Would Discovering the Biology of “Mental Illness” Explain its Cause?


Researchers are constantly hunting for chemical variations in people with emotional/behavioral problems. But even if chemical differences are someday found in those with such problems, why would we assume that these chemical processes ​cause their abnormal behaviors or moods, as opposed to being mere correlates of them at the chemical level? Doesn’t every mood, thought, and behavior, whether normal or abnormal, have to have its own unique corresponding chemical correlate? After all, we are made of nothing but chemicals. Every feeling, thought, or behavior is merely a series of chemical processes. Such processes are the physiology, or means by which all bodily functions occur. Pathophysiology is the study of changes in the way bodies work, ​as a result ​of ​disease. These changes are the effects, not the causes, of diseases.

Despite this, biological psychiatrists claim that finding the necessarily-present underlying chemical processes of abnormal moods, thoughts, or behaviors will prove that they are chemically caused. They are confusing ​how ​with ​why, or physiology with etiology. But its chemical correlate does not cause it; it merely ​is ​the mood, thought, or action, as viewed at the chemical level. They are one and the same thing. The chemical imbalance ​theory, in proposing that something causes itself to occur, ​thus makes no sense. It would be like finding the speeding up of water molecules to be the mechanism of water boiling, and then deducing that this process is the ​cause ​of its boiling. It is actually heat​ ​that makes water boil, by causing its molecules to accelerate.

For example, if we get upset over losing someone, of course some chemical (neurotransmitter) process must occur, which corresponds to our feeling upset — this process ​is ​our upset feeling, as seen at the chemical level. But the cause of the emotion cannot be itself (its correlating chemical brain activity) — the cause is our loss. Similarly, if I choose to raise my arm, this elicits chemical processes in my muscles involving calcium, acetylcholine, and proteins. These processes are the means by which the arm movement operates, not its cause. They ​are ​the movement, as viewed at the chemical level. My voluntarily raising my arm is what made it move. Or if someone hits you on the head, this can cause impaired cognitive functioning, by altering brain cell levels of chemicals like potassium, glucose, and calcium, disrupting brain cell functioning. But this correlating change in chemical activity is not the cause of the impaired cognition; it ​is the impaired cognition, as seen at the chemical level. It is ​how, ​not ​why, ​the cognitive impairment occurred. The ​why, ​or cause of the abnormal cognition, and its correlating abnormal chemical activity, was ​being hit on the head.

Imagine if police stopped looking for killers whenever they found the chemical correlates of an injury, due to wrongly assuming that the chemical abnormalities occurred spontaneously, killing the person. They would deduce that “The case has now been solved; it was biochemical.” Such illogical conclusions would lead to a big rise in the murder rate once potential murderers realized they will not be sought after or arrested. Similarly, people’s acceptance of the chemical correlates of problems to be their causes prevents them from looking for and addressing their true causes.

Others claim that finding unusual brain activity in those with emotional/behavioral issues would explain what caused their problem. But abnormal brain activity and abnormal mental functioning are just two different ways of viewing the same event. Brain activity ​is ​the mechanism by which all thoughts, feelings, and behaviors occur, as seen at the brain cell functioning level. Of course something correspondingly occurs in our brains every time we think, feel, or act. And of course, each unique thought, feeling or action, whether normal or unusual, must have its own correlating unique brain process. They are the same thing, and something can’t cause itself to occur. So even if such necessarily-present brain activity correlates are someday found in people with emotional problems, this won’t explain ​why ​their problems developed. It will merely be a way to view ​how their brains work (what the physiological mechanisms of their feelings, thoughts, or actions are).

For example, as a result of years of training, neurosurgeons learn vast amounts of knowledge, concepts, and expertise, which all must have corresponding unique brain processes. These brain processes did not ​cause ​their concepts, knowledge, and expertise to develop (the neurosurgeons’ educations did), but merely ​are ​these, as seen at the microscopic brain activity level. Similarly, as children mature normally and learn effective coping tools like focusing or managing their moods and impulses, of course there will be brain-activity changes which correspond to their mature coping tools, since these newly learned mental functions must have new brain-activity correlates. If children do not mature normally and are thus labelled ‘​ADHD’ ​or ‘bipolar,’ then of course their brain activity will differ from the mature child’s brain activity. But the reason ​why they did not mature would remain unanswered.

