News New approach to some mental disorders


Depression, anxiety and PTSD might not be disorders at all, according to biological anthropologists. In the paper, the researchers propose a new approach to mental illness that would be informed by human evolution, noting that modern psychology, and in particular its use of drugs like antidepressants, has largely failed to reduce the prevalence of mental disorders.

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Interesting article, I'm gonna read the original publication in a bit. However, one thing stood out and lets me take the entire study with a grain of salt:

Other disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD are not hereditary, occur at any age and are often tied to threatening experiences. Hagen and Syme propose they may be responses to adversity and serve as signals, much like physical pain does, to make people aware of the need for help.

While obviously PTSD seems to be acquired as a result of adversity, there is a lot of factual evidence that depression, anxiety (as well as ADHD, which they mention and "dismiss" in a previous paragraph) have a highly heredity component. One could argue that it's bound to "run in families" because families tend to face the same social dysfunctions -- but hadn't there been twin studies? I may be wrong, though.

While I absolutely agree that one shouldn't look to "fix the symptoms" and rather address the underlaying causes (which, bar from just throwing drugs at a disorder I thought was one of the points of therapy?), considering that for example in PTSD the trauma seems to "re-wire" the Amygdala and even after taking the patient out of the societal context continues to show symptoms, I'm having a little bit of a problem with their conclusion of

"The pain is not the disease; the pain is the function that is telling you there is a problem," said Syme. "Depression, anxiety and PTSD often involve a threat or exposure to violence, which are predictable sources for these things that we call mental diseases. Instead, they look more like sociocultural phenomena, so the solution is not necessarily fixing a dysfunction in the person's brain but fixing dysfunctions in the social world."

I like and commend their approach to put mental disorders in societal context, which is much needed, however, I feel like they're going the other extreme and dismiss the possibility of underlaying biological/structural causes too easily. As such, I feel like they're doing a disservice to the fight against stigma and for acceptance of invisible disabilities.