Neoteny, or What’s It All About?

April 10, 2012 at 2:14 am (By Amba)

Not long ago, my new little girl kitty was absorbed in the pure delight of play for play’s sake. Watching her I thought, “Maybe this is the ultimate aim of life. Maybe all the struggle and passion and toil is about recreating this state of pure play over and over again, since it can’t last.” Like tossing a ball up into the air again and again just for that moment when the sun gilds the ball at its apogee, its moment of freedom from gravity.

And then it falls, its momentum harvested for the next toss.

Kitty, barely legal at 9 or 10 months, is in the agonies of heat for the second time in three weeks. As young men are drafted into the army before they’re even mature, young females are drafted into the army of reproduction before they’ve had more than an eyeblink to enjoy life and discover their powers. Said powers, barely suspected, will be bent to the service of feeding the next generation as it enjoys its brief moment of consummate freedom to play. This is as true of traditional human societies as it is in nature.

It’s easy to understand why this has been necessary. Life is in a race against death and this was the only way not to lose. The second law of thermodynamics is on the side of death; life is an energetic defiance with a high cost. It can afford only the briefest of escapes from the drag of thermodynamic necessity.

This disproportion between the time spent keeping life going and the time spent enjoying it may be natural, but let’s not pretend it’s noble.  It’s brutal. Rilke wrote about life’s mystery that too many of us “pass it on like a sealed letter.” Or, at best, we steam it open and steal a glimpse before guiltily gluing it shut again to get it back in the mail to the ever-receding future.

I propose that traditional societies are misguided in glorifying submission to necessity and trying to keep life confined within its strict forms. I propose that the greatest achievement of human beings (which indeed has come at a high cost of extraction of energy from the rest of the living planet) has been to push back death far enough to prolong that time of pure play.  Curiosity, creativity, wonder, pleasure, delight—there can’t be too much time for that. There still isn’t enough. Growing up late, having fewer children later and handing them an opened letter, playing one way or another all our lives—call it narcissistic self-indulgence, call it “failure to launch” or “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” call it art, call it witness, call it high praise.

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87 Comments

  1. A said,

    I seem to have used up all my vacation time in the first half of my life. I miss it!

  2. realpc920 said,

    I think you are expressing a very “progressive” philosophy, so of course I don’t completely agree with it. For one thing, you overlooked the joy that creatures get from mating and taking care of their babies which, in their own way I am sure they love.

    Another thing I think you overlooked is that there are some species of animals, and some tribal humans, who play all their lives. What about all the rituals, dancing and music, and body-decoration that goes on in primitive tribes?

    And all the art and music and literature that was created by the traditional, non-primitive societies?

    Some human societies have not been much fun at all, even for children. Others have probably been joyful. I don’t think our society is more playful or more joyful than all others.

    We have more freedom now to escape our class and gender roles. But I think that causes as much confusion and alienation as it causes joy and playfulness.

    I am not saying I wish I lived in a traditional society. Just that I am not a “progressive” and I don’t believe that traditions and instincts are somehow opposed to joy and playfulness.

    But I also don’t think we should, or could, stop progress or slow it down.

  3. amba12 said,

    This is an unusual point of view for me. Probably it’s the perspective of being relatively late in life and (for all practical purposes) postsexual. I always thought much of the joy in life had to do with reproduction and I was (and am) sorry to miss it. It’s just that I see how early it kicks in. In that you can see nature’s “assumption” that life is most likely to be short and hard and that you’d better pass your genes on while you’re still alive and at your physically fittest. And I think that the time we’ve bought in various ways to play more, and our interest in playing throughout life, is a triumph (if a costly one). A triumph of “neoteny.”

    It doesn’t seem to me that this notion falls on the conservative-progressive continuum, except that some very conservative (modern) societies that seek to confine women in particular to childbearing as soon as possible after they become fertile are refusing what is basically a gift and an opportunity. Right now, in my confused and alienated state, it looks to me as if confusion and alienation is the price of opportunity and a spur to continued learning and adaptation, which is human. I could say it’s natural to be old and a creature of habit and to spend the rest of my life in memories and babysitting for relatives. Do you think that would be wise?

    (Of course, I am going to spend some of the rest of my life in memories and babysitting.)

  4. amba12 said,

    I’m really sick of everything being forced onto the conservative-progressive continuum, the pole that our society is impaled on (read: has up its a**). It’s so two-dimensional.

  5. realpc920 said,

    “I could say it’s natural to be old and a creature of habit and to spend the rest of my life in memories and babysitting for relatives. Do you think that would be wise?’

    No don’t do that. I don’t think it’s natural anyway.

  6. realpc920 said,

    “I’m really sick of everything being forced onto the conservative-progressive continuum”

    I don’t believe in that continuum either. I used the word progressive, but in quotes, because I didn’t know how else to describe it. I have always questioned the simple left-right idea. However, I also believe in the idea that natural systems evolve from their current “old” state to something different, or “new.”

    It seemed to me you were saying the new conditions we have been evolving towards are better than the older, more traditional ways.

    My reasoning was that we are evolving from old to new, but I don’t see it as from bad to good. I see it as from something that is bad and good to something else that’s bad and good.

    But maybe you felt like I was labeling you as a progressive, and maybe that’s true in a way. I see you as someone who is basically “progressive,” but who reads and thinks a lot and has questioned your basic beliefs.

    I think I am also a native progressive, but I turned against it more than you did. We are both usually very skeptical about the glorification of progress.

  7. amba12 said,

    I see it as from something that is bad and good to something else that’s bad and good.

    Is there any change about which that can’t be said??

  8. amba12 said,

    We can hardly speak without confining ourselves to half (or less) of the story. At another time, we might say the opposite and mean it just as much. This is why the only “ism” that appeals to me is Taoism.

  9. realpc920 said,

    “Is there any change about which that can’t be said??”

    Yes, lots of things that are bad get better, and lots of things that are good get worse.

    I don’t see evolution, of human societies or nature, as going from worse to better. I think it goes from simpler to more complex.

  10. realpc920 said,

    “We can hardly speak without confining ourselves to half (or less) of the story.”

    Well that’s true, because we try to express multi-dimensional thoughts as a string of words.

  11. realpc920 said,

    I guess you were saying we have partly freed ourselves from the prison of natural instincts and traditions, and this freedom is joyful. So I was saying well, the instincts and traditions can be joyful also. Freedom and restrictions can both be joyful or miserable.

    We have so many choices and some of us might always wonder if we made the best choices or not.

    I also think our society has been disintegrating. There are no really stable social groups left, except the married couple. And if you aren’t married you don’t even have the tribe with two members.

    We have friends and relatives, but Americans, many of them anyway, think nothing of moving away from everyone they love.

  12. amba12 said,

    People seem to prefer their electronic networks nowadays, because it gives them freedom from the more difficult part of dealing with other people. But I think it leads to sensory and social deprivation.

  13. mockturtle said,

    It happens that I agree with both of you! Does that mean we are now in a three-dimensional thread? Growth and adventure in our old-age–that’s the ticket! ‘Generativity’, per the Erikson model, doesn’t just pertain to family or even to society. Many in my ancestry have inspired me by their boldness. They were bold because they were bored with the status quo and were willing to step out of their comfortable tedium and into the unknown.

  14. kngfish said,

    I’m less sure about play….it has a non-innocent edge in it….

    But I feel ‘free of gravity’ (see Zarathustra about that!) when I just embrace what I love, sans reasoning. Why this and not that? I concern myself with this less as I get older….

    As for entropy….I kinda feel ‘We’re all Dr. Johnson’s Dog Now’. Hell, why is there anything, and so much of it? So entropy wins, big deal! Just by being here, we’re beating the spread.

    “Suppose everything is an illusion and nothing really exists. In that case, I paid too much for this suit.” — Woody Allen

  15. amba12 said,

    Just by being here, we’re beating the spread.

    Yes, exactly!

    Please explain Dr. Johnson’s dog.

    And: innocence may be another one of those things that’s good in moderation.

