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Is it Really All in the Genes?

by Chris Barchard

Of those identical twins whose twin is diagnosed as schizophrenic somewhat less than half of them also get this diagnosis themselves. This suggests two things - firstly that genes are involved in the development of the condition and secondly that there are profound other factors. Otherwise, if it was a straightforward genetic condition like Huntington's Chorea, both twins would always get it. It is not clear what these other factors are, but environmental influences, experiences at home or school and other places are still strong candidates. Organisations run by relatives of those affected like to play down these possibilities (predictably) and try to make out that schizophrenia is just a physical illness with physical causes. They would have it that the writings of R D Laing are all dangerous nonsense. Yet R.D. Laing described very beautifully the kinds of breakdown in communication that can occur between people that can end in someone getting the fateful diagnosis. The question is whether it is the person destined for diagnosis who is precipitating the problems or whether others are doing something bad to them? If one accepts the above genetic scenario then it could be both things. Someone susceptible, put in with sufficiently narrow, intolerant and puritanical people say, whose unbending natures could not accommodate that person, might well be pushed over the edge. It probably happens quite often. It may not always be the relatives but probably is in many cases. The experiences I had with my family and what I know of some other people confirm this view to me. Just because there may be something a little dodgy in your genes does not make you immune from the effects of other people's behaviour. A little dodgy - well, people with these genes more often than not seem to be turning out perfectly OK Perhaps what we are talking about here is a reaction type, people who may, if put under great pressure, particularly when young, exhibit a particular reaction. Others might turn to drink or drugs or develop one of the other mental illnesses under the same conditions. So don't let them tell you to just keep taking the tablets. If there are causes through relationships and circumstances then probably these things can also help in effecting a cure.