The Persistent, Misdirected Search for Causes of Trauma-based Suffering


In the United States and other countries that have a military, there is often a great deal of talk about supporting veterans, but way too often, research aimed at learning what will be helpful is misguided and can even be harmful. The same applies to nonveterans who have been through traumatic experiences. Two new studies exemplify such wrongheaded approaches.

Before we consider these studies, I invite you to imagine for a moment that all you know is that a person has moved abruptly from their initial environment to one where they are strenuously trained to think, feel, and act in vastly different ways, and then some years later, moves abruptly back to the initial one, with little or no assistance in readjusting to that second culture shock.

It would be reasonable to assume that that person might feel confused, unsettled, deeply apprehensive, and isolated at the time of the first change and/or at the time of the second. That is what tends to happen to people who move from civilian life to the military and then back to civilian life. Add to that the facts that while in the military, many serve in war zones and are often deployed a staggering number of times, many are sexually assaulted, many servicewomen experience sexual harassment and other forms of sexism, and many servicemembers experience other kinds of mistreatment due to racism, classism, homophobia, or abuses of power by people above them in military rank.

It would be expected for veterans to have feelings ranging from uneasiness and worry through to intense fears, grief, moral anguish, and loss of innocence. Unfortunately, way more often than not, these deeply human feelings are classified as signs of psychiatric disorders, and the “treatments” recommended largely consist of two or three forms of psychotherapy and psychiatric drugs—not uncommonly up to a dozen at the same time (see When Johnny and Jane Came Marching Home and the film “Is Anybody Listening?”). In my work for more than a decade of listening to military veterans, I have learned that, as with people labeled “mentally ill” who have not served in the military, to receive a psychiatric disorder label is to carry an additional burden.

There are several reasons that getting a label is sometimes immediate cause for some relief: (1) sometimes, people feel this is the first time anyone has believed they are suffering, but that aim can be achieved if we say we believe they are suffering; (2) they cannot get certain benefits and services without getting such a label, but as some veterans have said, “We ought to get benefits we deserve without having to agree to be called mentally ill,” and as for the “services,” too often (though of course not always) they range from ineffective to damaging.

Furthermore, the longer-term consequences of getting such labels can include plummeting self-confidence, loss of hope (veterans have told me that VA doctors have said, “You have PTSD and will never get better”), loss of employment or custody of children, loss of the right to make decisions about one’s medical and legal affairs, and even death. Physical problems and deaths can result from the psychiatric drugs and from professionals’ and family members ignoring of the person’s real, physical illnesses and injuries on the grounds that their “psychiatric disorder” leads them to fabricate them.

In the field of researchers who assert that they are searching for the causes of veterans’ suffering, it is astonishing how often they operate on the basis of a trio of misleading and ultimately harmful assumptions. These are (1)That the common military experiences described above and the sequential culture shocks play no role,  (2)That nonveterans’ documented lack of interest in and unwillingness to listen to veterans play no role, and (3)That the real causes of veterans’ suffering are not experiential but rather are biological.

Major VA Study

A recent Yale University press release (“Study of veterans details genetic basis for anxiety, links anxiety and depression”) was a report of “A massive genomewide analysis of approximately 200,000 military veterans” from the U.S. Veterans Administration’s Million Veteran Program, whose primary goal was described as “finding the genetic underpinnings of mental health disorders.” The study’s authors said they had discovered the genetic basis for “anxiety” as well as links between “anxiety and depression” [my quotation marks].

Thus, first of all, their implicit assumption is that these emotions are genetically based or at least that in veterans, what matters is to look at their genes rather than the traumas they have experienced. What is the purpose of that? It certainly draws the focus away from military trauma, whether or not that was the researchers’ conscious intention. But any researchers who have at their command what must have been a huge budget have a choice of what to study. These researchers chose to study genes.

It is not clear from the press release whether or not they looked at the military—or life—experiences of the veterans at all, but if they did, these are not mentioned, thus giving the impression that they are not relevant. Of even greater concern is that by focusing on genes, they give the impression that the causes of the problems lie within the individuals, thereby making it easier for the real, experiential, traumatic causes to be ignored.

