Monday, March 14, 2011
Is Depression a Disease like Diabetes?
So I saw a video lecture by Robert Sapolsky the neurobiologist at Stanford University about depression. Whenever anyone gets outside their field to lecture I get worried. Even when I discuss neurology you are far better off listening to someone like Sapolsky. So what does the bearded doctor say? That depression is like diabetes and is a biologic disease.
Well all diseases are biologic in the end since they effect the physiologic system. The question is, is it biologic in origin? If you don’t see what I see every day then yes you can make that mistake. But if you see patients going back in time to preverbal days to relive origins of depression then you know it is NOT a biologic disease in origin. That confusion between origins and results; making the results the cause is a very common mistake in psychology and neurology. I promise not to discuss neurology anymore if neurologists will lay off psychology. Just because a professor has a doctorate in finance doesn’t mean he can lecture in psychology. We are all smart in little ways.
So what are the hallmarks of depression?
1. a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness
2. no energy. Everything is a great effort.
3. A big dark hole that one cannot crawl out of.
4. Everything is in slow motion, labored movements and shallow breathing
5. What’s the point of it all?
6. An emotional numbness
7. No joy in anything
8. No able to talk or express oneself
9. Nothing to live for
10. Extreme fatigue
11. Nothing to live for
12. Cannot concentrate
13. Wish to die
14. Lack of sexual interest
15. Total despair
I could go on. But you all fill in the blanks. Is all that caused by our biology? Watch out for cause and effect. Now the catch: all that is also what one feels during the trauma of birth; and indeed when patients relive these events they lessen their depression. All that the depressives feel had their precise beginnings during womblife and at birth.
Why? What can a fetus do when the mother smokes continuously? What can the poor guy do when the mother takes painkillers and tranquilizers every few hours. He is helpless and hopeless; there is nothing he can do. No escape. Death is near as the little system goes into alarm mode. That may be later translated into wanting to die because it is the only way to stop the pain. It is a big dark hole that he cannot climb out of. He cannot talk or scream or show his pain; no one to listen, no one to hear. No one cares. Of course there is extreme fatigue; think of the effort it takes to get born when the newborn is drugged out of his mind. There are labored movements as he can barely move at all. And on and on. You can read The Janov Solution for the long version of this discussion. But there is a cause and if you have no idea about the imprint, even though all new information supports it; and if you have no idea about how early those imprints are laid down, then of course you will confuse cause and effect and lecture about how depression is a biologic disease just like diabetes (Sapolsky’s idea). In a strange way, it is not so far off the mark. Because diabetes too is biologic but it may well be that early experience sets off this disease, as well.
You see that once you believe that, then there are only physiologic therapies such as drugs that you believe in. You eschew psychologic explanations and therapy. Worse, you no longer look for causes because, you see, you already know it is BIOLOGIC. Dr. Drew of television fame for treatment of addiction calls all this a brain disease. Of course, there are brain effects but what is the cause? Life experience, for the most part. But if you never see those experiences, hidden as they are during womblife and birth, then you have no choice but to believe it is all brain disease. But when my patients relive birth and then we see fingerprints coming up on both legs immediately afterward we know about the imprint and its enduring nature. Or when they relive anoxia at birth and then lessen their addiction we see the connection. But if you do not have the means to observe all that your conclusions will be faulty. And you will be led to believe that addiction is a brain disease.
Depression is by and large a parasympathetic reaction. I suggest reading my books for a full discussion of this but the depressive is stuck at the time when he was in the trough trying to get born; all to no avail as drugs rushed in to block his efforts, or he was strangled on the cord, or he had unavoidable trauma during womblife that left a mark on him. The system goes into parasympathetic excess or passivity in order to survive, and that survival mode, parasympathetic, endures for a lifetime. We are stuck way back there and we don’t know it. I know it and my patients know it. And now you know it. We all know it. Ahhh.
Review of "Beyond Belief"
This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer
Quotes for "Life Before Birth"
“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine
Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University
Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University
In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System
A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University
"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH
His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.