  16. mockturtle said,

    Maybe he means the ‘black dog’ of depression, so described first [I think!] by Samuel Johnson and in common usage since.

  17. mockturtle said,

    Churchill often used that term to describe his own bouts of deep melancholy.

  18. kngfish said,

    Dr. Johnson’s Dog is that phrase about ‘It’s not that it does anything well, it’s that it does anything at all’

  19. mockturtle said,

    That’s great! :-) I have Boswell’s Life of Johnson on my kindle and I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it. My husband has read it but I have not yet. It was in our bookcase but I haven’t seen it since our last move.

    I’m having such fun with Tristram Shandy and Lytton Strachey right now it’s almost criminal. ;-) Sorry–not meaning to hijack the neoteny discussion and turn it to my ‘hobby-horse’ [as Stearne would call it]. But the emergent child in me takes such pleasure in good reading! This is my form of ‘play’.

  20. amba12 said,

    It makes me so happy to hear that, mt.

  21. kngfish said,

    the more exact quote….

    Johnson: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

  22. kngfish said,

    I can’t remember where I saw this line the other day: “Society is a machine that turns resources into children”

  23. realpc920 said,

    I understand what Amba is observing and expressing in this post — that the playful energy of young pre-sexual animals is greater than or different from all other kinds of joy. I wasn’t arguing against that — sorry for being a pain as usual. But there is a progressive myth that we modern humans are the only animal whose life is not brutish and short.

    That myth is so prevalent today among “progressives,” and it started with — who was it exactly? Hobbs or someone hundreds of years ago. And it is not true, we have evidence showing it is not true.

    That’s all I’m saying. Playfulness and joy is experienced not just by young animals and some modern humans.

    And I think this is connected to what I’m saying — our modern technology has done at least as much to kill playfulness as to increase it. Just a hundred years ago if people wanted music they had to learn how to play and sing. Now you can just push a button.

    Advantages and disadvantages in every phase of evolution.

  24. mockturtle said,

    One has only to read Rabelais to know that playfulness abounded in the mid-16th century.

  25. mockturtle said,

    Actually, early 16th century. He was born in 1494 and died in 1553.

  26. kngfish said,

    I’m not sure having to learn to play and sing to get music adds to the playfulness of it….it’s not easy! Plus, how do the inevitably large number of people who still couldn’t play or sing add to it as well? My own crazy caterwauling may knock the birds from the trees, but it would be malicious of me to call that ‘playful’…

  27. amba12 said,

    But cats would approve . . .

  28. mockturtle said,

    Having observed the playfulness of deer, including a group of five or six does romping with abandon in our back yard, I can say with conviction that they play just for fun, animal behaviorists be damned! Maybe the bulk of their cervine lives is focused on survival but they also spend a lot of time just hanging out and playing.

    Do centipedes play? We may never know.

  29. kngfish said,

    But cats would approve . . .

    [a shoe is thrown at Warbling Ron, the Charles Manson of Melody]

  30. kngfish said,

    Do centipedes play? We may never know.

    Indeed they do….and their keyboards have 1,116 keys.

  31. mockturtle said,

    Indeed they do….and their keyboards have 1,116 keys.

    :-D Always the mot juste, kng!

  32. wj said,

    Taking the long view, “it kicks in so early” simply because it had to. Until very recently, human life expectancy was something like 35. If a woman didn’t start having children by her mid-teens, there wasn’t going to reliably be enough time to raise the children.

    Granted, the situation has changed. Life expectancies are much longer, so there is no longer the rush (biologically) that there once was. And (trailing somewhat after) we have developed technologies which allow use to balance biology (sex drives kicking in which we are in our mid-teens) with reality (we can wait another decade or more without putting anything at unreasonable risk).

    But while biology adjusts far, far more slowly than medicine has changed, culture isn’t exactly given to sharp turns either. Thus, while there is no biological reason to avoid birth control technologies, a lot of people have not yet overcome their cultural reasons. Cultures can and do change; and this change will continue until refusing to use birth control is considered as ridiculous as refusing to use indoor plumbing. But it will clearly take a while longer.

  33. realpc920 said,

    “Until very recently, human life expectancy was something like 35. If a woman didn’t start having children by her mid-teens, there wasn’t going to reliably be enough time to raise the children.”

    Oh jeez, I hate getting into this for the ten thousandth time. That’s what my medical mythology post was all about. No, wj, the average woman did not drop dead at 35, that is at the center of the modern medical myth. Average lifespan was low for humans, as it is for most animals, because infant mortality is naturally high. Antibiotics and vaccines have eradicated the causes of most childhood deaths.

    When you stop averaging in all those very low numbers, the average lifespan increases dramatically. But it DOES NOT mean the average person is living longer, or is any healthier, and it certainly does not mean the new drugs are the reason for the increase.

    Lifespan has varied all over the place in different societies for different reasons. Ironically, the rate of women dying in childbirth was very high when medical doctors took over from midwives. That was because they didn’t know about germs at that time, and they didn’t wash their hands after touching dead bodies.

    Lifespan has been lowered for various reasons, such as terrible conditions in early industrial cities, or high rates of cigarette smoking.

    We have no reason at all to think that people in traditional societies who lived in good environments and had healthy lifestyles were dropping dead at 35. It is absolutely a myth, and very unfortunate because it makes people think the new drugs are keeping us alive. NO.

  34. realpc920 said,

    “I’m not sure having to learn to play and sing to get music adds to the playfulness of it….it’s not easy!”

    That’s another very unfortunate misconception. The things that require hard work are the most FUN. Ask anyone who loves playing golf. Maybe that partly explains why young animals run around so joyfully — they are just learning how to run around and that makes it more fun.

    We love to have a challenge, and we love working hard. What a shame that not everyone understands this. Work is play and play is work. Or should be.

    If you start learning to play an instrument or sing, it can seem very difficult for a while. Then you think “Oh I have no talent, I will never be as good as Adele,” and you give up.

    Now you can hear music by skilled professionals any time you want. So it seems pointless for us amateurs to bother.

    It’s the same kind of thinking that makes Americans get in their cars and drive instead of ride a bicycle — driving the car is easier and faster.

    We lose so many of the things that used to cause the most pleasure because of technology. Yes of course I’m glad for washing machines and indoor plumbing. But we have lost an awful lot.

    No more personal contact needed, because we have Facebook. Physical exercise not needed, playing music and singing and dancing not needed.

    Nothing is left except sitting in front of a screen. Yes that can be fun and useful and interesting, but we really lost a lot.

  35. mockturtle said,

    Your are right, PC…lower infant mortality, fewer obstetrical deaths, antibiotics and yes, certain other medications have resulted in higher average life expectancies. But the fact is, we are programmed for a finite lifespan which hasn’t changed significantly over the years. In Psalm 90:10 [written about 1000 years BC, I believe], it says: The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years… So an average man lived 70 years and some lived 80 years–and this without antibiotics or antihypertensives.

  36. wj said,

    real, I wasn’t talking about when the average person died a few centuries ago. As you say, the belief that women typically died by 35 in the Middle Ages is a myth.

    Rather, I was talking about what happened a few hundreds of thousands of years ago. We have to look that far back (at least) to say anything realistic about why the current biological clock of human beings might have evolved as it did.

    Now it may be that average lifespans (for adults; leaving aside infant mortality) was similarly long then. But I haven’t seen anything that substantiates that.

  37. Ron said,

    I’ve had way more fun in a car then a bike….and there’s an enormous amount of hard work that is no fun at all!

    Yeah, there may have been pleasures in some of these older things, but we left them behind for a reason, and hey, we can still have fun!

  38. karen said,

    I heard an interesting topic today on Npr– BBC- about men and testosterone #s. I’ll make them feel like they’re 35 and in control again, for a cost of 4500$. Yep– lowT(lol). How’s that going to affect relationships already skewed(according to certain research)w/women taking hormones?,

    Hormones are used in cattle all the time(we’re organic, no hormones here). Oxytocin, luetalyse(for heats) progesterone, etc. They even do sedar implants that release hormones inside the cervix(i spelled that wrong, sorry)so mulitple heifers can be bred together, etc.

