Autism, asperger's syndrome, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD and ADD …
The disorders Transhumanist mentions are not all part of the same “spectrum” of neurological and behavior disorders, so shouldn’t be lumped together when discussed, so I’ll break them into relate groups in this post.Autism
, Asperger’s syndrome, and a third disorder recognized in standard psychological diagnosis as PDD-NOS, are believed to be related physical
brain disorders, so are termed “autism spectrum disorders” (ASDs). They’re characterized by difficulty in learning language, social skills, and repetitive, stereotypical behavior, especially involving arranging objects in stacks and lines.Bipolar disorder
, known in the past as manic depression, is a mood
disorder characterized by experiencing periods of feeling emotional high (mania) alternating with periods of feeling emotional low (depression). It’s believed to be unrelated to ASDs.Obsessive–compulsive disorder
(OCD) is an anxiety
disorder characterized by feeling afraid for long periods, especially feeling that bad things will happen to you if you don’t perform precise rituals, such as opening and closing doors specific numbers of times.Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) is a behavior
disorder standardly classified into 3 kinds:
- Predominantly inattentive, characterized by difficulty staying on task, especially reading and writing in a school setting. Although since 1994 the term is not recognized in the current http://en.wikipedia....ntal_Disorders'>DSM, it was and still is commonly referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, characterized by difficulty keeping still and quiet and waiting ones turn
- both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive, a combination of these two
Before talking much about these disorders, I think it’s a good idea for everyone to recognize the standard terms, diagnostic criteria, and suspected caused for them, by reading and comprehending at least the wikipedia articles I’ve linked to above.
[ASDs, OCD, Bipolar Disorder and ADHD] aren't necessarily genetic like Down Syndrome or flat out retardation, and aren't the result of missing chromosomes and such, they are environmentally induced epigenetic brain disorders.
Empirically (via twin studies, etc.) some of these disorder, such as the ASDs, clearly are heritable, some are not. Although the genetics and epigenetics of the disorders that appear heritable are not well-understood, and appear to be complicated, involving many genes and/or epigenetic factors, research progress in is ongoing.
Although the term epigenetic lacks a clear consensus definition at present, I think it’s important to understand that as identified by most definitions, epigenetic factors are usually heritable, not caused after birth by ones physical or social environment. Although there’s a whole industry built around claims that disorders such as autism are caused by external influences, such as routine childhood vaccinations, these claims have been extensively investigated, and found to be without empirical or scientific merit.
There’s ample credible, though tentative, scientific evidence that profound neurological changes can be caused by external substances, both via obvious causes, such as brain injuries, and possibly subtle ones, such as T. gondii infections
In recent years these (environmental) disorders have particularly been increasing in children, as education as become more and more grueling as material keeps being added to the curriculum.
While this hypothesis makes sense for some disorders, and is supported by many therapists and clinicians, it doesn’t for others.
ADHD is, in large part, a diagnosis specific to how children react to school, or less commonly, adults to academic, professional, or social settings. The characteristics identified as criteria for diagnosis a person with ADHD are present to some extent in all people – we all sometimes have difficulty concentrating, socially appropriate waiting patiently and quietly for our turns, etc. So, while heritable predispositions and learned behavior and attitudes are a factor in the disorder, changes in teaching methods and school curriculum (especially teaching coping skills), and professional and social policies and norms can worsen of alleviate a given individual’s ADHD.
ASDs, on the other hand, are believed to result from pre-natal developmental abnormalities, and, to meet diagnostic criteria, must be observed (or be likely to have been present) prior to 3 years of age, before most children diagnosed with it are in any sort of “grueling” school environment. So, while teaching special coping skills to autistic children is important for their long term happiness and health, school can’t be reasonably deemed a cause of ASDs, because ASDs appears in children before they begin school.My personal familiarity with ASDs
is second hand and informal. I have several friends who worked as teachers and program designers for special education schools for children with ASDs. My wife and son worked for several years as assistants in one of these schools.
In the early 1990s, Asperger’s Syndrome, an ASD, appeared in English language literature. My ASD specialist friends learned about it in professional seminars, and shortly after informally diagnoses it in, and explained it to, me. While such informal diagnoses need to be taken skeptically – almost anybody who “sound smart” tends to be informally diagnosed as an “Aspie”, even when, as in my case, he shows few other characteristic matching the diagnostic criteria (I’m social, like physical contact, etc) – one traits of mine led me to conclude that their diagnosis of me has some merit is that I have a significantly sub-normal ability to identify people who I know personally or publically from their faces. Though it’s not obvious to most people, I tend to visually ID people by characteristic such as height, build, clothing, jewelry, etc. rather than by recognizing their faces. I’m nearly clueless in games and test involving matching public figures with photos of their faces.
Autism (which, had events unfolded differently, might have been named “Kanner’s
syndrome) and Asperger’s
syndrome have a fascinating history, much to do with the psychologists who discovered and popularized them, and the impact of WW2 on their careers and availability of their writing – Kanner immigrated to the US in 1924, so was fairly unaffected by the war, while Asperger suffered through the thick of it, actually losing much of his writing and his assistant and sister when the school they started near the end of WW2 was bombed. Asperger’s work, which he published mostly in 1944, wasn’t rediscovered, and its relationship to Kanner’s and later autism researchers recognized, until 1981.