So what do studies of the physiology of people with emotional/behavioral problems have to do with finding the causes of their problems? Absolutely nothing. They serve no purpose, just as uncovering the physiology of people who need new cars or new shoes won’t help them solve their problems either. All they accomplish is to fool clients into thinking that they have fixed defects and thus cannot help themselves. They thereby dissuade people from exploring the true causes of issues that they need to work on. Neglected issues worsen over time, so ‘biological causation of mental illness​’ is a lie which itself ​causes mental illness. Psychiatry’s tricking people into not using their amazing capacity to learn and adapt is its greatest harm. As more and more problems become psychiatry’s domain, more and more people are being lured into handing over responsibility for their or their kids’ issues to a field whose goal is not to help them, but to produce lifelong psychiatric clients. These people thereby unwittingly let their or their kids’ initially minor, transient, resolvable troubles blossom into major, chronic, disabling ones.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. I agree that causation cannot be inferred from correlational data. However, causation can be inferred from manipulated variable research. Some people (those with HCV and melanoma) have been treated with IFN-alpha. In response, depression/anxiety occurs in 20-60%. Others have injected LPS, component of bacterial cell wall, into human subjects under the skin (Stone et al., 2007; Eisenberger et al. 2010, 2009; Inagaki et al., 2012). In response people report sadness and anxiety. They are less responsive in the Nucleus Accumbens to reward, and they exhibit more amygdala activity when viewing angry faces. Seems to me the case for inflammation being able to cause depression in some people is pretty good.

      • glad you asked. Stress of various types can induce inflammation. (There are many studies manipulating the variable of stress and then measuring inflammation.) Diet can alter gut microbiota such that leaky gut occurs and systematic inflammation ensues. The good news is that treatments should be directed toward reducing inflammation. For this, diet, exercise, social support, yoga, enhancing vagal tone have also demonstrated efficacy.

        • I agree Jill. Stress and poor diet certainly contributed to my anxiety and depression. Another factor for me was Vitamin D deficiency. After increasing my intake of Vitamin D from 1000 IU per day to 8000 IU per day I noticed I was much less angry, although not necessarily less sad. Life is still difficult and it is hard to be happy when bad things are happening, but since increasing my vitamin D supplement I feel much more able to cope with sadness.

          • Deprivation of resource is inversely related to otherwise insulated or allayed fears – so whatever level, the lack of support for function brings dysfunctional relationships and accompanying triggered strategies that tend to exacerbate and compound the ‘problem’ which is not caused by the conditions that exposed or triggered it – but those conditions are embodiments of the core power struggle set in archetype as our human conditioning. One who chooses to relinquish what others cling to may ascribe different meanings to their experience and get different results.
            But psychic-emotional conflict is deeply conditioning our consciousness and relational society. So much so that the human condition has dropped the ‘ing’.
            There is a chicken/egg to negative habit patterns – so creating conditions of calmer or clearer sense of being can serve better choices and better outcomes. My key point would be that a core sense of worth is the context in which all else works – for without it there is no soil for anything true to grow. No one can change what they are not at least momentarily the owning of. I don’t advocate ‘positive’ overlay upon a fear-defined sense of self but an honesty as to the fear opens a truly positive or integrative perspective from which to take this step.

        • Hi, Jill,

          I agree it is likely that SOME depression/anxiety is caused by nutritional problems or inflammation from stress. Is that the cause of ALL depression/anxiety? And might not “treating” the resulting inflammation from stress provide an excuse for society not addressing the many causes of avoidable chronic stress in our modern society?