    The latest technology now in breeding cows is genomics– testing animals for their traits/genes to decide which animals to raise from and then these girls are bred to sexed semen to ensure more heifers. Just informing, here:0)…

    In relation to humans- allof these un-naturally occurring hormones in women affect their relationshipships w/men in ways not- natural to the way we would w/out ~enhancement~. I gotta laugh at women of the Progressive slant that want their orgANIC VEGGIES, PASTURE
    meat and free-ranging eggs– but, freaking A- leave my b/control alone!! Better yet- provide it for me.

  39. realpc920 said,

    “Now it may be that average lifespans (for adults; leaving aside infant mortality) was similarly long then. But I haven’t seen anything that substantiates that.”

    I don’t know where you expect to see anything substantiating that. Maybe you have not looked? We are the same species as prehistoric homo sapiens, with the same genetically programmed typical lifespan.

    Parrots can live to 100 years, but they don’t take statins. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the new drugs, which in my opinion cause, rather than cure, disease and disability.

    Antibiotics and vaccines can be effective at curing or preventing some diseases. The new stuff is mostly just poison, and the psychiatric drugs are mind-numbing poison.

  40. realpc920 said,

    “I’ve had way more fun in a car then a bike….and there’s an enormous amount of hard work that is no fun at all!”

    It’s possible you don’t know what you’re missing. A person who is in good physical shape and does a lot of bicycling can feel wonderful if they go for a 20 mile ride. How wonderful can you feel from driving 20 miles? I sure don’t have any fun commuting to work.

    As for whether hard work can be no fun at all. I think we would have to be more careful about defining “work” and “hard work.” And maybe different people are different.

    I love working hard at certain things. No it isn’t always fun to wake up at 5 am so I can have time for exercise and music practice. It can be tiring and it requires discipline.

    But it sure is more fun, I think, to know how to play your own music your own way, especially when playing with others, than to just passively listen.

    And it sure is more fun to feel healthy and physically alive than to feel half dead and not even be aware you have a physical body.

    In my opinion. I do not believe that progress is all good. I could probably list hundreds of examples, but that would be the kind of hard work that is not fun.

  41. realpc920 said,

    “So an average man lived 70 years and some lived 80 years–and this without antibiotics or antihypertensives.”

    We should not assume the bible is accurate, but it can’t be just a coincidence the lifespan mentioned there is almost exactly the same as ours. And it just confirms what I have also read many other places — people who survived childhood, and had a reasonably healthy lifestyle and environment, often survived to old age.

    I think the new drugs are more likely to shorten life than to lengthen it, and they cause rather than cure diseases. The psychiatric drugs can dull symptoms, but they make the underlying causes worse over time. And they are known to shorten life because they cause metabolic syndrome, which causes heart disease, etc.

    Drugs are bad, whether they are legal or not. Well, I guess certain kinds of drugs are ok when used in moderation or for special occasions. But getting half the American population hooked on symptom-dulling, mind-numbing drugs, which they take every day for their whole lives — I think it would be better if they just start giving out heroin and cocaine.

  42. mockturtle said,

    PC, it all depends on the class of drugs. Antibiotics, insulin, antihypertensives extend lives, without a doubt.

  43. Ron said,

    It’s possible you don’t know what you’re missing.
    No….I know what I’m missing and what I’m not.

    A person who is in good physical shape and does a lot of bicycling can feel wonderful if they go for a 20 mile ride.
    Even when I was in good physical shape, I never really enjoyed the huffing and puffing. Why do people who enjoy exercise assume we ALL will? or must?

    How wonderful can you feel from driving 20 miles?
    Depends on the car, the road… Someday I’ll take a Konigsegg Agera out on the Nurburgring….ahh…you can keep your bike ride!

    I sure don’t have any fun commuting to work. Most people don’t! Maybe when work goes away, that will be one less chore that we give up.

  44. mockturtle said,

    How wonderful can you feel from driving 20 miles?

    Wow, I can easily drive 500 miles with no problem. I love to drive! But I also love to walk, hike and kayak. I’m not a couch potato. But driving is how we get around out here in the West. Places are pretty far apart–I used to drive 38 miles one way just to buy groceries.

  45. realpc920 said,

    “Even when I was in good physical shape, I never really enjoyed the huffing and puffing. Why do people who enjoy exercise assume we ALL will? or must?”

    If my experience with exercise was huffing and puffing I would hate it too. That’s another misconception, that exercise should be unpleasant and exhausting. Or that you have to spend a lot of money. The best exercise is simple walking, which is practically effortless. Yes, I definitely assume you would enjoy taking a walk now and then if you got into the habit.

    And yes I assume that you must, or the consequences will be very bad. Not just for you, but for your family. And it’s bad for the whole country because the majority of Americans are like you, and would rather take pills than take responsibility. It costs us all many billions of dollars.

    I wrote a recent post about metabolic syndrome, which is an epidemic in modern societies and probably results mainly from inactivity. Metabolic syndrome leads to chronic inflammation, which can cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, anxiety, depression and psychosis.

    Maybe you think no worries, medical science will find a cure just in time for you. But cures have never been found for any of the lifestyle diseases, not even effective treatments. These are diseases that affect the whole system, and the system is complex.

    And these diseases are seriously disabling. I wouldn’t mind suddenly dropping dead, but that is not what usually happens with chronic lifestyle diseases.

    And I know you will say that these diseases are the natural result of aging, and the only reason they are common now is because the new drugs are keeping everyone alive longer.

    NO, that is a myth, promoted by the drug industry.

  46. realpc920 said,

    “PC, it all depends on the class of drugs. Antibiotics, insulin, antihypertensives extend lives, without a doubt.”

    Mockturtle, I mentioned antibiotics and vaccines several times. I said they save lives, especially children, and they are the main reason average lifespan has increased.

    I am not sure about anti-hypertensives. Maybe for certain kinds of genetically-caused hypertension, which are rare. Most hypertension is the result of metabolic syndrome, entirely lifestyle caused, and should not be treated with drugs.

  47. kngfish said,

    Yes, I definitely assume you would enjoy taking a walk now and then if you got into the habit.

    Nope. I do walk occasionally…but it’s not a habit. I’m generally bored by it.

    and two, I have no family. It’s just me. I’m remarkably thick skinned about attempts to guilt me into something for the good of the nation. Everybody and his dog tries to do that to us for one damn thing or another, with the net effect of a sublime indifference to this line of argument. The nation/culture/economy decided I was more valuable sitting in front of a computer for very long stretches, and not behind a plow or any other activity that physical culture fawns over. I AM taking responsibility, just not the kind you like. Is this good? It’s moot to say; the economy decided.

  48. karen said,

    “Someday I’ll take a Konigsegg Agera out on the Nurburgring….ahh…you can keep your bike ride!”

    Wj— English, please?

    Must be a kind of car on a kind of road– somewhere.

  49. realpc920 said,

    kngfish, you don’t care about anybody except yourself, and you don’t care about your future self either. We all have to pay when you, and millions of other Americans, are sick and disabled because they won’t put a little effort into improving their lifestyle.

    I guess what you’re saying is you value your mind not your body. But what you don’t realize is that the mind depends on the brain, which depends on the body. If the body doesn’t work right, the mind doesn’t either.

  50. Donna B. said,

    “If the body doesn’t work right, the mind doesn’t either.”

    Yep, just imagine Stephen Hawking with a body that works “right”.

    But I doubt anyone would disagree with the idea that the body and mind work together. My experiences (dealing with someone who had a traumatic brain injury) lead me to a more specific generalization: If the brain doesn’t work “right” the body can amplify the malfunction and send feedback that can lead to further malfunction. And vice versa.

    So, it’s not that I disagree with you so much as it is that I think your statement is so general that it’s rather useless unless all you’re looking for is heads nodding in agreement.

    ~~~~~

    “We all have to pay when you, and millions of other Americans, are sick and disabled because they won’t put a little effort into improving their lifestyle.”

    That sounds like something a progressive control-freak would write.

