Subtitle: “Dorothy, go with your gut instincts!” – said the Wizard of Oz
The other day one of my very close Facebook friends who I love and respect dearly asked for my thoughts on an article that she posted on her Facebook Page from PsychCentral about co-occurring disorders with ADHD. My friend had a provocative thought related to the topic which I find very intriguing, that co-occurring disorders might be a form of societal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from systemic bullying and abuse.
My first mental reaction was to mention that I pay very little attention to psychiatric labels primarily due to the ambiguity of descriptions, and the overlapping of symptoms with a variety of those labels.
The label ADHD is one of the most controversial labels introduced into the psychiatric lexicon, and most psychologists and psychiatrists cannot agree on a definitive and concrete set of characteristics, and it may be masking a biological or neurological difference such as autism.
In fact, often an autistic child that is verbal is first diagnosed with ADHD, and if he/she is lucky, a knowledgeable professional will eventually realize that the child is on the Autism Spectrum and change course regarding therapy.
One of the main co-occurring disorders mentioned in the PsychCentral articles was Anxiety Disorder. There are various sub-classifications pertaining to that label, and the principal generic one is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That particular label was added to my Autistic Label when I was eleven years old, note after the autism diagnosis.
The main problem that I have with psychological or psychiatric labels is that most of the time the professionals that dish those out are focussing on the behavior of the individual and ignoring any environmental or biological components that might be involved in manifesting that behavior.
Consequently, I prefer to dissect the problem down to the cellular level which I did in my comments on my friend’s Facebook post but I attempted to do that at a high level assuming the reader may not be either interested nor knowledgeable in the nitty gritty. 🙂
The gamut of psychological labels pertaining to disorders and my thoughts:
There are three primary core stimuli that result in these perceived labels or disorders, 1) cellular makeup that affects both the brain and the gut, 2) brain synapses that are either not connected, misconnected or over-connected, and 3) conditioned mental responses that are programmed in the brain based on the experiences of a person over the course of their lifetime.
One could posit that PTSD is a result of the latter of the three stimuli, a learned response that is triggered based on a previous shock to the mental system.
Most neuroscientists refer to the brain as being plasticized meaning that it changes constantly as a result of a variety of causes. However, as with PTSD, a traumatic event can cause a permanent mini-software program that is difficult or impossible to reprogram.
When we talk about ADHD, what is really going on is an abnormal amount of electrical impulses being fired by neuronal cells, and often short-circuiting synapses. Think of sticking your finger into an electrical socket and that’s sort of what is going on in the brain.
Regarding mood disorders, the majority of those are a result of a predisposition caused by the core DNA genetic profile of a person. In fact, they have identified certain genes that result in some of those conditions, and the ones identified to date that are shared by those with autism are Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.
The actual cellular makeup is at the root of most psychiatric and neurological disorders, and there are two primary occurrences that affect that.
The first being the de novo mutations of cells just prior to birth, and the physical state of the mother during the gestation period.
The autoimmune system of a woman during pregnancy can go haywire, and as a result an abnormal amount of inflammation can affect a fetus.
That inflammation in turn affects the cells of the fetus, often causing abnormal responses resulting in a myriad of potential illnesses including autism.
It’s a big complicated systemic mess, and science to date has only scratched the surface in trying to figure it out. If they ever do, then epigenesis will be a viable and scary option.
When we consider “systemic bullying and abuse” upon autistics, the results of that often leads to the label of PTSD which characterizes my description of the brain being reprogrammed to adjust to that stimuli. I was a victim of that in childhood and adolescence, and I still suffer occasional PTSD episodes as a result even in my old age. As I postulated, that type of programming is very difficult if not impossible to reprogram.
To elaborate a little more, many in the psychiatric community consider ADHD a bogus diagnosis and label. I’m on the fence regarding that one because technically I fit the profile.
The real issue from both parts of the article is attempting to tie in ADHD with other psychiatric labels.
Statistically the author is correct, the majority of the time anyone diagnosed with ADHD will probably have one or more comorbid psychological disorders, and General Anxiety Disorder is somewhat universal with anyone given the ADHD label including Autism.
My impression is that the author was trying to tie those disorders together in some fashion, when in reality they may be totally discrete with varying causes.
Often the psychology professional focuses on the mental state of a patient and rarely investigates a biological or an environmental component as a root cause for a condition or disorder.
As an example in respect to autism there are many reported cases of positive changes in an autistic child once their diet has been modified via trial and error to identify certain food groups that may be affecting their digestive system.
With this example, what has really occurred is a change in the gut flora and the gut neuronal cells of that child.
The human body is probably the most sophisticated system on the planet and the most complicated simultaneously. With that said, all stimuli needs to be taken into account when attempting to either diagnose, diffuse, or alter a person’s makeup, both physically and mentally.
To wrap up this verbose post, my friend triggered a lot of thoughts on a convoluted and intertwined set of possibly related disorders, hypothesizing that ADHD may in fact be a form of PTSD induced by bullying and psychological abuse caused by society in general. I find that theory quite plausible and interesting to think about.
In fact, it just may be that humans have an innate need to bully and abuse others as a defense mechanism for their own perceived inadequacies. Some humans overtly and deliberately do it, and others may subconsciously do it without realizing it.
And maybe they all do it because they have a tummy ache, and the tummy brain is sending nasty “do this” messages to its cousin, that three pound glob between one’s ears.
If you’re still with me on this one, the next time someone tries to explain to me that 1) autism is just a different brain wiring or 2) a PsychCentral author attempts to postulate mental disorders without exploring the biological or neurological causes, you may get a really long mouthful from an old autistic. 🙂
To be continued…
Article: Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being
Article: New neurons reveal clues about an individual’s autism
Article: Co-occurring Disorders and ADHD Part One
Article: Co-occurring Disorders with ADHD Part Two