          — Steve

          • “I WANT IT THUS!” or in reverse expression “I WANT IT OTHERWISE!”
            and when I do not get what I want I experience a sense of disappointment, deprivation, denial, depression or anxiety, anger or loss of face and am exposed in shame.
            How much do I set myself up to suffer by insisting fulfilment comes in the terms I set? Or set up a sense of grievance as a sense of inverted joy in seeking vengeance?
            In many respects we become flexible in controlling our expressions or in wanting less and abnegating the call to joy as a cause of trouble – for love is weakness and vulnerability to hurt – and so hide, guard and withhold by joining in the open conspiracy to look away from and limit the call to joy by taking joy in substitute distractions and gratifications.
            The wish to shut down or keep a thick skin aligns the habits and diet and companioning that supports the wish.
            The avoidance of transformation is a clinging to patterns of thought and behaviour that focus on the need for everything (and everyone) ELSE to change – especially after a token sacrifice does not get the required payback.
            But the generally managed surface behaviours are only the lid of a jack in the box of often ‘unconscious’ stuff that essentially wants to come home. Everything we push down or try to eradicate holds a part of us homeless. What goes around, comes around.

            But yes ‘treating symptoms’ instead of addressing cause is the evasion of cause – and the transformation that comes from seeing what is actually going on in my mind. It may still make sense to do whatever we may to boost or strengthen the Life force – under whatever name – such that stresses are able to be experienced through to positive outcomes and inflammations cleared or damage cleared up to support cellular and metabolic health in whole bodyminded being.
            It isn’t stress that damages so much as stress in context of negative self-defeating outcomes. There’s a context that makes all the difference. We are not intrinsically weak. We have learned to hide or deny the capacity to live in full presence as part of our human adaptation.
            Everyone has their pathway and for some nutrition opens doors that for others it does not. Living our own by extending the same freedom to others. No need to make rules as to what anyone should do. Better to illuminate the choices and consequences and trust people to move in the direction of their healing as they are currently able to accept.

    • Hi Jill: You say that causation can be inferred from manipulated variable research. However, this is not what happens in natural settings. If you look at the comment I posted earlier, you will see that it is HUMAN EXPERIENCE (psychological causes) that brings about changes in neurons and neuro-chemicals. Brains do not change for no apparent reason at all – that is what the psychiatrists want us to believe.
      If someone loses one’s job, all the rumination/worry/regrets will change their brain chemicals and when the person gets a job again, these chemicals will return to normal again.

    • A blow to the head, even before inflammation sets in, can cause symptoms of depression. Psychiatrists aren’t looking at the blow to the head, or even the inflammation, as causes of depression. They are looking, mainly in the brain, for the neurotransmission and circuitry malfunctions that result from insults and injuries. That’s what the search for the cause of depression amounts to these days.

      Chemistry is where the money is. Drug companies are chemical manufacturers, after all.

  2. I admire you for moving to the practice of psychotherapy and I agree with your motion.

    I completely rejected the biological approach in 1980 – unsuccessfully. And consumed strong psychiatric medications until 1984.

    When I stopped the strong psychiatric drugs I noticed I was becoming overwhelmed with anxiety. But at the same time it was demonstrated to me that when I was able to get away from my anxious preoccupation I could see things in more reasonable ways. So I learned to avoid my compulsive Anxiety until I calmed down – which was very difficult to do at the time (but worked).

    I’ve learnt a lot more since about Psychotherapy, Spirituality, Meditation, Buddhism, Mindfulness, 12 Step Fellowship, Exercise and everything else. But the only “Mental Illness” Biology worth knowing for me was that psychotropic drugs alter the brain and it’s function and that ts important to come off them very carefully.

    And that Psychotherapy does work.

  3. In response to Jill: The question is whether there is such a thing as “mental illness”. Thus, even if inflammation is correlated with depression in some people this does not prove that those affected are mentally ill. On the contrary, we have good reasons to believe that their depression is a response to a physical condition, and not the result of a diseased brain. Moreover, psychological life-events, such as trauma and loss, are in most cases much more plausible explanations for depression than inflammation. Finally, I find it ethically dubious to inject LPS (a poisonous substance) into human subjects in order to study whether they become depressed and anxious.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Kelmenson’s thesis. The overwhelming majority of published research now simply takes for granted that discovering biological differences between healthy vs diagnosed persons demonstrates the physiological cause of the disorder. A recently published study (1) presents evidence of “reductions” in white matter integrity (essentially, impaired structural physiology of brain cells) in a large sample of persons with self-reported episodes of depression, compared to healthy persons. The authors argue that loss of white matter integrity “could reflect the neurological basis of” major depressive disorder and “may underlie impaired emotional process and cognitive abilities in” people who are depressed. The authors notably did not report whether or not participants had ever taken medication, and relied on self-reports of depression. No assessment of life events or circumstances were included in the study. This problem, as Bob Whitaker and Peter Gøtzsche and Gary Greenberg, etc., have so convincingly explained, is rooted in the power of the pharmaceutical industry and the control it has exerted over research funding, academic promotion, tenure and salaries and, consequently, public acceptance of the disease model of psychological disorders. Perhaps the current opioid/heroin crisis will help change public opinion.