    I don’t think you are a progressive control-freak. I also don’t think consistency in beliefs, thoughts, ideals, etc., is desirable since it precludes change and growth.

    So I’m not saying you are inconsistent, but I am saying that your thinking seems very disorganized sometimes as represented by gross generalizations like the two statements quoted above.

  51. realpc920 said,

    “I am saying that your thinking seems very disorganized sometimes as represented by gross generalizations like the two statements quoted above”

    I am so thankful, Donna, to have you as a critic. What would I do without you to organize my thinking for me.

    “Yep, just imagine Stephen Hawking with a body that works “right”.”

    You can always find the very farfetched exception to any generalization if you try hard enough. There are rare diseases that cause physical disability but do not damage the brain.

    As you know, I was talking about the very common lifestyle diseases, which cause damage to the brain and mental functioning, not just to the body.

    “That sounds like something a progressive control-freak would write.’

    One does not have to be a control freak to notice the country being destroyed. And one reason it’s being destroyed is, as you know, the cost of health care and health insurance. People who make an effort to take care of their health pay the same as those who don’t.

    Trying to influence people for the good of everyone is not being a control freak. One reason there is less cigarette smoking now is because of the social pressure against it. So it can work.

  52. amba12 said,

    Probably more important than the social pressure is the punitive taxation. People can’t afford to smoke.

  53. realpc920 said,

    “Probably more important than the social pressure is the punitive taxation. People can’t afford to smoke.”

    Yes I think that helped. But I think it’s also the information, letting everyone know it’s the worst thing for health. And the rules about not smoking in workplaces and restaurants. Those rules made it possible for non-smokers to actually go into restaurants, and to actually work in offices, without choking. And the rules also make it less convenient to smoke.

    So it was several different things, but I think the public awareness and social pressure had an influence. And we need the same kind of information for metabolic syndrome.

    I heard of it decades ago, as “syndrome X,” which was an alternative medicine concept. Now, fortunately, mainstream medicine is recognizing it. God, it ruins so many lives. Not just middle aged or old people, but lots of young people have it also. And instead of life-saving information, they get life-destroying drugs. Very often.

  54. realpc920 said,

    Both of my grandfathers died 10 or 20 years before they should have, because they smoked. My mother had high blood pressure since she was relatively young, probably because of metabolic syndrome, and she also had mental illness and now dementia. My closest friend almost died from it and is constantly going to doctors and is on all kinds of drugs because of metabolic syndrome. I know so many people who are sick because of it, and I have heard of many more.

    And I think it’s mostly because there has been so much social pressure AGAINST exercise. Someone like me is considered a health nut and not normal. The “normal” people are weak and stiff and take blood pressure and cholesterol drugs.

    Doctors suggest to their patients that maybe some exercise might be helpful. They don’t tell them that, in many cases. the whole reason they are sick is because they never did any exercise.

    I know of two young women in their 20s who are on anti-psychotic drugs for bipolar disorder, and both of them refuse to exercise at all. One is overweight and the other smokes cigarettes. It’s very possible that they are insane because of metabolic syndrome. And doctors are giving them drugs that CAUSE metabolic syndrome.

    These women are starting off their lives in a downward spiral. If they, or their doctors, had the information, maybe it would be different.

  55. Donna B. said,

    Social pressure and punitive taxation are hallmarks of control-freaks of all political persuasions. Oh yes, they do work. Like drugs, they have side effects.

    Social pressure is a given for 99 and 44/100 percent of humans. It can be good or bad but it’s necessary for civilization and culture. Punitive taxation is always bad.

    If society deems some behavior bad enough to require legislation to control it, the proper response is to make it illegal and apply the same penalty to all who engage in that behavior. This is, of course, not always good. When the penalties are restricted to fines, it’s akin to punitive taxation.

    Punitive taxes are aimed at the poor or some subset of society deemed “undesirable” (often related to poverty). They are never much of a deterrent to the well-off… merely an annoyance.

  56. realpc920 said,

    “Social pressure and punitive taxation are hallmarks of control-freaks of all political persuasions.”

    You are as usual not understanding what I mean at all. I’m glad they are taxing cigarettes, but that has nothing to do with what I was talking about. I was saying that it would be helpful if people, and doctors, were more informed about the role of physical exercise in health. What does that have to do with taxes? How could you tax people for not exercising?

    Health insurance companies could, voluntarily, charge less for their customers who have a healthy lifestyle. Life insurance costs more if you smoke — this has nothing to do with “control-freaks,” this is a voluntary decision by private companies.

    Yes people should be allowed to do whatever they want if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. And I was not saying anyone should or could be forced to take care of their health. But why does it seem to irk you so much that I would like people, and doctors, to be informed and educated about metabolic syndrome?

    I have known about this for a long time, but recently I decided to learn more. I suspected that my friend with bipolar disorder might have gone her whole life with no exercise, and I started to wonder if there could be a connection. And yes, it seems like there is. And it made me angry that her doctors didn’t know, or didn’t care.

    She was given the usual bipolar drugs, and they caused other symptoms. So the doctors gave her other drugs to treat those symptoms, and those drugs caused yet other symptoms. They wanted to give her yet another drug to treat those symptoms, but that one is known to cause even worse symptoms.

    After hearing all that I said you have to be kidding, you can’t keep on taking more and more and more drugs.

    And I know plenty of other similar stories.

    The people I know, or know of, who have bipolar could have been told the truth, that the drugs will make it worse in the long run.

    How is that being a “control-freak” Donna? Do you think people should be free to stay ignorant, even if it causes them terrible suffering and early death? What is so wonderful about being ignorant?

    If I try to inform people of the danger, how exactly do you think I am trying to control them? I can’t control anyone. I can provide information, and they can listen or not.

    Do you think Americans should have been kept ignorant about the dangers of tobacco? Why? Do you think the people who brought out the truth were control freaks? Do you think the tobacco companies should have been free to continue deceiving the public?

  57. realpc920 said,

    And in case you don’t get it, I am making an analogy between the dangers of smoking tobacco and the danger of never getting physical exercise. Smoking is worse, in my opinion, because it poisons all the non-smokers who are nearby. Therefore, there have to be laws and I’m glad there are.

    But other than that, there are similarities. A very large percentage of Americans used to smoke, and had no idea of the dangers. It was cool, there was social pressure to be like everyone else and smoke.

    And what I am saying is, there was and still is a similar social pressure against exercise. And there is terrible ignorance of the health consequences. Even though just a little google research is needed to find the information, many doctors seem to not know. Or not care.

    i am taking a wild guess, but I suspect that Donna thinks exercise is for health nuts. And maybe that’s why she thinks anyone who advocates for better health is a “control-freak.”

    I don’t like seeing people I know suffer and die just because of the stupid social pressure to be cool and drive everywhere instead of bicycling or walking.

  58. Donna B. said,

    real — my comment about social pressure and punitive taxes was just that — a comment about social pressure and punitive taxes. It was partially triggered by one sentence you wrote, but mainly by what Amba wrote in response. It “really” isn’t all about you.

    And now, to meaningless gross generalizations, you’re adding wild guesses. You go right ahead and suspect what you want. I’ve said that exercise is not a cure-all for anything. I’ve said that there is little evidence that doctors do not recommend exercise or educate their patients about exercise. I have certainly NOT disagreed with your assertion that it has an effect in metabolic syndrome or that it is conducive to overall good health.

    I have never witnessed social pressure to drive over walking or bicycling nor have I witnessed social pressure against exercise. If anything, the social pressure is in favor of exercise, walking, and bicycling.

    There is economic/time pressure encouraging driving, but that is not the same as social pressure. That varies by location too — for example, more in Phoenix than in Dallas, likely least of all in NYC.

    I see quite a bit of encouragement from the medical community to exercise also. Maybe it’s a regional thing. The three best, most popular gyms where I live are run by the two biggest hospital chains here. They started out over 20 years ago as cardiac rehab centers.

    What you are saying just doesn’t fit in with my experiences. It may very well be true of the community where you live, but it certainly doesn’t generalize to the entire nation.

