The 11 Hidden Causes of Self-Harm & Psychiatric Disorders Almost No One Considers
Every day in the headlines we hear about another school shooting or another teen suicide. What is going on? Why aren’t we getting to the bottom of this? What are we doing to help prevent the next tragedy? As I learn about another, I get more and more frustrated that nothing is changing. We need to start taking a more in-depth look at why our children are so depressed, anxious, and angry - our lives depend on it. If not properly treated, obsessive thoughts turn into compulsive behavior, and we will hear about the next suicide or mass shooting when we turn on the news tomorrow.
What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is categorized by the DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual and bible of psychiatry) as an anxiety disorder. However, it is a maladaptive coping skill that develops as a result of trying to manage the overwhelming fear or worry one feels. A person may start obsessively feeling nervous about a home intruder, so may check the alarm system or door locks fifty times before bed. One may fear the flu, so may wash their hands 50 times. As an attempt to quiet the sense of alarm, the compulsion provides a “quick fix” for the negative intrusive thoughts. It gives a temporary sense of power over the problem and helps someone feel like they are doing something about it. But it’s a trap because it just feeds into a vicious cycle. The more one follows the rituals, the more they need to do them.
The Darker Side of Obsessive Thoughts & Behaviors “Harm-OCD”
Intrusive thoughts can be benign, like song lyrics that continuously play in one’s head or obsessive behaviors like overly tidying one’s apartment. However, if paranoia, feelings of isolation, anger, and depression are already brewing it could lead to sinister thoughts like harming themselves or others. Some believe that OCD can masquerade as psychosis as it closely mimics the symptoms of the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia. When a person gets lost inside their depressed and chaotic mind, they become infatuated with their depressive thoughts, violent video games, building bombs, guns, and revenge. Some begin planning their suicide, while others start stockpiling weapons to carry out the next mass shooting.
A newer study published in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, concluded that “those with OCD are ten times more likely to commit suicide and patients with OCD are at significant risk of suicide, even in the absence of other psychiatric conditions.” Others with OCD have brutally violent thoughts of hurting others that consume one’s mind making it difficult separating visions from reality. According to a study published in the Industrial Psychological Journal, anger attacks are associated with a surge of autonomic arousal. Symptoms include tachycardia, sweating, flushing, and a feeling of being out of control were present in half of the patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and they correlated with the presence of comorbid depression.
Policymakers and mental health providers are so convinced that these individuals have an organic or genetic mental illness. They have called off the search for a better understanding of these conditions. When they start recognizing the epidemic of teen suicide and teen violence, they call for more psychiatric labels and more psychiatrists to prescribe medication. However, they don’t acknowledge that medication does nothing to address the conditions that derail the mind in the first place. And, drugs often only mask symptoms without considering dangerous side-effects. Antidepressant medications are driving people to psychosis. In fact, Americans are admitted daily to psychiatric institutions as a direct result of psychosis caused by the drugs themselves.
THE 11 HIDDEN CAUSES OF PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS ALMOST NO ONE CONSIDERS
1. The Standard American Diet (SAD)
Neurotoxic chemicals and foods are void of essential nutrients can lead to obsessive thoughts, depression and violent behavior. There are extreme amounts of refined sugar/salt and thousands of chemicals allowed in the American food and drink supply. Many of them are harmless, but others such as artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, emulsifiers, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and glyphosate (GMOs) are not compatible with human bio-chemistry. They are destroying our immune system and causing many mental health symptoms. A CSPI report, Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks, further concludes that the nine artificial dyes approved in the United States are carcinogenic, cause hypersensitivity reactions and behavioral problems. Also, our food supply is so processed and refined that they do not contain adequate healthy protein and they strip away many vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health and replace it with synthetic substitutes.
In a 2014 article in the American Journal of Public Health, the relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents was evaluated. “There are numerous potential biological pathways by which diet quality may have an impact on mental health in children and adolescents.” First, a poor-quality diet that is lacking nutrient-dense foods may lead to nutrient deficiencies that have been associated with mental health issues. For example, the dietary intake of folate, zinc, and magnesium is inversely associated with depressive disorders, whereas dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are inversely related to anxiety disorders.