There are other, major problems with the study. One involves the use of the terms “anxiety” and “depression,” words that most people in the U.S. would say apply to their feelings at some times in their lives, so why are only veterans studied here? Another is that both terms are extremely vague and applied to such broad arrays of feelings that they come to mean little more than “I’m not feeling calm and happy.”

David Cohen and David Jacobs address this problem with regard to “depression” in a classic paper.1 In my own clinical and everyday experience, when people tell me they feel anxiety, if I ask them what word they would use if they were not going to use that one, it is usually fear. Fears of many types are understandable reactions to many military experiences noted above, and it is unwarranted, offensive, and often damaging to call them signs of mental illness.

The VA/Yale researchers’ press release includes explicit naming of anxiety and depression as “mental disorders,” with alleged possible links to “bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.” By listing those three psychiatric labels that sound more alarming even than “anxiety” and “distress,” even though none of the three represents a solidly scientifically grounded entity, the press release furthers the apparent purpose of making this research sound serious and important.

A Harvard study of “PTSD”

A report of another recent study appeared in Harvard Magazine and was titled “A blood test for PTSD?”. The article’s author, Erin O’Donnell, presented the study as reflecting “nearly a decade’s study of PTSD by more than 75 researchers, including [dean of the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences] Frank Doyle” and others from New York University, Columbia University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the United States Army.

It’s noteworthy that O’Donnell introduces the study by writing that Vietnam War veterans were suffering from problems like flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance, and when some people began calling “the condition post-traumatic stress disorder,” this diagnosis “was viewed by some with skepticism.” She says that “the doubts and stigma made many veterans hesitant to report symptoms.”

In that context, she presents the new study as though it is helpful to veterans, proving that the “condition is not just ‘all in the head.’” As a result, readers may be predisposed to feel grateful for this research, assuming it will be helpful for suffering veterans to be told that a blood test can prove that their problem exists.

There is a parallel between that presentation and the appeal of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which is heavily funded by Big Pharma, to parents of deeply troubled or different people, i.e., “You are not to blame. Your child has a chemical imbalance in the brain.” It is problematic and raises moral and ethical questions to focus on finding an allegedly physiological cause of suffering in order to justify showing compassion for, and offering help to, those who suffer and to their parents.

Beyond that concern, there are serious methodological problems with the study in question. To begin with, like the other diagnoses in psychiatric use, the construct of “PTSD” is not scientifically valid. It was composed by well-meaning people who hoped that creating a psychiatric category and getting it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders would encourage people to take veterans’ suffering seriously. They included in the list of “PTSD” criteria some of the common consequences of trauma but by no means all.

As a result, some traumatized veterans (and traumatized nonveterans) fit the “PTSD” requirements, but many do not. Responses to trauma vary widely from one individual to another. As Linder has shown, even well-intentioned therapists who work with trauma survivors apply the PTSD label to anyone who has been through something horrible and is suffering, whether or not they meet the DSM criteria for PTSD.2 So the category itself was not scientifically grounded when it was created, and in addition, it is not even consistently applied.

Thus, the very—unspoken—basis of their study, that “PTSD” is a clearly defined entity that applies to veterans, is just wrong. Furthermore, when that label first went into the DSM, the category included the specification that it was a normal response to an abnormal situation. But in the DSM-IV edition whose Task Force was headed by Allen Frances, that specification was removed, so that people’s deeply human responses to war, sexual assault, and other horrible experiences are thereby further pathologized. As noted, this is damaging in adding to the burden of those who are already suffering.

Even if “PTSD” were a valid construct that characterized all veterans or all traumatized people, this study is deeply flawed in other ways. For one thing, the researchers studied a small number of people: 83 combat veterans with a PTSD diagnosis and 82 who experienced combat “but did not have PTSD,” the latter supposedly constituting a contrasting group of people. Given the lack of validity of the PTSD construct, it is hard to know how people in these two groups actually differed from each other, since even those without the PTSD label surely were affected by having been in combat. As psychologist and veteran Dr. Kathy Platoni says of having been in combat, and as many other veterans have said, “Not one of us comes back unscathed” (in “Is Anybody Listening?”). So the absence of two clearly different groups to begin with is another foundational error of the study.