  59. amba12 said,

    Lot of social pressure to exercise in NYC (especially upper-middle-class, yuppie NYC; the richer the thinner; beyond being a good idea, exercise is a fetish and a fashion; non-exercise, like smoking, trends downward, perhaps because people are more tired from drudgy work and cheap, crappy food).

    Also lots of opportunity — it’s a walkin’ city, one of the few. It’s often the fastest way to get somewhere (without going underground). . . . Much of the exercise starts out being about vanity, and health is a side effect.

    I admit to vanity being part of my motivation for keeping it up, but mostly, I feel horrible when I don’t exercise. I think I feel worse when I don’t exercise than people who never exercise ever feel. On the other hand, when I do exercise, I feel better than they even know is possible.

    What I love about karate is you can do it anywhere, without any equipment, without any fancy Spandex clothing, or machines, or special shoes. It disproves the theorem (if there is one) that you have to be able to afford joining a health club and buying gear to exercise properly. You do have to be able to afford to join a dojo or class to learn it, but that costs a lot less than a health club. Find a teacher who’s more idealistic than commercial. My karate teacher friend in Chapel Hill and Durham does it as a nonprofit, and people pay what they can, and public funds pay for kids in trouble or at risk for trouble to learn it.

    What we as a culture don’t seem to get is that pleasure earned by effort is (with sparing exceptions) sweeter and safer than pleasure one takes a shortcut to (another brownie, another speedball). I remember reading this here.

  60. realpc920 said,

    There IS social pressure to not exercise, which goes back much farther than the current upper class social pressure in favor of exercise. High heel shoes probably started as a status symbol, showing you don’t have to walk. Similar to foot binding in China.

    The two opposing social pressures — to exercise or not — come from different layers of the society. But the no-exercise pressure wins by a landslide — we know that the majority of Americans do not get regular exercise.

    I agree there are also practical considerations — people are busy and it might seem silly to walk if you don’t have to. I live in the suburbs, where no one has to walk.

    But if it were not for the anti-exercise social pressure, I think more people would find the time and make the effort. Especially if they understood the dangers of metabolic syndrome.

    Doctors make half-hearted recommendations for exercise, knowing that most patients won’t do it. Doctors are not, in general, telling their patients about metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammation.

    Physical exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect. Lack of exercise allows inflammation, which should be temporary, to become chronic.

    I spent a little time with google and put together the information that metabolic syndrome is related to bipolar disorder, possibly because chronic inflammation can interfere with brain functions.

    I took the wild guess that the bipolar patient I know had never done any regular exercise. Her doctors had never put this information together for her, and she is so trusting she never wanted to question them.

    i know of so many examples like this.

    Yes you can find exceptions in some places and subcultures, but in general it is very well known that Americans do not consider exercise important, not important enough to actually do it.

    As Amba said, it can make you feel wonderful, but only if it has been part of your life style for a long time. Imagine sitting around for 40 or 50 years and then suddenly trying to exercise. It would not feel good.

    And I don’t think out of shape Americans actually know how bad they feel. There is nothing to compare to.

    “I see quite a bit of encouragement from the medical community to exercise also.”

    It is not the same kind of encouragement they give when telling patients to quit smoking. A doctor will say something like “Smoking causes cancer and heart disease and if you don’t stop you will ruin your health.”

    But when advising about exercise, do they say “Lack of exercise causes or contributes to metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammation, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, mental illness, and many other disabling conditions.”

    No, I do not think most of them say that.

  61. realpc920 said,

    “It disproves the theorem (if there is one) that you have to be able to afford joining a health club and buying gear to exercise properly.”

    And the same is true for walking — what could be easier than putting on flat shoes and walking out your door? Stretching also, that doesn’t require any equipment, you just need some lessons in the beginning, or a DVD.

    And it doesn’t even have to take a lot of time. I spend a couple of hours a day on exercise, because I walk and stretch every day. I am a “health nut” I guess.

    But a normal person could probably just spend a half hour a day and cure many of those “inevitable results of aging.”

  62. amba12 said,

    I know a rehab doctor who does say that — quite fiercely and insistently — but I think he is unusual.

  63. realpc920 said,

    And by the way — those Americans who are so busy they can’t find a half hour a day for exercise — I would like to know how much time they spend watching TV. More than a half hour I bet.

  64. Donna B. said,

    real — I have no doubt that your friend with bipolar disorder has been mistreated. I have a very dim view of psychiatrists, especially those working in the 10 day wonder “drug cure” psychiatric hospitals that are so prevalent these days.

    And you are quite right that metabolic syndrome runs rampant in those diagnosed with bipolar disorder. So do immune system disorders, malfunctions of the adrenal, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland systems, sleep apnea, and… the list goes on. Metabolic syndrome in those with bipolar is significantly higher than in those with other disorders that are also treated with psychotropic drugs. Also, the more severe the bipolar disorder, the more severe the metabolic problems.

    The fact that certain atypical antipsychotics cause metabolic problems has been known for years. (I first became aware of the problem in 1998.) The interesting thing about those with bipolar disorder is that it is hypothesized that the metabolic problems may partially be responsible for the disorder and are present before diagnosis and drug administration.

    Compare and contrast to the evidence that in at least some types of epilepsy the drugs are thought to cause the problem. AND, there’s evidence that metabolic syndrome predicts depression in middle-aged people.

    And then there’s schizophrenia. Females with schizophrenia are much more likely to be obese than males with the disorder both before and after the introduction of atypical antipsychotics.

    IOW — it ain’t so simple. Exercise is going to be much more effective in mitigating metabolic syndrome disorders that occur without bipolar disorder. It’s already one of the most recommended therapies for depression of all types (just not by psychiatrists — it’s more often part of the therapy that a general practitioner would try).

    Exercise also isn’t going to help a great deal with the suicidal tendencies that are so prevalent in those with bipolar disorder. It’s not going to alleviate the seizures in epileptics, but it would likely help mitigate the metabolic problems that some of the drugs cause.

    Exercise is good for almost everything — but it’s not a prevent-all or a cure-all.

  65. realpc920 said,

    I never said exercise is a prevent-all or cure-all. Nothing is. But exercise is the MOST important factors in the diseases we have been mentioning. As we both said, the new anti-psychotic drugs are known to cause metabolic syndrome. I found it kind of distressing that the bipolar patient I know was not ever told this.

    Americans need more information about the critical role of exercise in health. We also need more information about how much and what kind is best. I decided on at least one hour of walking every day, but I don’t know if that’s enough. It’s all have time for on work days though.

  66. kngfish said,

    for Karen: Here you go…your Konigsegg Agera R!

    http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/exotic/1106_koenigsegg_agera_r_drive/viewall.html

    $2mil base price! (ouch!) 1100 horsepower!

    and…the Nurburgring! (I’m more familiar w the Old Ring than the new…)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%BCrburgring

  67. realpc920 said,

    “The fact that certain atypical antipsychotics cause metabolic problems has been known for years. (I first became aware of the problem in 1998.) The interesting thing about those with bipolar disorder is that it is hypothesized that the metabolic problems may partially be responsible for the disorder and are present before diagnosis and drug administration.”

    That was exactly my whole point. I already knew about metabolic syndrome (previously called “syndrome X,” in alternative medicine where it was recognized long ago). I knew that metabolic syndrome often precedes diabetes 2 and cardiovascular disease. But I had never heard about the connection with mental illness.

    The fact that the new anti-psychotics cause and worsen the syndrome which may have a causal role in psychosis is appalling. Patients are often led to think the drugs correct problems with neurotransmitters.

    Patients are allowed to think the drugs are medicine, but they are not medicine. They are mind-numbing drugs that contribute to, rather than heal, the disorder.

    And the medical industry does not hesitate, from what I have read, to give these drugs to young adults, children, even infants sometimes. Common sense alone should tell doctors what a terrible idea that is.

  68. Donna B. said,

    Read what I wrote again, real. The relationship between metabolic problems (not limited merely to metabolic syndrome) and bipolar disorder is very different than the much milder metabolic syndrome problems caused by those with different mental illnesses taking atypical antipsychotics.

