Come, Look, See…

The Perpetuating Myth About a ‘Pseudo-Science’
February 2, 2007, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Psychiatry, Psychology

Recently while trudging through the vast information on the government’s plan to kill us all (I wish I was kidding), I came across this gem. Psychology and psychiatry have been perpetuated by many theorists as the devil incarnate – albeit, for good reason. The sordid history of these two fields is rife with scary stories of experiments that amounted to nothing more than psychological torture, simply put. However, just as medicine has come a long way from prescribing radioactive water for those “under-the-weather” days, so too has the field of mental health. That’s not to say that there aren’t still some very controversial practices in the world of healing – but any responsible “theorist” should be careful to understand the difference between then and now.

Dr. John Breeding of Austin, TX has an article up on (by famed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones)claiming that there is no biological or environmental basis for mental disorders (he specifies a few specifically). His article is an example of someone in the “alarmist” mode. When someone is in this mode, they tend to spew out a smorgasbord of facts, half-truths, lies, and assumptions – and usually in one breath. Although I agree with some of the information he presents in a couple of points, his first point caught my attention. Follow the link for the complete article. For now, I only want to focus on his first claim.

“1. No children’s behavioral problem routinely seen by a psychiatrist or other physician has been scientifically demonstrated to be of biological or genetic causation. There is no objective test, no confirmatory physical or chemical abnormality—for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, or any of the other childhood diagnoses popular among psychiatrists. These diagnoses are wholly subjective, based on judgments of what is and isn’t normal behavior.”

First and foremost, I’d like to know what behavioral problem he’s talking about here. There are a few. Although I haven’t read about empirically proven biological genetic markers for ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)(you might have, though), writing that OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and ADHD aren’t the result of biological or genetic causes is simply the result of laziness on his part; I say this because it is quite obvious that Dr. Breeding has failed to read any recent, relevant and peer-reviewed literature on the topic. Although there hasn’t been an individual gene identified as the cause of OCD, the interplay among a few genes have been suspect. The article below summarizes a smidgen of the most recent research in this area – I do have the actual journal articles in pdf format if you’d care to read them.


“In two papers published simultaneously in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and the University of Toronto report finding an association between OCD patients and a glutamate transporter gene called SLC1A1.

The gene encodes a protein called EAAC1 that regulates the flow of a substance called glutamate in and out of brain cells. So, variations in the gene might lead to alterations in that flow, perhaps putting a person at increased risk of developing OCD.

The new findings are especially important not only because of the simultaneous discoveries reported in the papers, but also because of previous studies that show a functional link between glutamate and OCD. Brain imaging and spinal fluid studies have shown differences in the glutamate system between OCD patients and healthy volunteers, including in areas of the brain where the EAAC1 protein is most common.”

This isn’t your Freudian psychology we’re talking about here folks. It’s almost comical (I said almost)…actually no…It’s upsetting to hear and read people generalize (wrongly) about a very important field like psychology and claim that it’s a pseudo-science. Brain imaging studies, for example, are a far cry from dream interpretation and provide concrete scientific evidence of abnormalities in chemical and physical functioning – but I digress.

Back to OCD. In addition, twin studies have shown that over 70% of identical twins and 50% of fraternal twins will share an OCD disorder further providing evidence of a genetic link and/or environmental link. These numbers are similar for twins who grow apart from each other in different environmental contexts. Numerous studies have also found that abnormalities of the frontal lobes, basal ganglia, and cingulum are common in people with OCD, contradicting Dr. Breeding’s belief that there is no confirmatory evidence linking this disorder with any physical abnormality.