The researchers took blood samples, heart rate readings, and did other tests that yielded “more than a million data points” for each person. Of this vast number, they found “28 indicators highly predictive of PTSD.” When that many data points are thrown into the hopper, on the basis of probability, one would expect that far more than 28 indicators will appear to be significant, even though 28 could turn up just because of chance.

The researchers’ next step was to test those 28 factors on a new group, but that new group was also divided into 29 male veterans diagnosed with “PTSD” and 29 not given that label, so the same problems apply as to the original sample. With those 58, the blood test “accurately diagnosed the disorder [sic] 77 percent of the time.” If one were to ignore the foundational and definitional errors, that 77 percent might sound impressive, but consider that it means that after collecting more than a million bits of data about each of the original 165 veterans, they came up with a method that incorrectly classified nearly one-quarter of the second sample as having or not having been labeled with “PTSD.” That is no small concern for people who consider it important to “get diagnosis right,” however misguided that aim is.

They report that the 28 markers include “immune signatures, stress signatures, and markers of cardiovascular health,” and say that this is important because “Evidence suggests links between PTSD [sic] and Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” according to Harvard graduate student Kelsey Dean, a member of the research team.

The usual assumption these days about cause-effect relationships in topics like these is that if one finds a physiological factor, that must have been a cause of the alleged mental illness. But having Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease are themselves sources of considerable life pressures (these researchers use the vague term “stress”), and those could have led to or contributed to therapists diagnosing people with those conditions as having “PTSD” more than people without diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

In summing up what they consider the importance of their study, Doyle and Dean say that their results “mark the beginning of new approaches for a variety of psychiatric illnesses,” because current diagnostic surveys “require that patients accurately report their symptoms.” This is a striking statement for two reasons. One is that it is based on the false notion that psychiatric illnesses are scientifically created and validated and thus that identifying their characteristics accurately means that people get the “correct” diagnoses. The other is that the implication that veterans or suffering people in general do not accurately report their symptoms reflects a marked dismissiveness of them—but remember that such dismissiveness was used at the beginning of the article to try to justify seeking physiological factors in this study. Clearly, claiming to have found a blood test for “PTSD” is no better or more justifiable as a way to dignify understandable responses to trauma than was creating “PTSD” and getting it into the DSM.

What Would Be Helpful

It is crucial to note that life is filled with traumas of various kinds, and people who serve in the military tend to experience additional, unique kinds of trauma. It is crucial to stop the knee-jerk pathologizing of responses to trauma, whether by diagnosing the sufferers with “PTSD” or other psychiatric labels. It is crucial to listen to people in our communities who have been traumatized, whether they are veterans or nonveterans, rather than to flee from hearing what they have been through and rather than assuming that only therapists can and should try to help. It is crucial to resist the temptation to think that research containing words like “brain,” “chemical imbalance,” “genome,” and “blood test” tell us more about the causes of human suffering and the ways to help reduce it than does looking to our common humanity and responsibility to help.

Anyone interested in finding nonpathologizing, low-risk or risk-free ways of helping to reduce the suffering of veterans or nonveterans may find helpful some of the approaches found here.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. David Cohen & David Jacobs. (2007). Randomized controlled trials of antidepressants: Clinically and scientifically irrelevant. Debates in Neuroscience 1, 44-54.
  2. Meadow Linder. (2004). “Creating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Study of the History, Sociology, and Politics of Psychiatric Classification,” in P. Caplan & L. Cosgrove (Eds.), Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis. Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 25-40.


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.


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  1. As usual, MIA’s coverage of veterans issues deftly avoids mentioning the largest trauma facing veterans and that is their disillusionment with the US war machine. Service members become traumatized by the knowledge that a large number of civilians are killed in war, that our wars are driven by many factors unrelated to actually protecting the homeland, and that their comrades are dying FOR NO GOOD REASON. When soldiers wake up to the realities of war, of course they are overwhelmed with conflicting feelings. And of course the VA and US Military are heavily invested in keeping the war machine and all its propaganda going. We have massive industries in the US whose profits depend on the US being in a constant state of war. You can’t expect bright eyed 17 and 18 year old recruits to know all this but they return from the front line knowing in many cases that they are essentially mercenaries for the US elite.