    There’s a fairly consistent relationship with the severity of the bipolar disorder and the severity of the metabolic problems regardless which drugs are prescribed. (Not all atypical antipsychotics are as likely to cause metabolic syndrome as say… Zyprexa.)

    If your friend is being prescribed atypical antipsychotics or even antidepressants rather than (or without) a mood stabilizer or anticonvulsant, she is either non-responsive to the first line recommendations for bipolar or she is (more likely in my opinion) simply being mistreated.

    Or possibly misdiagnosed. The fact that I don’t trust most psychiatrists does not mean that the drugs they mis-prescribe are not useful when used carefully and correctly.

    I have to say again that your penchant for grossly generalizing from superficial knowledge often leads you to be simply wrong. “Simply” is the keyword.

    One fact you’re overlooking is that most people with metabolic syndrome don’t have bipolar disorder, epilepsy, or any other problem that would trigger a prescription for these drugs.

    Another fact you’re overlooking is that the medications you rave against might just keep your friend alive long enough to take your advice and exercise more. Or to live long enough to die from one or another of the metabolic problems.

    If you’re advising your friend to exercise and/or question her doctor about her medications, then you are a friend. If you’re advising her to replace her medications with exercise, then you are a fool and no friend at all.

  69. karen said,

    Tx, King(:0))!

  70. kngfish said,

    OMG, Karen, just one more! Not a Konigsegg, but an equivalent, a Pagani Zonda in a lap at the Ring! Yowsa!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPd0ATqvoJM (note the map as it goes around!)

    for car driving nerds only….

  71. realpc920 said,

    “One fact you’re overlooking is that most people with metabolic syndrome don’t have bipolar disorder, epilepsy, or any other problem that would trigger a prescription for these drugs.”

    One fact you are overlooking Donna is that you almost always misunderstand almost everything I ever say. Don’t be adversarial and judgmental and downright condescending if you ever want to have any conversations with me at this blog.

    I did NOT over-generalize. I may not be as smart and all-knowing as you, but I have read a lot about health in my life. I qualify just about every statement I make. I NEVER would have told the bipolar patient to stop taking drugs.

    And OF COURSE I know that not everyone with metabolic syndrome gets bipolar disorder. The problem here is the carelessness of your reading. I said that chronic inflammation affects people differently, maybe depending on genetics.

  72. realpc920 said,

    And by the way I never said, or thought, that metabolic syndrome is the only cause of all mental illness. I was saying that it seems to be a major factor in what seems to almost be an epidemic currently. And pointing out that the medical industry is probably making things worse.

  73. Donna B. said,

    Perhaps real, you almost always misunderstand almost everything I say.

    I went back and read all your comments in this thread. Carefully. You have said a lot.

    For example: “Parrots can live to 100 years, but they don’t take statins. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the new drugs, which in my opinion cause, rather than cure, disease and disability.”

    You did qualify that as your opinion, but then there are very few occasions when anyone says anything that’s not their opinion… and in this forum all posts and comments are the opinions of the writer… so that’s rather meaningless isn’t it?

    The ‘parrot’ line was followed with: “Antibiotics and vaccines can be effective at curing or preventing some diseases. The new stuff is mostly just poison, and the psychiatric drugs are mind-numbing poison.”

    First, are you aware that statins were discovered during research on antibiotics? That’s not particularly relevant to this discussion unless one is afflicted with a natural curiosity and wonders if some antibiotics also reduce inflammation by means other than just killing the nasty little germ. Wouldn’t that be a nifty side-effect?

    Second — everything is a poison, including vaccines, antibiotics, and water. It’s all dose dependent. You know this — I don’t doubt your intelligence at all. (If I doubted your intelligence, I wouldn’t be irritated by some of your comments, I’d pity you and never let you know how I felt. That’s a compliment, btw.)

    Third — psychiatric drugs as “mind-numbing” … not exactly true, though it probably is for some of them — especially those that are also anti-convulsants since their purpose is to “numb” some part of the brain. Anti-depressants — at appropriate doses for simple depression — do not generally have this numbing effect. At higher doses anti-depressants do deplete dopamine and that’s sometimes a desired effect… unless you suppose that being psychotic is a desired state.

    Another quote from your comments: “I wrote a recent post about metabolic syndrome, which is an epidemic in modern societies and probably results mainly from inactivity. Metabolic syndrome leads to chronic inflammation, which can cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, anxiety, depression and psychosis.”

    What leads you to believe that metabolic syndrome is new, that it is an epidemic, and that it “probably” results from inactivity?

    I’m not saying you’re necessarily wrong, but I’d like to see some evidence that the epidemic or new phenomenon aspect is not merely due it now having a name whether it’s syndrome X or metabolic syndrome. I suspect this syndrome started developing in human history along with agriculture.

    And I submit that, overall, agriculture is a good thing for humans — and that agriculture required the domestication of certain animals.

    ~~~~~~~
    Now is where I give up. I’m not going to spend any more time re-reading and re-responding to comments by realpc(whatever #). She has decided I’m rather stupid and can’t comprehend her profoundly gross generalizations. I’ve decided she doesn’t really care whether she’s wrong or right, but does care about HOW someone agrees or disagrees with her. I do it wrong.

  74. realpc920 said,

    “First, are you aware that statins were discovered during research on antibiotics? That’s not particularly relevant to this discussion unless one is afflicted with a natural curiosity and wonders if some antibiotics also reduce inflammation by means other than just killing the nasty little germ. Wouldn’t that be a nifty side-effect?”

    I am aware that some antibiotics, and statin drugs, can have an anti-inflammatory effect. That is the reason statins help prevent heart attacks. But it makes NO sense to take statins for the anti-inflammatory effect. And doctors prescribe statins because of the false belief that high cholesterol is usually the cause of heart disease. It is not, it is usually chronic inflammation. There are much better ways to treat chronic inflammation, and physical exercise is probably the best.

    “everything is a poison, including vaccines, antibiotics, and water. It’s all dose dependent. ”

    Substances that are created in a laboratory and do not exist in nature are more likely to be poison. We evolved over millions of years to be able to process certain substances. Most of the new drugs never existed before, and our bodies cannot process them.

    ” psychiatric drugs as “mind-numbing” … not exactly true,”

    In my opinion, based on what I have heard and read and what I know or believe about the brain, they are mind-numbing. Drugs like alcohol and heroin can make people feel good because they dull pain. I think psychiatric drugs are similar. Not having ever taken them, I don’t know from direct experience.

    “What leads you to believe that metabolic syndrome is new, that it is an epidemic, and that it “probably” results from inactivity?”

    Many, many things lead me to think that. It isn’t even controversial, and anyone who is informed about health probably knows it.

    ” I suspect this syndrome started developing in human history along with agriculture.”

    I have plenty of evidence for my theory, but you don’t seem to think you need any evidence to have an opinion. The agricultural diet is higher in carbohydrates, which some individuals may have trouble with, but refined carbohydrates are relatively recent.

    And agriculturalists did hard physical work, at least before there were tractors, etc.

    I wonder why you try so hard to defend the sedentary lifestyle?

    ” I’ve decided she doesn’t really care whether she’s wrong or right, but does care about HOW someone agrees or disagrees with her. I do it wrong.”

    I do care about providing interesting and possibly useful information, and I try to make sure there is evidence for my opinions. I found out about the connection between metabolic syndrome and bipolar disorder recently, and it made me angry and I thought people should know about it. I told some friends and relatives, and I posted it here.

    And yes I care about how someone disagrees with me. If they have evidence that contradicts what I said I want to know about it. If they express their disagreement in a calm and helpful way, then an interesting conversation can result, and everyone can learn and modify their opinions.

    Your way of disagreeing with me Donna is very often downright condescending. I can’t stand that in real life, and I can’t stand it on blogs either.

    Maybe I sound opinionated sometimes, but that’s probably because I have been interested in health — mainstream vs. non-mainstream — all my life. I have noticed that mainstream medicine has little respect for the complexity of natural systems. I have read of and known many examples of this.