ADHD is a different monster altogether but to deny any chemical abnormality associated with it is simply irresponsible. Many researchers have argued over the seemingly exponential growth of ADHD in children and adults. The arguments for the increase can usually be divided into two camps; those who argue that the increase is due to better identification tools and increased awareness of an already existing problem; others argue that the increase is due to the increased coverage of ADHD in the popular press, coupled with the unfortunate simplicity of diagnosing ADHD. I am of the camp that believes ADHD is a real disorder but is overly diagnosed. What many anti-psychological theorists also fail to understand is that ADHD is most often diagnosed by a family physician who has very little training in the correct identification of ADHD. If you’ve ever been diagnosed by a physician as having ADHD, chances are you were given a 10 question survey and a brief 5-minute background history interview to make that diagnosis. THAT’S UNETHICAL AND WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Psychologists (good ones anyway) do not do this but require a comprehensive assessment which includes: full individual and family developmental history, behavior rating scales and observations by parents, teachers and psychologists (in and out of the classroom and in different contexts), interviews with the child about their experiences in different contexts, academic data from schools, test scores, current placement, screenings for learning disabilities, etc. Some psychologists will also request that the child have neuro and/or physical exams as well. So yes Dr. Breeding, there isn’t any one objective test for ADHD and many of these disorders – and he himself should know that. Truthfully, however, I’d be very suspicious of any “test” that labeled me as having ADHD, depression, or schizophrenia in just one shot. Just like in the medical field, you need comprehensive tests to make such a serious, life altering diagnosis.

I am not denying the difficulty in finding the EXACT causes of mental health disorders, but the same can be said for many various forms of cancer, diabetes, HIV, etc – yet we know they exist and are a result of physical, chemical/genetic abnormalities in addition to the environmental context we are exposed to…

To surmise, Dr. Breeding writes that there is no confirmatory physical or chemical abnormality for OCD (FALSE – SEE ABOVE), ADHD (FALSE), ODD, (not sure here), depression (FALSE FALSE FALSE), bipolar disorder (FALSE) and schizophrenia (FALSE). Not to mention that schizophrenia is rarely ever dx in children, yet according to Dr. Breeding, it’s a popular dx among psychiatrists. That is simply not true.

In Dr. Breeding’s last sentence, he clumps a bunch of very different mental disorders together and generalizes the way in which they are diagnosed. You can’t clump completely different mental disorders together and say dx for all of them are wholly subjective or based on what psychologists believe isn’t normal behavior. A salient example is depression. According to his logic then, all depressed adolescent girls are simply exhibiting normal behavior, and the only reason they’re identified as depressed is because of psychology’s warped view of what normal looks like. Wrong! Sorry Doc, but I don’t believe (as nor should he) that it is psychology’s subjective call in saying that it is beyond normal for an 11 year old girl to be overwhelmed with a sadness she can’t explain, cry for no reason, not eat, sleep, and threaten (or tries) to kill herself.

Often, conspiracy theorists who call psychologists pseudo-scientists (I heard this spouted just yesterday, in fact, to a crowd of about a few hundred people at an Alex Jones’ talk) also speak about how our government is poisoning us on a regular basis through fluoride in the water, Aspartame, chem-trails, vaccines, flu-shots and a whole host of other “suspect” practices. Much of this is actually based on fact and I do believe we are subjected to dangerous and life-threatening experiments by our government that we’re not made privy too. But what bothers me is that the same people who spout this stuff are usually quick to turn around and say mental health disorders don’t exist or are used as an excuse to drug children. If we truly are being exposed to weird chemicals in our drinking water, food and air, then it makes sense to find a corollary relationship between that and a rise in mental health disorders, especially in children.

Regardless, it’s always YOUR job to find out the facts. Never accept anything at face-value. Unfortunately, Dr. Breeding uses his Ph.D. status as confirmation that he knows what he’s talking about. It certainly and inherently brings about some sort of credibility to his statements. But as we’ve now learned, just because you have the credentials, it doesn’t mean you’re right. Although I have to say I applaud his non-profit organization for trying to offer non-drug alternatives to young people suffering from mental health disease, it’s almost lost in his flawed rant in point 1.

I myself am always willing to dialogue with opposing views because this is the only way we can work together to tease out fact from fiction from pseudo-truths. This guy doesn’t help make that process any easier, however.