    Veterans for Peace has support groups and activism available for those who are ready to face what they’ve done and fight back against the policies that keep sending our young men and women to kill foreign citizens. The VA is going to continue to pathologize anyone who experiences emotional harm from their military service because they have an image to uphold and that image is of the brave selfless service member fighting an “enemy”. They don’t want you to see that the real enemy are the leaders who keep sending our youth to die and be traumatized by what amount to war crimes.

    It’s time to end the wars and bring our soldiers home!! Right now, we should be thanking doctors and nurses for their service, not soldiers.

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    • “The VA is going to continue to pathologize anyone who experiences emotional harm from their military service because they have an image to uphold and that image is of the brave selfless service member fighting an “enemy”. They don’t want you to see that the real enemy are the leaders who keep sending our youth to die and be traumatized by what amount to war crimes. ”

      Kindred, we always use the excuse that we citizens want our countries safe, and thus need the protection.
      War has always been about one nutjob starting a crusade, convincing masses that they need to join in war against that other country. And everyone becomes a loser.
      Psychiatry the nutjobs, started a crusade, where “mental illness” is the enemy, and the masses are asked to join to fight this enemy. Everyone becomes a loser.

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      • No, war in the US has nothing to do with keeping citizens safe. We are a propagandized nation. The US goes to war to protect it’s economic interests. We destroy countries when they threaten to stop trading in the petro dollar, which is the only thing giving our currency value since it is no longer based on the gold standard. The US Government is the world’s largest terrorist/mafia organization, and we have a well coordinated media propaganda operation constantly telling the citizenry what to think. It’s not about one nutjob starting a crusade. It is a very finely tuned and massive machine operating to maintain dominance over the rest of the world at a VERY high cost to ALL, at home and abroad.

        I read a line in WaPo the other day about how the pictures of empty shelves in stores would remind you of what you imagine communist Cuba or Venezuela might look like. THIS IS PROPAGANDA. Cuba just sent medical aid to Italy. Cubans are not lacking toilet paper, unlike most Americans. Venezuela has been the target of a US backed coup for years now. Please read about the recent court success of the embassy protectors.

        War is not about protecting anyone. US wars are about maintaining US dominance over the rest of the world. And it comes at an incredible cost to Americans, who are constantly messaged about US exceptionalism and drowning in patriotism. We are told constantly about what a prosperous country we are and yet most of us are struggling. You know who isn’t struggling? The CEOs of the major defense industrial contractors. Half of whom are women! So now we can measure gender equity in how many women participate in the dominance game. This is sickening.

        Soldiers are cannon fodder. The whole purpose of boot camp is to destroy the individual and create a cohesive killing machine out of the unit. Worker bees, soldier ants who will take orders and obey without questioning. Of course they return totally fucked in the head!!

        And if anyone gave two shits about service members, they’d be marching in the streets to protest the terrible economic conditions so many of them and their families live in. Why are so many of them on food stamps? Why are they so poor? Why do most Americans bury their heads in the sand and refuse to take off their blinders?

        Psychiatry is similarly not about nutjobs. Neither the psychiatrists nor the patients are crazy. It’s about power and control. It’s about maintaining the status quo and suppressing anyone who rebels or rejects or crumbles under the oppressive actions of the powerful. Victims of abuse and trauma are thus marginalized because otherwise the harmful conditions that so many of us live under and are subject to would have to be examined in the light.

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        • Of course it is about power and control.
          All countries promote becoming a “soldier” and many youths want to go into the military, for that search of power, that uniform.
          I’m sure many go into it purely for having a job.

          The world has become a place where I’m not sure how any country could ever stop the warring. The building of troops, machines.
          Yet they could, just as they try to match warheads, they could all equally agree to peace.
          I am not a world fixer. Fighting will never stop. And preparing to defend, whether against real or pretend threats will always go on.
          We all know what BS keeps it going, the propaganda, and it is getting worse.