    (1) Shen et al. (2017). Subcortical volume and white matter integrity abnormalities in major depressive disorder: Findings from UK Biobank imaging data. Scientific Reports, 7, 5547.

    • The other problem with this kind of research is that it only establishes probability. Some people with less white matter are not depressed, and some people with more white matter are. Unless EVERY depressed person presents with reduced white matter, there is no possibility of even a high correlational link, let alone a causal one. It’s really an idiotic conclusion to draw when 80-90% of your sample overlaps with “normal.”

    • @Holger
      Good example – they conflate a here-and-now description at the neurological level with the multifactorial etiological proces leading up to the here and now. It is unfortunately the norm. As I see it the reductive biological approach to mental health, which sees causality as solely bottom-up, lacks understanding of contextualized development. It still refers to environment though – only it is reduced to the umbrella-term ‘stress’ – which relates it to a second rate position.

      Although there are definitely power-structures behind this type of ‘flat thinking’ there are also, IMHO, intellectual reasons behind it. We humans are not very adept at understanding complexity and presented with cognitive shortcuts, such as simple linear models, we too readily accept them: “There’s A here, so that explains B there!” The biopsychosocial model is an attempt at grasping dynamic complexity better, but unfortunately it lacks specificity and influence.

      Another type of important reason could be the rise of the computer metaphor. A computer does not react to subtleties in the environment as long as it gets power. If you grab a picture of the program a faulty computer is presently running, you can correct its program directly too. Its history or relational embeddedness is not central to its local operation. It’s sad the computer has become the main metaphor for the brain. It would be better to consider the nervous system as more akin to a plant than a computer. In this regard biological psychiatry is strangely un-biological.

      Just as mental health is not determined by single one-factor causality, neither – I think – is the unfolding of psychiatry solely related to the pharmaceutical industry.

      • On your last point, I agree. I just didn’t want to make my post lengthier. There are a lot of guilty parties. Gary Greenberg’s books and videos (on youtube) provide excellent descriptions of the events over the past 100+ years that led APA to the fix it’s in now. I think there are too many people making too much money to expect psychiatry to turn the ship around on its own. Peter Gøtzsche is convinced psychiatry if far too corrupt to fix itself. I think only class-action lawsuits or serious government regulation changes can turn the tide.

          • Stephen,
            I agree with you.

            Psychiatry itself has moved into criminality – it’s very strange that as part of our culture we turn a blind eye to it.

        • Is it possible that a drugged population can coexist with a thriving economy? I think America is a great example of a success story there.

          People want to maximize utility, and while they might not want a certain pill for $10, they might want it for $5. While drug companies enjoy massive returns to scale, selling more pills more cheaply than ever before to consumers, it’s hard to identify negative and even positive external factors of so many people taking pills.

  5. The conclusion of this article makes sense, because it is true that psychiatry is tricking people. But the premise requires more thorough examination:

    “After all, we are made of nothing but chemicals. Every feeling, thought, or behavior is merely a series of chemical processes.”

    This is precisely the kind of reductionist thinking that allowed psychiatry to flourish in the first place. If every feeling, thought, or behavior is merely a series of chemical processes then there is no way to defend the logic of this piece because logic is nothing more than the product of a series of chemical processes. Modern materialism and reductionism have caused a great amount of confusion, and psychiatry has capitalized on this confusion. The remedy is to study the ancients, or to discover the truth concerning the soul. Modern medicine, neuroscience, and biology simply cannot answer the questions that truly matter.


    • I agree. It is only an assumption that we are all chemicals and nothing more. Lots of cultural traditions, indeed almost every cultural tradition, posits that we are more than that. The concept that we are only material is a PHILOSOPHICAL assumption, not a scientific fact. The mind is a mystery that science has not even begun to unravel in the slightest degree.

