Raena Morgan: I was wondering if gastrointestinal problems, bed wetting, these kinds of problems that get developed from childhood abuse, is that valid?
Dr. Timothy Scott: Well there’s a certain amount of that that is valid.
RM: Because you talk in your book a story about this family.
TS: Yeah. If you look at the research on enuresis, which is bed wetting,-
TS: -proper term for bed wetting, it’s not what you think. I think that a lot of parents who have children wet the bed think “oh my, they must be overly stressed, what can I do?” and may even go to a physician asking for advice and help related to that problem. Reality is that’s not typically the problem at all.
TS: That’s not the problem at all.
RM: But post-traumatic stress disorder?
TS: Yeah. If you have extreme, if we’re talking very extreme and if you’re talking close in time. So I mentioned the Genain’s, for example, in the book.
RM: Right, that was a disturbing story.
TS: Yeah, it is a disturbing story. And I mentioned them because they’re such a famous case, they’ve been used so often to promote the idea that schizophrenia is genetic.
RM: All right.
TS: All four of these girls, we’re talking about the Genain quadruplets, all four of the girls developed schizophrenia, and the argument is you can’t have four out of four unless it’s genetic,-
RM: Genetic, okay.
TS: -so it proves it’s genetic. It does not prove it’s genetic. When you look closely at their childhood, it is amazing. It’s one of the most abusive stories I’ve ever heard. Their father sexually abused these girls. Their father would not allow them to dress except how he wanted them to dress. He would watch them dress every day, even after they reached puberty, he’d watch them dress every day. He’d watch them use the toilet. He carried a gun through the home and was extremely paranoid. He was an alcoholic and a severe diabetic. He would not allow his wife to write her mother without inspecting those letters; he would read the letters before they were sent off. It was just an incredible home life, terrible amount of abuse, and consequently, yeah, all four of the girls developed schizophrenia. You cannot argue that that’s genetic based on that case. Those girls had a life that was just torture from beginning to end.
RM: Okay, so then the question is can mental illness be genetic, or is it based on experience?
TS: There is absolutely no evidence that it is genetic. This is the golden grail. This is what will make someone extremely famous. It will put his name or her name into every psychology textbook and medical textbook from now to eternity. This is what will make someone win a Nobel Prize. Consequently, it has been pursued in countless studies, I’m talking literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of studies, millions upon millions of dollars have been spent pursuing what everyone knew to be true, that there’s a genetic link there. It has never been found. The studies that say ‘here’s a link’ have been discredited, I discussed that in my book, show why some of those twin studies prove that there’s not a genetic link. This is silliness.
RM: So it’s environment?
TS: It is absolutely environment. The factors related to schizophrenia are many, they’re common, they’re across decades, they’re across countries. We know what the factors are, I list those in the book. It’s important to recognize that it is not simply genetic. If it is, it means you can’t do anything about it.
TS: It means that if you’re born into the wrong family you’re destined to lose your mind, at least you’re at an increased risk of that. It’s a very negative view of mental health. A much more positive view is my view that says yes, there are risk factors, but you can make choices, you can take the steps necessary to have good mental health and have a wonderful life. Everyone can choose to make those steps, everyone can have a good life.
RM: So the post-traumatic stress that comes from being in a dysfunctional, abusive family, that can be overcome is what you’re saying?
TS: It can be overcome. It is true that stress of the worst kinds can lead to very severe reactions as it did in the Genain’s case. When we look at battlefield amnesia, you have people who go to the battlefield- we have many accounts of this-
TS: -from wars of a hundred years ago, of fifty years ago and more recent where they go to the battlefield, especially those who are in the foxhole. World War II had a lot of this. They’re in the foxholes, they know they may die today, they see their buddy die on the right, they see a buddy die on the left, they’re not killed, but when they’re brought back to the rear, they don’t know who they are; they’ve lost their mind completely, they have amnesia.
TS: So why? Extreme stress, it’s happened over and over, now does that mean that that person is going to have a mind that’s destroyed the rest of their life? No, those people will typically get their minds back; it’s a temporary reaction. In fact, very often generals have made a decision, we’ll let our men go out to the frontline and kill, they’re beginning to lose their minds.
RM: Oh really?
TS: We’ll bring them to the rear, we’ll give them a few days of recovery. Now they’re back to normal, now we’ll send them back to the frontline. And there’s a real debate. Should we do it that way, or should we allow them to really get their mind strong again, take them out of battle for a more extended period of time, or should we allow them out just for a few days just to where they’re functioning well again and can shoot that rifle again and send them back?
TS: So there’s that debate going on. So no, stress can do tremendously harmful things to the mind, but it doesn’t mean it’s genetic, doesn’t mean it’s lifelong.
RM: Thank you very much.
TS: You’re welcome.
Dr. Timothy Scott explains a study that supposedly proved a genetic link for mental illness. He looks at some of the other factors that come into play and explains his opinion as to whether there is a genetic link or not.
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