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FAQ's Supplementary Page 7

Questions on: Psychology/Disorders

doctors say I have a severe chemical imbalance... I'm basically an "artsy" person, very sensitive, very intuitive and a positive person. Do you think depression is typical of this type of person? Mental and emotional problems run in my family. Anywhere from manic depression to Agoraphobia to obsessive-compulsive disorder. All these folks are artistic just like me! On the other hand, my daughter is the opposite (thank goodness). She has no artistic ability and rarely shows her emotions. She doesn't show any signs of depression. I just can't' understand all of this!

Many mental disorders show a higher prevalence among relatives; depression, for example, is one and one-half to three times more common. With some disorders, a genetic flaw is evident, so such patterns are to be expected. With others, the cause of a pattern is not obvious. Because people who are closely related tend to have similar experiences and are exposed to similar environments (more so than would be in the case of random strangers), there is a difficulty determining whether the problem was caused by genetic predisposition, or empirical factors; that is, were they born to be that way, or made to be that way.

With a genetic predisposition toward flaws in brain structure or chemistry, in most cases the problems are relatively rare, simply because each generation receives half of its genes from a non-related source, and consequently each new organism (person) may prioritise the new genes over the ones causing the error. Of course, there are conditions (both physical and mental) that do not leave the gene pool, and every generation carries the potential for the illness or disorder. In some families, we see a variety of mental conditions, and this may be due to a relationship between certain disorders and a physiological flaw that disrupts brain chemistry or structure in a general way. That said, there is no conclusive evidence that depression is inherited rather than environmental; and it is possible that the presence of other mental problems within a family leads to depression over the situation.

I have heard the 'artistic' statement many times, applied to a variety of disorders. Although I have not seen any studies supporting this conclusion, there is often an element of truth to such observations. One thing that would have to be determined in this situation is whether artistic people are prone to mental dysfunction, or is the dysfunctional gene or attitude responsible for causing "artistic" behaviour?

There appears to be a pattern that warrants closer study. Some disorders, such as Antisocial Personality Disorder, afflict males most of the time. Other disorders, such as depression or Histrionic Disorder, normally affect females. The disorders that are predominantly “male” generally reflect illnesses that cause a lack of certain emotions; whereas “female” problems tend to demonstrate an “excess” of a specific emotion or emotions. Male and female brain structure differs. The two hemispheres of the brain (one referred to as “logical”, the other as “emotional”) are more clearly defined in males (that is, more separate). Hence male thought can be more purely logical, or more purely emotional, depending on the circumstances. Female thought, on the other hand, is tempered by each hemisphere, hence logic is affected by emotion, and emotion is influenced by logic.

Studies have shown that males favour the logical hemisphere, and men tend to think in terms of words. Females favour the emotional side, and hence women tend to think in images. Studies have also indicated that artistic people of both sexes also use mental images more often than mental words when thinking. Such evidence may indicate that due to the proximity of the hemispheres of the brain, or the links between them, certain brain malfunctions may occur specifically in people who favour the left hemisphere; in other words, those who are artistic by nature.

There may very well be an “artistic” connection to the problems in your family. I certainly hope that further research is done on this matter, for I can see a number of potential avenues to explore. [back to FAQ index]


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