      That being said, the author recognizes that “we” (the entity possessing the mind in charge of the body) can cause things to happen, and that biochemical changes are the response. That’s the most important starting point, regardless of what we believe “mind” to be or how we believe it to be generated. The latter question is one of metaphysics, and I doubt hard science will ever be able to find a concrete answer to it.

  6. Since alleged mental illnesses are actually syndromes, I’d doubt that our pharmaceutically oriented mind scientists would find any consistent evidence of their subjects’ illnesses, because they’re mistakenly dealing with heterogeneous groups in their search for the magic curative pills that will leave their sponsors even more rich than they presently are.
    Unfortunately, their approach also leads to ignoring real illnesses that seriously affect mental functioning, such as ignoring ADHD symptomology that could likely be induced by subclinical heavy metal poisoning, even though discovering and treating such things isn’t difficult (but likely won’t use any of the sponsor’s products).

  7. hey doctor kelmenson….this is a very good question you are presenting…a good discussion so far….I wonder how you are defining mental illness…do we really know much about causes…we did have to know something about biology when we found out the cause of pellagra…it played havoc to the brain..

  8. Identity lies beneath beliefs and self-definitions, that automatically set interpretations, responses or reactions, that result in particular physiological expressions, that are then interpreted as a diagnosis of one kind or another, as if one is subject to, victim or trapped in one’s own thinking – which is in a sense true of any fragmented sense of mind running unconscious of its predicate.

    If you can see that intolerable and overwhelming psychic-emotional conflict calls upon defences such as denial, dissociation, along with various strategies of attempt to escape, overcome, fix or redefine self/world within a narrative continuity masking over a feared or hated sense of self/truth/existence – then you have a sense of the personality structure by which to entrance an experience of separated ‘physical’ existence as one’s Reality-experience. The breakdown of the masking strategies corresponds with the resurgence of deeper energetic of what was otherwise denies awareness. When this is itself denied or aborted rather than mid-wived to birthing of a new consciousness in but not of the fear-defined ‘world’ – as a result of fears and guilts embodying themselves as social defences against exposure – then he or she will likely meet a world that is blind to their true need and works to maintain and defend a false sense of power and protection under the core beliefs of fear-defined self and world masked in terms of help, protection or law and order.

    Growing a culture of willingness for integrative healing unto a wholeness of being is really the uncovering of a true foundation. In some sense this cannot fully be accepted without looking truly at the false – which in some sense is the last thing we would abide or countenance and not something we would or could wilfully ‘do’. However the integrative movement of our being is active through every willingness as the step by step transformation of our core beliefs and definitions – not only individually but as a whole – for the fragmentation of wholeness cannot be ‘understood’ or from the fragmented mind – but a true or integral part is not broken from wholeness – but that recognition cannot be administered in a pill or injected or ‘added’ to a sense of self-lack. And all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men cannot and need not put Humpty together again.

    However the belief in loss of love to abandonment, rejection, betrayal, isolation and struggle is very deeply conditioned as a result of millennia of attempt to fix, overcome or redefine and adapt within it. We all carry different facets of a communication breakdown in a constellation of entanglement where we are triggered and triggers of conditioned reaction.

    The result of underlying anxieties, rages, impotence or sense of invalidity or worthlessness is self-destructive and therefore relationally destructive. However the key is not to carry this as a burden of blame, but to carry a curiosity and willingness to notice what is really setting our choices – without adding blame – so as to be available to a different choice from a shifted perspective as a result of NOT accepting the old pattern-habit as a basis to act from, decide in or think as. It does not matter the degree of willingness so much as a moment of true willingness pauses the ‘machinery’ of reactive identity.

    The ‘capture’ of the mind in fear-chemistry results in the over stimulation of the fight or flight response as an autonomous habit-reaction by which all other relational perspectives are suppressed and seemingly cut off or lost. Magical redistributions of psychic energy are compromises in which some quality of calm can facilitate better decisions and outcomes – but if these become a persistent resort as an enforcer of limitation of consciousness, they serve a fear agenda and hinder to the degree the one seeking help gives allegiance to joining.

