Sunday, December 30, 2007

Musings on “Medical Mysteries”

There are some fictional and nonfictional "medical mysteries" television shows (such as "Mystery Diagnosis") that I have enjoyed watching.

What I find quite revealing in the real-life medical mysteries is that in case after case the people were told that their symptoms were not "real" – i.e. they were "mental".

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Autism Is Not a “Mental Illness”

Remember that the term "mental illness" is not a diagnosis.

It is jargon -- a term society uses to refer to some, usually severe and persistent biologically-based, disorders of the brain such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder which are in the psychiatric manual of symptoms and labels for sets of symptoms arising from some malfunction of the brain, regardless of cause. This psychiatric manual is called the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In the DSM, there are hundreds of labels for sets of symptoms we do not consider "mental illness" including symptoms arising from traumatic brain injury, hyperthyroidism, vitamin deficiency, enteritis (intestinal inflammation), and more.  Some people include psychopathology under the umbrella term "mental" illness.  Some think of personality disorders and emotional issues as "mental illness" but others do not. So it is a social term.

The parents of children with autism worked very hard to change public and medical perception of the diagnosis of "autism." It is listed in the DSM-IV, but that does not make it a “mental illness,” at least not in the socially used jargon. It is considered a developmental disorder, but then, some doctors advocate that is what "schizophrenia" is as well.[1]

Some dictionaries may define autism, and anything else in the DSM, as "mental illness" (here), which would include head trauma, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson's, mental retardation, brain effects from Celiac, etc., but enlightened society generally does not refer to these as "mental" illnesses anymore, knowing they are medical issues.  

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Pediatric-Onset Bipolar Actually a Behavioral Disorder?

Every now and then, someone like John Rosemond will blast the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children, saying that it is labeling toddler behavior with a psychiatric diagnosis.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is a Correctly Diagnosed Case of Schizophrenia, by Definition, “Mental”?

If a person really has schizophrenia, and schizophrenia is a mental illness, then shouldn't we think of that person as having an illnessd that truly is MENTAL -- that is of the MIND -- and not a medical condition??

Once again, the answer is not as obvious as it seems.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mitochondrial Dysfunction & Psychiatric Symptoms

Nerves and muscles require a lot of energy and are quite vulnerable to disruptions in their metabolic needs.

Most people who have heard about genetic defects causing mitochondrial dysfunction are probably most familiar with MELAS.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why does a child get a “mental” diagnosis when it isn’t “mental”?

My child had no "psychological" problems nor any "behavioral" disorders, yet got diagnosed with a “mental” illness.

The first “mental” labels (more were added later) were Major Depressive Disorder (i.e. “Depression”) and Mood Disorder-nos. It wasn’t psychological. It wasn’t from some emotional cause. It wasn’t a flaw in her personality. The doctor said it was “intrinsic” or “biological”. Something about her own biology or some physical problem was CAUSING the depression since it was not a result of any circumstances in her life or even due to “warped” or negative thinking on her part.

In other words, it was not "Mental."   It was simply, "Illness." 

Is Schizophrenia a “Psychotic Disorder”?

Some researchers say that the “mental” illness called “schizophrenia” or “schizoaffective” might not really be a “psychotic disorder” since even after treating the psychosis, the person is generally left with severe impairments in function.

What IS a “Psychotic Disorder", Anyway?

Following up on the question Is Schizophrenia a “Psychotic Disorder”, if neurodevelopmental, genetic and medical problems resulting in psychosis are not "psychotic disorders"... then what really IS a "psychotic disorder?"

Some Known Medical Causes of “Mental” Symptoms

There are many known medical causes of anxiety, mood swings, depression, attentional difficulties with or without hyperactivity ("ADHD"), psychosis, and/or other psychiatric symptoms.

However, to complicate matters, the illnesses of the endocrine system, sleep disorder, autoimmune disorders, etc. are frequently found to be “co-morbid” with the illness that gets diagnosed as “mental,” rather than contributing causative factors. The danger in this way of thinking is that these "co-morbid" conditions may not be treated as effectively as they might be if the set of symptoms as a whole had been adressed, rather than in pieces.

What are some genetic causes of psychosis?

In our bodies, we have two types of DNA (genetic material) that get passed down to our children in very different ways.

Nuclear DNA: Nuclear deoxyribonucleic acid (referred to as nDNA or simply, DNA) is what we commonly think of when we think of “genetics” and genes. It is the DNA in the nucleus of the cell. It is the DNA we learn extensively about in biology class when we learn about “meiosis” and the forming of “gametes”—the sperm and eggs that merge to create our precious children.

Mitochondrial DNA: The other type of DNA is located in little organelles in the cell cytoplasm called the mitochondria. It gets referred to as mtDNA.

If We Know the Medical Cause, Then is it Still “Mental Illness”?

Yes and no.

I wish I could say that once medical causes of a person's brain condition are determined, or the symptoms are relieved with medical interventions, the problem is no longer, ever, referred to by the psychiatric diagnosis. It is not "mental" in the true sense of the word, but it is sometimes labeled as such for "convenience"--not to define it as a psychological or emotional problem.

But lines get blurred.

Is It still called "Schizophrenia" After the Medical Cause is Found?

In research literature, when scientists find a specific cause for a person's or family's "schizophrenia," the illness is still referred to as "schizophrenia" rather than by a new diagnosis. But here is a better question--Should it still be called "Schizophrenia"? (See:  No Longer Bipolar / No longer Schizophrenic - Recovered, In Remission, or Misdiagnosed ???)

What other MEDICAL Causes get called “Schizophrenia”?

This continues our discussion of the topics "Some Known Medical Causes of 'Mental' Symptoms" and "What are some genetic causes of psychosis?" It goes beyond the urinary tract infections (UTIs), tumors, auto-immune disorders, heart problems, etc. that get so easily diagnosed as "mental illnesses" ranging from depression and anxiety to bipolar and schizophrenia.

As modern research techniques start revealing the medical causes behind some categories of illnesses we have been calling “schizophrenia”, we would expect these now known causes to be removed from the label “schizophrenia.”  After all, the DSM IV specifically EXCLUDES cases from that diagnosis which are caused by a “general medical condition”.

But that is not the case.

Here are some more medical causes of symptoms still diagnosed as “schizophrenia” in addition to chromosomal deletion, 22q11 (velocardiofacial syndrome)[1] and X-chromosome gene polymorphism--HOPA12pb[2] which have already been discussed.