason you take the pill in the first place? If you think it helps you, fine because no one can change what you believe and if you believe something enough then it’s true in your eyes. But remember where cocaine started, and Freud (the doctor of his day) said that it was completely safe…just like the doctors of today claim these are safe. These ‘Meds’ may help some people because they believe it helps them, but the best medicine is your own mind.

February 28, 2013 at 5:03 pm
(29) Cora says:

If these are normal chemicals in the brain which are being added to “balance” the ‘imbalance’ then why do these pills cause severe birth defects, horrible side affects, and ‘side affects’ that negates the reason you take the pill in the first place? If you think it helps you, fine because no one can change what you believe and if you believe something enough then it’s true in your eyes. But remember where cocaine started, and Freud (the doctor of his day) said that it was completely safe…just like the doctors of today claim these are safe. These ‘Meds’ may help some people because they believe it helps them, but the best medicine is your own mind.

June 2, 2013 at 2:31 am
(30) Tony says:

I feel like the whole genetic argument is well-intentioned but mislead. Just because there is a condition that an extended family has, does not mean it’s genetic. Calling a disorder genetic does nothing but make the person accept the label as being unchangeable and often times accept medication and therapy, which last a lifetime, but never cures the condition. Sure meds and therapy can mask the symptoms, but never do address the underlying problems. The argument of genetics playing a key role in mental health is jumping from point a to point b with nothing but assumptions. Consider this… I had a severe concussion this year. I sought out help from doctors, neurologists, chiropractors, and more. All of which had next to no idea what actually caused my symptoms. All they had to say was that the symptoms were impossible to run from, and that they could not be fixed. I was told only medications could help me, and that I would have to play the waiting game. I went to Canada to see a specialist, and he completely cured my concussions. I had terrible migraines everyday for five months. After the second day of treatment, they were completely gone. Turns out, the pain, fogginess, irritability, and much more was caused by tight neck muscles, which pinch nerves and restrict blood flow to the brain. All I had to do was stretch the muscles. Turns out, this physiotherapist received call after call from pharma companies… I’ll just say they were’t pleasant calls. Anyways, how do we know that bacteria that is passed from mother to child doesn’t cause certain conditions?

June 2, 2013 at 2:32 am
(31) Tony says:

Or how do we know that learned parenting styles that get passed generation to generation doesn’t cause a specific environmental influence that triggers mental conditions. Read this link… http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/gaps . It does a good job at explaining how genetics is a truly idiotic and mislead assumption on why traits and conditions run in families. It’s time we as a society stop accepting ourselves and our traits as unavoidable and inherited. If you have a flaw, by golly buckle down and change it! You are in control of your destiny, and just because the common knowledge of the here and now says this is this and that is that, doesn’t mean it’s 100% accurate. It just means as far as main stream knowledge accepts, this is what we know. Keep in mind we live with a bunch of greedy bastards who have a powerful say on what gets published in the mainstream and what doesn’t. These people are “Big Pharma”.

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