2. Gut Dysbiosis
The gut microbiome has become a topic of major interest as of late, with a new focus specifically on psychiatric disorders. The human body hosts an enormous abundance and diversity of microbes, which perform a range of essential and beneficial immune and metabolic functions. In a June 2016 edition of the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, the authors take a look at how microbes in the gut affect brain function, and how imbalances of gut bacteria can lead to mental illness. “Evidence is now emerging that, through interactions with the gut-brain axis, the bidirectional communication system between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract, the gut microbiome can also influence neural development, cognition, mood, and behavior.” Functional medicine M.D.s recognize how poor diet, pesticides, antibiotics, steroid use and other factors are influencing brain function by destroying healthy gut bacteria and negatively shaping the gut microbiome.
3. Food Sensitivities
Often not recognized in the mainstream mental health model, food allergies and sensitivities can wreck-havoc on mental health. The antibodies produced when a person consumes food that they have an intolerance to can cause intestinal permeability and trigger inflammation in the brain which can lead many mental health symptoms, including increased anxiety/OCD, insomnia, brain fog, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, and rage. Overaggressive behaviors are provoked by an immune reaction to every-day foods. Reactions range from irritability to aggression to psychosis. Some of the more common food intolerances are gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and nuts.
4. Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS or PANS)
PANDAS is associated with an unresolved strep infection. It wreaks havoc on the immune and neurological system, causing brain encephalitis/inflammation. Symptoms associated with this autoimmune disorder are facial tics, OCD symptoms, anorexia, depression, paranoia, irritability, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, and psychosis. Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANS) can be triggered by other infectious agents as well, including Epstein Barr and Lyme Disease. Many physicians who treat a large number of Lyme patients acknowledge that Lyme Disease can cause “Lyme Rage,” which includes psychosis and violent behavior. There are more than one hundred peer-reviewed medical journal articles linking tick-borne diseases to mental symptoms and quite a few that reference Lyme-induced rages. As Dr. Kenneth Bock, MD points out in his book, “Healing New Childhood Epidemics,” PANDAS/PANS cook the brain of these kids. The infection attacks the brain’s basal ganglia, causing severe thought malfunctions and maladaptive behavior. The affected person could fly into uncontrollable rages and violent behavior.
A great resource related to this is the book Brain Under Attack: A Resource for Parents and Caregivers of Children with PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalitis.
5. Genetic Mutations
Our genetic profile is not the end of our story. The environment in which we live and breathe, genetically modified foods and the chemicals we eat and inject have a direct influence on the expression of our genetic code, by altering the expression of genetic information. In the study of disease, researchers in the field of epigenetics are increasingly finding that the “turning “on or off” our DNA is affecting our mental health.
The MTHFR gene mutation inhibits the body’s ability to transform vitamin B12 into vital folate enzymes. A healthy MTHFR gene converts vitamin B12 to folate (B9), an essential vitamin for brain, spine, and nerve health. Deficiencies of essential B vitamins can lead to developmental problems, mood disturbances including increased anxiety and depression.
Faulty expression of the COMT gene can also cause a variety of problems including irritability, hyperactivity, mood swings, OCD, sleep issues, and lower frustration and pain tolerance.
The “Warrior Gene” MAO-A (Monoamine oxidase A) is one of the two genes that encode mitochondrial enzymes. It is responsible for catalyzing the oxidizing amines, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and adrenalin. Mutation of this gene results in Brunner syndrome. MAO dysfunction (too much or too little MAO enzyme activity) is thought to be responsible for many psychiatric and neurological disorders including depression, mood swings, OCD, schizophrenia, substance abuse, migraines, irregular sexual maturation. It is also associated with behaviors associated with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and autism.
6. Heavy Metal Toxicity
Brain damage and inflammation can also be caused by heavy metal toxicity – like mercury, aluminum, and lead. They can promote aggressive, antisocial and violent behaviors. Lead exposure is known to cause learning and behavioral problems. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published a study that demonstrates the strong relationship between high levels of lead levels in blood and hyperactivity, aggressive and antisocial behavior in children.
