MAOA What? The Genetic Link Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be a very difficult issue to deal with. It usually shows up as unstable or turbulent emotions, which may result in impulsivity and troubled relationships with others.

In the view of most psychotherapists, Borderline Personality Disorder often results from early environments steeped in fear of abandonment or abuse and neglect which leads to insecure attachment patterns. 

But this doesn’t mean genes don’t matter. Because like jeans that chafe when they don’t fit right, genes can irritate certain parts of your body and make them all out of whack until you break down and buy the infamous “mom jeans” or just settle for yoga pants like any reasonable person would. 

Wait…no, that’s not right. Genes just mess with your brain and make you more susceptible to these conditions. Okay, that makes more sense. But your inside genes and your outside jean-wearing environment work together to trigger disorder....  continue reading

Why We're Breeding Psychopaths: The Benefits of Psychopathy, Triggers to Aggression and the Future of Humanity

Monday, September 08, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

As discussed in the last post, there are a number of traits that define psychopathy and a wide continuum on which those traits can come out.  In general, psychopaths are known for a lack of empathy, charm/charisma and serial killing, not exactly a stellar stereotype. But psychopaths possess a number of traits that have made them historically beneficial to the human race.

I know. You still think I've lost my damn mind. But bear with me. 

Today, many in the general population seem to believe that psychopathy evolved as an adaptation to be a type of "super predator". When faced with food shortages or otherwise harsh conditions, psychopaths would have been able to murder tribe mates, steal resources and rape at will, free of guilt or remorse. Bad for humanity, probably even at the time.

But, this theory is incomplete. You don't need to be Rico fucking Suave to brutally murder the neighbor's mother for her Ramen noodles, although I suppose sexy abs might make people think twice before lynching you. In our ancestral past, there were probably a number of different early conditions that led to the development of psychopathic-like traits, not all of which include genetic predisposition to super predator violence. And though there are subgroups with psychopathy and violent tendencies, current studies support the idea that violence is a trait that cannot be generalized to the entire psychopathic population9

Today, we are moving beyond the idea of super predator as more and more research is showing us that it is not so much the psychopathy that makes someone violent, but another gene or set of genes that can manifest at the same time. But the violent traits linked to these specific genes may only be expressed in the presence of certain environmental factors. Instead of aggression being a symptom, violent psychopaths may emerge due to the way we treat our children and one another. (For more behind the scenes insight into this, check out Famished by yours truly. If you love psychos, you'll love it.)

It's just one more reason to avoid being a dick....  continue reading

What is a Psychopath? The Traits, The Brains and The Benefit of Psychopathy

Friday, September 05, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

“She showed him a picture of a frightened face and asked him to identify the emotion. He said he didn’t know what the emotion was, but it was the face that people pulled just before he killed them.” 1 

This is the idea we have in our head of psychopaths, the Jeffery Dahmers of the world. But what if I told you that psychopaths are just another version of normal, people with a brain condition they cannot control? 

This is not an incredibly popular stance to take, and with good reason: as a society we are taught that psychopaths are dangerous individuals. This is not generally the case. You have almost certainly met a few in your life, and at least some of them slipped under your radar with no harm to those in the vicinity.

Not that it's your fault for being unaware; those with psychopathic personalities don't show many obvious signs. They don't hear voices, they don't talk to themselves, they don't seem nervous. Plus, not everyone with psychopathic traits is a true balls-to-the-wall psychopath, though many do display behaviors that create conflict or risk, particularly in relationships.

That's right, balls-to-the-wall. It's a clinical term....  continue reading

It's Good To Be Bad: The Psychological Benefit of Dark Humor

Thursday, July 10, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

A beautiful woman is standing on an overpass, ready to leap to her death. 

A homeless man approaches her and says “If you're going to kill yourself, would you like to have sex first? It might be a fun way to go out.”

“No! That’s disgusting!” she screams.

The man turns and walks away.

“Wait, is that it?” she calls after him. “You don’t want to tell me that I shouldn’t do it? And where are you going so quickly?"

"I have to get down to the bottom,” he says. “If I hurry, you'll still be warm.”

Humor has long been known for its ability to reduce stress and improve mood. Not only do we get to enjoy physical changes in heart rate and improved oxygen consumption while laughing, but after-giggle effects include slowed heart rate, lowered blood pressure and overall more mellow physiology1. These benefits are likely due to changes in the endocrine system2, and reductions in cortisol and epinephrine3. It’s all about the chemicals. (I was going to tell you a joke about Jonestown here, but the punch line is too long.)...  continue reading

When Do Personality Traits Become Mental Illness? The Answer Might Surprise You.

Monday, April 28, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Depression may be adaptive in some regards, and there may even be an evolutionary basis for the attractiveness of moodiness. But this doesn’t mean that we accept these traits as a society. Instead, what Philip Fischer labels “passionate traits” like melancholy, irritability or even exuberance3 are frowned upon, especially if you don’t have a particularly theatrical job. 

“Hey, Bob! Stop dancing on the copy machine and finish your TPS reports!”

But there is a problem inherent in the way the general population defines “illness”.  Numerous traits influence personality, and at any given time, most people will exhibit at least some traits that indicate depression, hyperthymia or anxiety. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to label such traits as disorder as opposed to normal differences between people.

No longer are we passionate dancers, melancholic writers or exuberant salespeople; we are ill. And the more visible those emotions are to others, the more they are seen as an uncivilized throwback to our neanderthal days, a mark of pathology....  continue reading

On The Loss of a Parent: Grief From Love

Friday, April 04, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Since writing this post, I introduced a short story that really put all my emotions in one place. Metaphor--it is lovely. If you'd like to check out Alien Landscape, CLICK HERE.

Grief. 

They say it comes in stages, a uniform pattern of expectations. In therapy sessions, we focus on it, at least in small pieces, based on the assumption that by describing it to people, they will recognize the pattern and understand that it will invariably progress and the pain will pass.

While the pain does pass, the pattern is not as clear-cut as many believe. It is a mess, a virtual soup of emotion....  continue reading