          The days when women had to defend themselves in court after rape, fearing they would not be believed, exist now in the form of psychiatry.
          Every day, people are defending themselves, to others, to courts, trying to prove their sanity. Soldiers that are distressed have to worry about the labels, because the next phase of defense is a lifetime.
          It works out perfectly for those in power, everyone gets to use one another.
          However, it is pretty difficult to reach a bunch of schoolkids who are indoctrinated in war play, in propaganda, by families and peers, to idolize being a soldier.
          If we cannot prevent, at least if psychiatry, the last power to bite, can be made powerless, would be ideal.

          I suppose it is not legal for ex/military to go public speaking in schools? To tell kids/teens that it is not cool to wear uniforms that give power to maim? Because we do not have freedom of speech.

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    • “It’s time to end the wars and bring our soldiers home!!” As one who was misdiagnosed, and neurotoxic poisoned, just after 9/11/2001, because I knew we had the war mongering and profiteering bankers in control of America, I couldn’t agree more.

      “they operate on the basis of a trio of misleading and ultimately harmful assumptions. These are (1)That the common military experiences described above and the sequential culture shocks play no role, (2)That nonveterans’ documented lack of interest in and unwillingness to listen to veterans play no role, and (3)That the real causes of veterans’ suffering are not experiential but rather are biological.”

      Most “mental health” workers collectively went off believing the delusion that “all distress is caused by chemical imbalances in people’s brains.” I had no idea in late 2001 that the “mental health” workers were collectively so insane. Distress caused by 9/11/2001, and/or disagreement with the subsequent never ending wars that have bankrupted America, was a “mental illness,” according to “mental health” workers in late 2001. Too crazy for me, political abuse of psychiatry criminals.

      But let’s hope that some day our “mental health” workers will garner some insight into the reality that distress caused by wars, and distressing false flag operations used to incite wars, is not “distress caused by a chemical imbalance” in people’s brains. Truly, those who are so obsessed with “finding the right diagnosis,” from a debunked DSM “bible” of stigmatizations, that they don’t bother to even listen to those they claim to want to help, need to wake up to reality. And stop neurotoxic poisoning legitimately distressed people, including our veterans.

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    • Hi, Kindred Spirit,
      I agree with you. In the article I wrote here, I didn’t spend much time on the kinds of things you are describing, because I have written so extensively about that elsewhere so many times, and this article was intended specifically to be a critique of a couple of pieces of research that function to cover up exactly the kinds of things you mention. So at one point I listed some of the real causes of veterans’ trauma, and I think you missed my mention of moral anguish in the above article (as just one of many causes of their trauma), but that is the term that came to me when I was writing my book,aps,220&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=1dbd7dedc192a717801d8a2ccc9ed082&language=en_US about veterans, before I had heard Jonathan Shay’s term “moral injury.” I like that he highlights the importance of the kinds of things you describe in your comment, but I continue to use my term “moral anguish,” because anguish is a less neat-and-clean term than injury, and anguish is what veterans themselves told me about.
      I am glad you mentioned Veterans for Peace. I am a longtime Associate member of Veterans for Peace and winner of a Friend to Veterans Award from them, at least in part because I have for more than a decade been calling out the entities and individuals who keep trying to conceal the real causes of servicemembers’ and veterans’ trauma, including being in a war and being sexually assaulted in the military.
      Thank you for writing.

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      • Thank you, Dr Caplan, for your thoughtful and measured reply. I did miss your reference to moral anguish. I suppose I do think the metaphor of a moral injury is useful. The effects on service members (and the greater population) are far more than anguish could possibly describe. But that’s just my opinion.

        I will add your book on this subject to the reading list. I am not familiar with your work outside of ‘They Say You’re Crazy’, but I am glad to know you are aware of the bigger issues at stake here.

