There is ample evidence of the genetics of mental illness. Schizophrenia, an illness of disconnection from reality, occurs in one percent of all human populations, indicating a prehistoric timeline to explain its ubiquitous prevalence. Amish populations were the first to show a gene on chromosome 11 that is responsible for bipolar illness. Additionally, twin studies, and numerous family studies have shown a genetic correlation for the incidence of mood disorders (major depression, bipolar illness, and schizoaffective illness).
The rules of Darwinian evolution explain that a population will tend to strengthen a particular genetic variant if the variant improves the survival of an individual and its offspring. Interestingly, most mental illnesses are diseases of adulthood. For example, the average age of onset of bipolar illness in women is 29 years old. This implies that there is no Darwinian selective pressure either in favor or against mental illness.
The use of medication for psychiatric problems (psychopharmacology) has been rapidly expanding, and has resulted in a great deal of media attention. Much of the information disseminated is correct and important for people who are prescribed psychiatric medication to know. Unfortunately, some of the information is misleading and horribly inaccurate. The following is an overview of some important issues in the use of antidepressant medications, and some factual information necessary to make an informed decision for their use.
There are many different kinds of antidepressants. They work by increasing the activity of certain pathways in the brain. These pathways not only modulate mood, but also modulate anxiety, pain tolerance, and day-to-day energy and interests. Depression results in a constellation of life changes, and antidepressants act to guide people back to a more usual state of being. Depression affects sleep, appetite, energy, concentration, as well as the ability to feel pleasu...