    Giving bipolar disorder patients drugs that cause or worse metabolic syndrome is a perfect example of what I dislike about mainstream medicine. I KNOW that the psychotic symptoms need to be controlled. But I also know that these drugs are not a long-term solution.

    The bipolar patient I know is a middle-aged woman, who seems about 20 years older than she is, probably because of the drugs. That’s bad enough, but it’s worse to think about the young adults, children and even infants who are now taking these drugs.

    You didn’t show much interest or concern in the point I was obviously trying to make. Instead you look for any little thing you can pick on, any little weird exception to the generalizations. Yes, I generalize, there is no other way to be scientific. What do you think scientists do all day, if not make generalizations based on evidence?

  75. Donna B. said,

    I understand perfectly the point(s) you were trying to make. You do not seem to understand that in a discussion, making one point can lead to making other points and/or a refinement or clarification of any point.

    When another point or refinement of a previous point is made, you seem to consider that as outright disagreement and also a condescending one when it’s by certain commenters at this blog — I am not the only one. A few commenters seem to be able to expand, refine, and clarify points you make OR even say to you bluntly that you are outright wrong and you don’t seem to have a problem with them.

    I certainly do not think I have been condescending to you in any of my remarks up to this point. I have explicitly stated that I think you are intelligent and I have explicitly stated my agreement with many of the points you have made recently and in the past. It is not condescending to disagree with you.

    This is a communication problem that YOU have. It is worsened by your tendency to not provide the evidence you say you make sure you have. All the evidence you’ve provided in these comments (and the ones to the previous post, Medical Mythology) are:

    1. you did a little internet research
    2. you know people who have bipolar disorder (from what I can tell, 3 women — one named Angela who is over 50 and two young women in their 20s) and they never exercise.
    3. You’ve always been interested in health and find alternative medicine deals with complexity better than mainstream medicine.
    4. You’ve never taken any psychotropic medications.

    Frankly, I haven’t provided much evidence for the things I’ve written in these two threads either, but I did mention that I’m very familiar with psychotropic drugs and one reason why. The other reason why I’m familiar with them was 5 years experience working in a non-profit that provided outpatient monitoring and housing to severely mentally ill adults.

    The research I’ve done over the years (starting in 1983 in the library of UT Southwestern Medical School) is a little more intensive than “a little internet research” but I am grateful that there are so many databases and repositories of information now available online. During my 5 years at the non-profit, I had access to the online resources subscribed to by LSU Health Sciences Center.

    For the past several years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of money to purchase articles or gain access to journals not available for free online.

    So now I’m going to be condescending and suggest you might not know enough about the subject of bipolar (and other mental) disorders or the drugs used to treat them to be making any generalizations — especially not the gross (unqualified and unrefined) generalizations you’ve made.

    Those are definitely not the type of generalizations that science makes. You are being a bit of a braggart to even suggest that your “little internet research” produced enough evidence from which you could scientifically generalize.

    And now I’m going to accuse of you purposely trying to demean me with outright falsehoods. I can (and might) present numerous quotes from your writings on this blog that will back up my assertion that you generalize from very little evidence.

    You cannot provide any evidence of my ever defending a sedentary lifestyle, much less evidence of trying very hard to do so.

    You owe me an apology. Perhaps several.

  76. realpc920 said,

    “So now I’m going to be condescending and suggest you might not know enough about the subject of bipolar (and other mental) disorders or the drugs used to treat them to be making any generalizations”

    You are not getting any apology. I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology and spent years reading about mental illness. I have a PhD from a well-known university in experimental psychology. I know how to do research.

    In addition to formal education I have educated myself in holistic alternative science. I know what I’m talking about. I am interested in ideas, not in proving who is smarter and knows more.

    That’s all you care about Donna and it’s BORING.

  77. LouiseM said,

    Personally, I found the exchanges leading up to comment #76 intriguing but peculiar. I have been returning nightly for the next installment, interested in the topic, content and style of the two main presenters. I learned some new information. I also appreciated the example of neutral argument, disagreement, and personal ownership of opinion modeled by DonnaB.

    When I got to comment #76 and learned the person responsible for larding their comments with diminutives, absolutes, and “you” statements in order to make a point, was someone holding two advanced degrees in human psychology I was gob-smacked. What good is touting exercise for others and wishing the medical community and the mentally disordered would improve themselves when a minimal effort on the part of an educated and informed individual to engage in healthy, professional and respectful communication cannot be maintained?

  78. karen said,

    What’s the difference between a mental illness and a disorder?

    I ask because my BinL ended his life and his kids(young) use the reasoning of… “Daddy was sick.” I never saw any ~sickness~ or sign of weakness– except for the fact that his was was overtly a cat in heat and performed for the world to see– rubbing her husband’s fr infidelities(numerous).

    Did he snap? Did he succumb to her goading ass-end?

    LouiseM: word.

  79. karen said,

    … his WIFE was…

  80. Donna B. said,

    Well, Dr. Real, I am not holding my breath waiting for an apology.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that you are smarter than I am or that you know more than I do… about some things.

    Given your background (and the years you’ve spent reading about mental illness), I am rather surprised you wrote that you did not know about the relationship between mental illness and metabolic problems until recently (your comment #67).

    Due to my years of dealing up close and personal with someone who had bipolar disorder and years of dealing with various antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants used to treat it, I may actually know more about those specific things than you do. Perhaps not.

    At the very least, I have taken both tricyclic and SSRI antidepressants and do know that they are not “mind-numbing” as you’ve stated (your comments #39, #41, and #67).

    All those years I also had to deal up close and personal with lots of people who held degrees similar or equivalent to yours. Degrees certainly don’t carry with them a license to state something false nor is holding multiple degrees a valid reason to refuse to apologize for making false statements.

    It’s unfortunate that out of all the “mental health professionals” I dealt with the past 20 years, very very few of them gained my respect or trust. Psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists associated with psychiatric hospitals offering nothing but “drug cures” done in 5-10 days are the worst. Insurance companies are also to blame here, but they couldn’t do it without the cooperation of the providers.

    During the years I spent working at the mental health non-profit, a large part of my job was research-related. No one earned any degrees from it, but the results were used to help design a state-wide program.

    I know how to do research too. And I’m very well-versed in what sort of conclusions (or generalizations, if you prefer) can be justified. One type of conclusion that cannot be justified is one that is grossly general — one that takes the complex and tries to turn it into something simple. That tendency in alternative medicine research is the basis for most of my lack of respect for alternative medicine research and much of my questioning of lots of other research.

    Questioning research (and authority) is something we both do. We disagree at times on which evidence is compelling and at times on what conclusions can be reasonably drawn from particular evidence. The main difference I see between us is that I don’t perceive the disagreements as particularly antagonistic.

    However, statements that are blatantly untrue — such as the one you made about me defending sedentary lifestyles — are antagonistic. Statements that accuse others of just not understanding your points when they disagree with them are antagonistic. Making up motives and assigning them to others is antagonistic. Accusing others of not caring for themselves or anyone else is antagonistic. Saying you know that I must consider you a nut for some reason that you made up is antagonistic.

    Those are the things you owe apologies for — not all of them to me.

  81. Donna B. said,

    Karen, I think the terms “illness” and “disorder” can mostly be used interchangeably.

    Not all suicides are a result of mental illness. Hopelessness stemming from a situation one does not feel like they can change and perhaps see no way to deal with is not necessarily a mental illness. Who wouldn’t be depressed in those types of situations?

    That’s one of the problems in talking about mental illness, especially depression. When it’s situational (grief, bad marriage) I don’t see it as an illness. It’s the depression that there’s no overt reason for that I consider an illness. It comes and goes (or comes and stays) regardless the situation.

    I also think some suicides are actually accidents in that the person didn’t really want to die. It’s very possible that is wishful thinking on my part.

    I can see why his children would want, perhaps need, to think he was sick.