        Of course, sexual assault in the military is a direct effect of the hierarchical power structures the military is based upon. And I think most of us know that rape is about power and not sex. It’s unfortunately quite logical that when all power is removed from a person that many will seek to regain some semblance of control, and that those desperate efforts manifest in often deeply harmful ways. I’m sure we can agree that women are not the only victims of sexual assault in the military and that male on male rape is all too common under the conditions our troops are subject to.

        What I don’t understand is why the masses remain so willfully blinkered. I thought #MeToo was going to bring a social reckoning with these issues out in the spotlight. But, we have, collectively, seemed to respond with “meh” while continuing to argue our political sides as if we can vote our way out of this mess. Where are the protests? Where are the yellow vests? Why are Americans so passive? And now we’re all distracted and trying not to die from a pandemic we were warned was coming. When will we mobilize and rise up against this? Though our collective distress has been pathologized, these aren’t at heart psychiatric issues.

        Please tell me what you think. I’m listening.

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  2. Paula, you are awesome.
    Another top notch blog and you do it so eloquently. We would be further along if there were more of you.

    Applying a “mental illness” to anyone, is very minimizing, and greatly underestimates the mind. It is embarrassing that they, psychiatrists and many others, still use a word that seems rather old fashioned by now. Hopefully soon it won’t carry any meaning.

    Even IF they identify “anxiety” as genetic, they have then only identified a very natural part of our natures.
    And EVEN IF, it is more revved up in some and not others, it does not tell us that it is illness, nor what it serves.
    Indeed if someone in service has more anxiety AFTER service, or anyone in non military, it is a mechanism that is there to prevent them from having to endure the same as they had endured.
    So it is serving a purpose and therefore not an illness.

    If my bones to not grow together the same, after a break, I do not have an illness, even though I might limp. If I have pain from that old injury, I can take Tylenol for it, or not. But it is called “pain”, not “illness”.

    The injury also does not make me viewed as lesser by other medical profession, nor does it harm me in court.

    There is no benefit to anyone in calling them “mentally ill”, or give them labels except to the shrinks.
    The receivers are mostly hurt, plus their family.

    These tags are simply tossed out there to keep a business going.

    The only people that do not get the tag are those that never set foot in the door and ask for help.
    This is not turning out so well, since many people need support but will not go seek it.

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  3. One of the studies found negative heart health and blood sugar control associated with PTSD. SSRI’s, neuroleptics and other drugs that are prescribed for the vast majority of people with PTSD cause heart disease, obesity and diebetes. This reminds me how when it was found schizophrenics had brain damage psychiatrists said it was because of the illness but it turned out it was because these people took neuroleptic drugs. Studies found that worse pychotic symptoms and even recreational drug use was not associated with brain damage just neuroleptic use.

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  4. Paula, you have been busy! Too bad for everyone that so much time is spent deciphering the truth or fiction. Research seems to be only statistical equation(s) to defend ideas. Lots of time is wasted. I say: “Change the method!”

    Veterans are in trouble from the get-go! It’s not possible to transition from a non-violent to violent condition. Call it what you want but it’s just traumatic! No one escapes it.

    Changing the “mentally ill” statement or name isn’t going to change “it.” Whatever it’s called, the stigma remains. It’s the culture we lead, so innately ingrained, that we can’t literally see.

    We need to understand. Lots of things. To change. Keep trying. Open our eyes. Try again. KNOCK IT ALL WIDE-OPEN. START OVER.

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  5. Excellent piece. And: of what use is it to know about genetic underpinnings of the “PTSD” response? We can do nothing to change our genes.

    Kindredspirit, I agree with you — Dr Caplan discusses this topic in her book “When Johnny and Jane Came Marching Home.”

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    • I agree 100% – why all the focus on genes? Let’s just allow that some people will react differently to the same situation than others, and that genes probably play some role in it. So freakin’ what? It’s like studying people’s bones to see why some people get broken bones in a car crash instead of trying to reduce the risk of collisions. Idiocy!

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      • Hey Fiachra – I’m not picking on you, I’m more interested in how the language ended up this way –

        WTF is “High Anxiety”? ? ?

        I never heard of it before Mel Brooks. . .

        And now people whose anxiety seems more intense than “average” (whatever that is) claim to have “High Anxiety”

        Perhaps, since you are good with language, and have used this term, can describe how “Anxiety” becomes “High Anxiety”?