7. Emotional Wounds & Trauma
Heightened anxiety due to upsetting life events in a person’s life can lead to OCD and depression. The lower a person’s resiliency, the higher level of sensitivity and dysfunctional thinking is believed to make a sufferer more vulnerable to developing it. Stressful situations and traumatic event(s) that can lead to OCD include but are not limited to a death of a loved one, divorce, an accident, a move, school pressure and bullying, as well as an upsetting or abusive home environment.
8. Video Gaming & Too Much Screen Time
Screens are being used more and more as a method of escaping from the stress of life. However, it may be backfiring. Disassociating in this way is taking teens away from the dealings of everyday life and is creating an alter reality where they are not learning how to foster real or meaningful relationships. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychological Science finds that “increased time spent with popular electronic devices — whether a computer, cell phone or tablet — might be contributing to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts.” The study established a correlation between long hours of daily screen time and symptoms of alienation. A 2016 article in the New York Post, “It’s Digital Heroin: How Screens Turn Kids into Psychotic Junkies” discussed how addicting these screens are and how they are affecting our kid’s mental health. “Brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way, that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.”
9. Too Much Caffeine
Teens are lining up at coffee shops and consuming an alarming amount of caffeine-loaded energy drinks. Highly concentrated caffeine aggravates obsessive/upsetting thoughts and can set anxiety out of control. This central nervous system stimulant can cause dependency and withdrawal and cause insomnia as well. Although some studies point to the positive mental effects of caffeine, it makes sense that energy drinks could be a contributing factor for kids and teens feeling both homicidal and suicidal. Caffeine intoxication keeps the body in “fight or flight” mode. This can leave people feeling very frightened and threatened. According to the Journal of BJPsych Advances, “In psychiatric in-patient facilities, caffeine has been found to increase anxiety, hostility and psychotic symptoms.”
10. Sleep Deprivation
In a 2011 pediatric OCD study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, researchers found a strong correlation between insufficient sleep and severe compulsive behavior. While kids with OCD sometimes only exhibit compulsions (without the obsessions), the study reflected children with both the mental and behavioral symptoms. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, implicated obsessions are a likely culprit behind disturbed sleep. Based on patients’ self-reported assessments, researchers found a link between insomnia symptoms and obsessive thoughts. Shorter sleep and delayed ability to get to sleep are associated with repeated negative and distressing thoughts that are repeated over and over again, such as “my life is not worth living.”
11. Psychostimulant Medication
It has been known for the last 35 year that stimulants have the potential to induce psychosis-like or manic-like symptoms in children. Psychotic symptoms from Ritalin can include hearing voices; visual hallucinations, urges to harm oneself, urges to harm someone else, suicide, severe anxiety, euphoria, grandiosity, paranoid delusions, confusion, increased aggression, and irritability.
Preventing Future Tragedies
Could future suicides and homicides be prevented? I believe so, and it starts with taking better care of our children. We need to start acknowledging that people committing suicide or murder are medically ill; not mentally ill. And these causes of psychiatric symptoms need more attention. We need more doctors to be trained in functional medicine to get to the root of the mental dis-ease. We need our insurance companies to pay for testing and treatments that will actually help our children. We need more due diligence in our healthcare system. And we need to stop the pharmaceuticals from leading us away from the truth. Just handing out medications to address symptoms and hoping the client follows through with recommended weekly individual psychotherapy appointments, is simply not enough. And quite honestly, these medications can be the final trigger in a homicidal or suicidal event.
I Am On A Mission
In 2012, I began counseling family members and first responders after the devastating tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This led me to finish my book Healing Without Hurting. I consult with thousands of moms through social media and conduct workshops for medical professionals to teach them about holistic and natural solutions for healing mental illness and spectrum disorders. I know from experience that addressing underlying medical issues significantly enhances the life, the health and the happiness of our children and our family. Also, I know my mission has been successful in helping to prevent such tragedies.