  82. LouiseM said,

    Where are the answers, Karen? It’s my belief they reside in a composite of pieces parts, revealed here and there in those committed to walking forward in truth and grace. I picked up a book today to read with my coffee, with your question vibrating in the back of my mind and read the following from a story by Karen Armstrong, Through the Narrow Gate, a memoir of Spiritual Awareness:

    “It’s not–not healthy what’s happening between us.” She looked at me and flushed. Her long aristocratic Roman nose curled, the nostrils distending as though she were smelling something unspeakable. Then, click. I heard her mind switch off and she gazed back at me calmly. For a moment she had understood, completely. She’d seen the ugliness. The complications, having to tell Father’s superiors, having to talk, to think about it. And she’d turned her mind away. Stopped it working. As she’d been trained to do so often in her religious life.

    The phrase that stood out was this: “And she’d turned her mind away,” In my experience, children who are asked or required to turn their mind away from one reality in order to survive, often find it difficult to accept and process through similar requests when they are adult. They can cope for a while, until something happens, major or minor that finally feels like too much or not enough. In my opinion, turning the mind away is an experience with long term physical (chemical), emotional, and spiritual consequences.

    The context of this quote is a situation Karen as a nun encountered where the Father in charge had touched her in a way that was not overtly sexual but conveyed intent. One of those “no big deal” encounters from the outside that was laden with deeper meaning and significance.

    I do not personally know someone who responded to their life situation with a decision to commit suicide, but I know what it feels like to live with and through adversity, despair, confusion, and imbalance.

    I appreciate this definition of the mind by author/researcher, Dr, Daniel Siegel (His findings are presented from a Christian perspective in Anatomy of the Soul, by C. Thompson.):

    I The mind is an embodied and relational process, emerging from within and between brains, that regulates the flow of energy and information.

    My heart is with you Karen. Your BinL’s children are someday going to need more truth and grace than the current explanation of “sickness” covers. Your own process of working through this experience may someday invite them to access the pieces and parts they need in order to survive in strength. .

  83. Donna B. said,

    Louise has a very good point and, of course, so much depends on the age of the children.

    I assume they are still living with their mother. That adds another dimension, another need, as they are dependent on her. Children aren’t stupid and it’s going to be tough for them to come to terms with the possibility that their mother’s actions might have contributed to their father’s death. Hell, I’d have trouble with that at my age which certainly can’t be characterized as young.

    What a horrible situation.

  84. karen said,

    It’s that i was talking to the woman cutting my hair, today- and she’s taking a Growth&Development class- and i haven’t seen her since … he’s been gone. And she asked a question about his ~diagnosis~ & if he wasn’t diagnosed@ all(or incorrectly), could the medication he was prescribed have been a factor in his– choice?

    Supposedly, he was on a med for his ~depression~, but was it phoned in or was he seen, diagnosed, prescribed the appropriate med & evaluated for any (-)/(+)reaction to it? ALL these steps have to be put into action(IMhumbleO)- or his well being is @ risk, eh? If i believe this– a smalltownfarmgirl– then WTF was he doing w/these mood altering drugs from a Dr’s script to begin w/– which he was rumoured to have stopped an entire month prior to his death?

    “At the very least, I have taken both tricyclic and SSRI antidepressants and do know that they are not “mind-numbing” as you’ve stated (your comments #39, #41, and #67).”

    That’s because you know better and care to get better, you aren’t into a quick fix w/out the understanding of what is wrong and~ how do i find the right again. I know, as i have said before- so many people that are on an anti- or something– and put their kids on it, too. My experiences.

    “It’s unfortunate that out of all the “mental health professionals” I dealt with the past 20 years, very very few of them gained my respect or trust. Psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists associated with psychiatric hospitals offering nothing but “drug cures” done in 5-10 days are the worst. Insurance companies are also to blame here, but they couldn’t do it without the cooperation of the providers.”

    Exactly.

    Louise– i didn’t say a word when i heard the exchange between the sisters– the youngest was 5. I figure we all see things as we can handle them, i guess- except some of us keep digging for Truth. There is such a distortion when it comes to this subject, i will never know the answer until i get to ask the One w/the Truth. As i keep turning this particular stone every which way to catch the light– i have to keep telling myself this. Revelation is not for now& i need patience.

    He was a wonderful& good man and we just miss him so much. Knowing that our Lord is ever merciful- is such a consolation.

  85. realpc920 said,

    “Psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists associated with psychiatric hospitals offering nothing but “drug cures” done in 5-10 days are the worst. Insurance companies are also to blame here, but they couldn’t do it without the cooperation of the providers.”

    That is one of the things I was noticing in my post about medical mythology. But I was also trying to figure out WHY this has become such a big problem. It’s easy to say the drug companies are greedy and the mental health professionals are ignorant, or something like that . But is that really the explanation?

    If we don’t know the cause of a problem then we can’t do anything about it. No one can make the drug companies stop being “greedy,” since all they are trying to do is make money, like any other business. People want what they are selling.

    Should we blame the health professionals for giving drugs instead of trying to find and treat the real causes of diseases? Should we blame them for giving drugs that can make the diseases worse while dulling symptoms?

    I really don’t think the problem starts with the drug companies, or the insurance companies, or the health care providers. As I said in my post, I think the problem has its foundation in the medical mythology of our society.

    When the drug companies tell us we are living longer healthier lives thanks to their chemicals, almost everyone believes it. The drug companies believe it, doctors believe it, and patients believe it.

    When people lived in harmony with nature, they dropped dead at age 25, according to the myth. So why would anyone follow their example?

    But even though almost everyone seems to believe the myth, there is no scientific reason for believing it. Determining they typical lifespan of primitive people is not easy — there are not many of them around any more, for one thing.

    And if you ask tribal hunter/gatherers their age, how do you know their answer will be accurate? If they have no writing or arithmetic, how are they supposed to keep track of their age?

    When the skeletons of ancient primitives are analyzed, it is assumed they suffered from the same kind of age-related problems that we do. So bone density is often considered a measure of age, since in our society bone density declines steadily with age.

    But we know that bone density is influenced not just by age, but also by physical exercise. Hunter/gatherers were not sedentary, so their bones may have stayed healthy much longer than a modern anthropologist would expect.

    We do know that infant mortality is and was high in prehistoric and modern hunter/gatherer societies. This is true for all or most species in nature. Weaker individuals are likely to die from infections early in life, when there are no antibiotics or vaccines.

    I think that nature “intends” it to be this way. Millions of sperm race towards the egg, but only one makes it, and that one is probably healthy. Nature is not very “nice” about this, but it is an efficient way of keeping a species healthy.

    Modern medicine has practically eliminated infant and childhood mortality, bringing the average lifespan way up.

    But if the average lifespan in a society is 30, that does NOT mean people were dropping dead from old age at 30. Anyone who survived childhood diseases, and who did not die from accidents or from violence, would probably live to old age.

    There seems to be more evidence now and a lot more information available than when I first tried to find out about this. A lot of people have been questioning the myth, although the general public still seems to believe it.

    There is no way to say with absolute certainty what the typical lifespan was for any society before the modern era. As I explained, there is no simple way to determine age of death for adults from skeletons.

    And studying the very few remaining primitive societies might not give accurate results either, since non-literate people do not necessarily keep track of their age, at least not the same way we do.

    The idea that primitive people dropped dead from old age at 30 has been damaging to our society. Even though we have evidence that exercise improves health and prevents many diseases, people don’t seem to take this evidence seriously.

    Everyone “knows” that our lives are longer and healthier thanks to the drug companies, and that in the old days people worked hard physically and dropped dead at 30.

    Therefore, people are only being logical when they decide to take drugs and not exercise. If the myth were true, that is, it would be logical.

  86. Donna B. said,

    Hey… real! How about making this comment a new post? Suggested title: Hitting the Reset Button :-)

    Suggested because you’ve iterated your ideas very succinctly here. Not that I agree, of course, but I’d like for both of us to have another chance at discussing this without the rancor into which we’ve both fallen in this thread.

  87. Donna B. said,

    By “this comment” I mean “that comment” specifically comment #85.

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