        This is just a little bugbear of mine, tired of hearing how everyone’s “anxiety” is superlative in some way. . . . (I know you put it in quotes – but if you were told you had “High Anxiety” what did that mean?)

        Thanks, JC

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    • Miranda, I question the premise of some of the genetic studies to start with. Just because someone’s genes may predispose them to certain kinds of responses to harm doesn’t say anything about the validity of the harm being perpetrated against them. Gene studies, therefore, do more to further pathologize the victims of trauma than they do to explain or help them. In other words, I don’t want to be better adjusted to a profoundly harmful culture, thank you very much! 🙂

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  6. I just see these studies as an attempt by psychiatry to “fight back.” Our criticism of them is that they have no lab tests for their “illnesses.” So they are trying to figure out some lab tests!
    But I see too many writers taking these “diagnoses” seriously, as Dr. Caplan points out these studies do.
    That’s at the core of our problem in calling for major changes in the mental health system. We don’t want to give up those diagnoses!
    This isn’t entirely misguided. After all, you can see a behavior and call it something. You can see someone running and call them a “runner.” Then they are walking and become a “walker.” Then they sit down and become a “sitter.” It might be useful for someone who shows a pattern of behavior that is always repeating. But still, all you really get is a description of behavior. You don’t really get a “diagnosis.” But psychiatrists are trying to prove they are doctors. Well, if they want to treat people with medicine (or nutrition for that matter) why are they in psychiatry? Why would you expect the psyche to respond to medicine? Their whole framework of thinking is irrational and actually exemplifies real mental illness better than most of their DSM entries do.
    Our problem is that people really do have problems that can best be understood as “mental.” We need a better understanding of that whole phenomenon.
    I see too many people talking about alternative treatments for all those same old tired diagnoses. What about alternative understandings that would lead in the direction of really effective treatments for problems that really bother people? Obviously, this goes beyond medicine and the brain. It’s not even their territory. We have to take it back from them.

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    • Like Paula,
      I second this also, or third it.
      Especially “we have to take it back”.
      And often the treatments are time and allowing the one experiencing distress, to be master of himself, and
      have the complete freedom to confide without fear.
      We don’t seem to allow for changes in people. We don’t allow them to become sad, after being happy. Obviously if the experiences changed once, they can change again.
      And the question always is, should they be what we want for them? And if they should be how we envision it, how will they ever satisfy us or pass the grade.
      For eons, people have gone through rough patches, and been horribly affected by them. And it changed them. Knowledge and experience changes parts of us, which is perfectly normal. Those experiences cannot be medicated since they are not illness.
      Psychiatry by the looks of it was never the answer, nor was most of psychology. In fact, all they did was abuse people’s trust.

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  7. This article had me thinking that these serious diagnoses, for what they are worth, are a three step problem: Environmental/ interpersonal problems and experiences which lead to abnormal reactions in the body/mind that over time lead behavioural/cognitive problems at which stage outward “pathologies” can then be noticed within an individual. Treating psychiatrists are only concerned with this third stage and research psychiatrists are only concerned with the second.
    Psychiatry, which by and large in 2020 is biological psychiatry, is theologically opposed to this first step that bad things happen and can mess us up. They have been actively advocating against it’s importance since the fifties when the internal faction war began within the APA, who have since ideologically denied the possible idea that confusing things happen and make people crazy. Without any convincing evidence the bio faction completed its reformation entirely due to monetary, political and personal professional interests, all but obliterating the psychotherapy faction from relevance and history. This ideology hasn’t changed in seventy years despite the billions spent in research to show they are not even near being close to on the right track.
    This is a scary situation, as a person undergoing forced treatment I’m am forced to accept this cults position that my environment does not affect me in any way and the last two steps, physiological/psychological responses occur, randomly and without stimulus which leads to misunderstood behaviour which is out of context to my life’s circumstances. Against what I see as common sense, my own sense of responsibility and any chance of receiving treatment that will actually help me, it’s an absurdly ignorant position but I have no choice to accept it, to voice disagreement or anything relevant to mental health in the company of a mental health clinician is dangerous. It risks being deemed as lacking insight and to have their position explained to me, for the hundredth time as though I lack intelligence. They think I’m a simpleton because I can’t understand that I have a medical illness that they cannot demonstrate. I tell them when they repeat this “no you don’t have to shout I can hear what your saying I just don’t believe it” or what landed me in this mess “that doesn’t make any sense”. If I say anything by this time after they have lost patience I’m labelled a trouble maker and forced treated, which is in its second year.
    It is so disorientating, knowing that I need to get the psychiatrist opposite me to try and understand these three steps, as my life depends on it, and they are incapable, absolutely incapable of reasoning what I see as common sense, to understand these three things in that order, and they are supposed to be intelligent people, University trained, though not one yet, in twenty years can entertain such a simple sequence. I could easily explain this, I’m confident, even to my hyperactive five year old nephew without much difficulty. It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in a twilight zone with Cassandras’ curse, it was enough to send her mad too!
    I truly believe these studies are junk science and are intended to lead nowhere while reinforcing the idea of the mystery of mental illness and its causes and the absurd notion of a biological cause to psychological distress and bizarre behaviours. Does anyone think they could be that corrupt or am I being paranoid?