    Healing is an inside job – but the nature of the alignment or synchronicity of events means that the right person or promptings can come at the right time even amidst a crazy world. In this sense ‘inside’ is not inside the dissociative thinking – but the movement of our being in a form we can recognize, accept and appreciate.

    All is Communication – and yet within a Total Communication are specific and unique expressions of who we truly are – that are mixed up with who we fear to be or wish to be and fear we cannot be. The insanity of the world that aligns in insane thinking is not sane just because it adapts to the intolerable as a sense of ‘control’ and limitation or avoidance of consequence. The recognition of inanity is the rewakening of Sanity – for only those who know they need healing seek and find the conditions. The insane know not what they do and seek to work out their ‘salvation’ on others as if then to become ‘better’ or ‘wiser’ or more ‘powerful’ along with a sense of validating their mask. True ‘therapists’ recognize they need to listen and learn from their ‘patients’ for the recognition of true worth in another is the rewakening of our own and any focus on symptoms apart from such truly shared purpose is a lost cause – or rather the assigning of cause to effects by which to seem to be without a true will – under definitions imposed from ‘outside’.

    True will is a gift of listening or of feeling discernment as a result of pausing the false. False because the mind can substitute forms and symbols and images for your desire and fulfilment, but can never actually deliver or fulfil the true of you. It is a mask or persona that can be released or realigned to serve a clearer acceptance of who you are – but the way of it is very different and the conflict of persisting the old while the new is not wholly welcomed, reflects in all kinds of misalignments that are themselves feedback experience from which to recognize, learn and grow freedom from baggage that no longer serves.
    Self attack – as self-rejection or self-judgement is the bottom line. Others can ‘teach’ you this from their own mis-learning – but you choose to learn it for your own reasons at the time – albeit on the fly and with no sense of choice made in awareness. You did not ‘learn’ everything that you were exposed to by your upbringing but on some level you have the characteristics and material with which to uncover the true of you by living from it in the ways you can. Much that seems forwards is backwards and likewise some seeming failures are genuine advances. The mind is not your friend until it agrees to be your servant rather than your master. So learn to pause to presently feel the quality and the nature of your thought rather than be run by it as if no other choice is possible. If you so desire.

  9. While the makeup of the brain is contingent on individual experiences, it makes sense that there should be workarounds to therapy, for example with medications. What’s wrong with people drugging themselves to feel happy and not actually addressing their problems with therapy?

    • I don’t see it as ‘wrong’ to seek to evade problems that you are not currently willing to face or embrace – but is a choice with consequences like all others – so if making a conscious choice – you are allowing consciousness in – whereas if running from consciousness of problems you don’t even know you are conscious and have choice – because the ‘problem’ is defining your experience without your awareness that is so.

      It can be said we learn by mistakes but that is not a recommendation to go and hurt yourself and others so as to ‘learn’ anything.
      Lack of real relationships is the driver for false associations. Sometimes the light from another gifts one who believes they have none or deserve none. We all know at least some moment of what it is to be seen or listened to and extended worth – and if we haven’t yet – we will recognize the quality of this in a place that transactional relationships shy away from.
      I don’t know about ‘reaching goals in life’ as a measure of success. Aligning with what you truly want and living that is the discovery of who you are in all kinds of ways that setting goals can work against. But for some that is how their minds work and so that is the way they structure the uncovering of what they really want – often by experiencing what in fact does not meet the expectation. How much of the human experience is waking to who you are via the exhaustion of all that you are not?
      In that sense, the prodigal moment of bottoming out may be hollow riches or a hollow result of the evaporation or breakdown of false sense of self. I see many strong voices in the comments here and my sense is that many here have come through some degree of personal reality breakdown.
      Load of people get heroin in hospital under different names who do not go on to become addicted. But most psychoactive drugs generate imbalance that is hard for many to get off – not as a loss of a high – but from the keeping at bay of extremely difficult psych-emotional and physical states. But I am sure you know this.
      Many lauded poets, artists or thinkers availed themselves of various substances – but the state legislates our right to explore and experience and learn from doing so – while at the same time forcing or coercing dangerous drugs on the failure to comply and conform…

  10. This is a brilliant article, although it is partly because so much of what is obvious is not obvious to psychiatric researchers.