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    • Sometimes what you have to do is do anything you can to convince them you agree 100% and are now happy and healthy due to their wonderful interventions, and then escape once they open the door and don’t ever come back! You clearly have sufficient “insight” to understand what they are about and that convincing them is impossible. So the next best thing is to escape their influence in any way you can! Easier said than done, though. WAY easier.

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    • Anthony, perhaps start praising your overlords?
      Let it be known how you would never have realized until the education you received
      and how it makes you want to adopt a new path, perhaps going to psychiatry school.

      The problem is, they tend not to actually believe the stuff they say, it is simply a tool
      of the control they seek. For them I believe it is control they never felt they had,
      or control they are used to having through bullying.

      So you have to keep in mind that you are either dealing with a bully, or an adherent,
      and either way, you have no choice but to stroke their ego.
      You can’t do much about their paranoia.

      The lawyers are just a showpiece, appearances that make it appear you are being represented, like a criminal.
      It shows psychiatry for what it is, a pretense, and everything around it is pretense. It is a costly puppet show.

      Keep at it, and hopefully you can escape the lunacy.

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  8. Anthony Murray, I know that good lawyers for this kind of situation are few and far between. I urge you to read Jim Gottstein’s new, brilliant book, The Zyprexa Papers, because one thing he does is to lay out exactly how he tried to prevent a client from being forcibly drugged. And a lot of this applies also to being committed against one’s will. It might be helpful to you in trying to work with a lawyer who might do better by seeing what Jim Gottstein did. He is a great role model! Good luck to you.

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  9. Billions spent on genome-wide association studies of complex diseases, and not one patient in the world has benefitted. The only purpose these studies serve is to bamboozle the public onto thinking these conditions called “mental illnesses” are matter beyond their ken.

    There isn’t a word in the English language to describe the fatuity of conducting a GWA study on post-traumatic stress disorder. In calling it that, they’ve already identified the source of the problem — trauma! Why bring genes into the argument at all?

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    • Maybe their genetics somehow magically attracts abusive people to them. THAT would explain it! /s

      Seriously, if there were ever a “disorder” that we KNOW the cause of, it’s PTSD. Efforts to make THAT into a “genetic brain disease” is far beyond the pale!

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  10. I decided to revisit this after having a gander through my genome. I have only one SNP associated with the development of PTSD, and at that only one allele, conferring but a “mildly increased risk of PTSD”. This confirms to me that one’s actual environment plays a much greater role in one’s mental responses than one’s genome does.

    While I find genetics and epigenetics in particular fascinating, it sure seem like we’re barking up the wrong tree by trying to identify vulnerable genes rather than trying to identify and eliminate traumatic circumstances.

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  11. Paula,
    What’s the common denominator between anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia?

    MTHFR mutations

    What’s the link between PTSD, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease?

    MTHFR mutations

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