    I think about the same concepts as the author in saying that biochemistry is the conduit, expression, or vessel through which our experience in life expresses itself. In this way, there is no more sense in saying that the alterations in brain chemicals while taking an enjoyable piano lesson are a disease, than saying that feeling depressed after one’s mother dies is a disease. Feelings and their neurobiological correlates simply are what they are, and they involve the environment and the organism interacting dynamically.

    Psychiatry barely recognizes the influence of the environment, especially with “severe mental illness”, and thus its practitioners are largely helpless to help such people, since they see a disease rather than a person to be understood. Meanwhile, the real goals are achieved: get the cash flowing in via quick pill prescriptions, appear to be a doctor treating a medical disease, and retain patients for life since chemical suppression does not solve real life issues, at least not usually.

  11. I agree. Lots of studies have shown that it is HUMAN EXPERIENCE that brings about changes in brain chemicals and also result structural changes in the brain. Mice subjected to various psychological stresses (e.g. being restrained) clearly show dendritic atrophy and loss of dendritic spines [see: Popoli M, et al. (2012), The stressed synapse: the impact of stress and glucocorticoids on glutamate transmission, Nature reviews Neuroscience. 2011;13(1):22-37.] – these changes are reversible through psychological means (e.g. when stressed, restrained animals are released as described in the same article). Other studies have shown that as taxi drivers do their jobs (psychological causes), the brain changes. Jugglers gain more grey matter in certain areas as a result of engaging in juggling. Various psychological habits, choices, etc., can also change the brain. For example, research has also shown that impulsivity trait results in reductions in gray matter. On the other hand, mindfulness practices (that result in reductions in impulsivity) are known to change the structure and function of the brain in positive ways (e.g. increases in gray matter and cortical thickness).
    The psychiatrists get this CAUSATION TOTALLY WRONG – they think the causation happens the other way around.

  12. Right here, epthe wrote,
    “I’ve been banned from the schizophrenia forum which is ran by mostly mothers of schizophrenics and they sure want keep their offspring on anti-psychotic meds.”


    Our society creates the fallacy of mental illness, and it does it to reinforce existing power relations and conditions for legitimacy. And so long as we cooperate with it, it is just going to get worse.

  13. Would discovering the mythology of “mental illness” explain its cause? Some people say religion is a need the human species has, but I, dispensing with such superstitious nonsense entirely, tend to be a skeptic about the matter myself. I don’t think there is a lot of reliable and verifiable proof that “mental illness” has anything to do with biology, except in so far as the treatments received for it injure the people being so treated.

  14. This is very well written article by a doctor that clearly poses some very thought provoking points and counter points to multi-subject matters. Throughout this article, Doctor Kelmenson is looking for the “correlates” that have been established or explained. Chemical processes are reactionary; however, don’t treat the actual causes, and in today’s society, there is a pill for everything. I believe he is 100% correct on his thoughts regarding patients being misled by their doctors. It’s become to easy to treat a patient with a pill instead; and the cause of that is greed.

    Clearly, Doctor Kelmenson has a vast amount of knowledge and truly put his time into researching his subject matter; I want to thank him for providing all of us, a wonderful articile to read. I truly look forward to reading his next article.

  15. You are surely right to point out that the micro-physical description of a mental event is not the same thing as the events cause. According to identity theorists those neuro-physiological events and the mental event are one and the same thing, the difference is only one for us in how we represent the co-referring terms as seeming different. The natural presumption of reductionist views is that micro-physical events must have micro-physical causes. Thus the difficulty for people who what to give a non-reductive physicalist account of how ‘higher-level’ causes could be expressed at the micro-neuro-physiological level, but not simply be determined by only micro-level laws. See Jaegwon Kims ‘Causal exclusion problem’. I think the problem can be clarified by understanding that ‘being determined by’ and ‘being determinable from’ are notions that are often unwittingly conflated. Also the assumption that the events at the micro-scale are more fundamental than those on a macro level is highly questionable. I wrote about these issues of ‘downward causation’ here https://plus.google.com/u/0/113765459351777894260/posts/j2gBtt7d6wE