It’s the people, it’s the relationships that make the most difference in a life. It starts with loving supportive parents, then loving supportive friends and maybe even neighbors. Then it is friendly, supportive colleagues. And of course one of the most important relationships is with the person with whom you are going to spend the rest of your life, your significant other. If all these relationships are loving and supportive, then you have a great chance of succeeding (what does it mean to succeed? more on that later) in life. These relationships are so important. If you are in trouble and you have a web of family, friends, well family and friends, what else is there? then this web will catch you if you fall. If it is tightly knit, you won’t fall through. If you have a close relationship with your parents, then you can reach out to them, and if they are loving caring parents, they will help you to the utmost of their ability. That is what parents do, they help ensure their progeny survives. In evolutionary terms, the purpose of an organism is to pass on its DNA, and parents can do that by being loving, caring, supportive to their children, thereby assuring that their DNA is passed on. So there is an evolutionary argument, as in survival of the species, for being loving and nurturing. That is why maternal instinct exists, that is why babies are so adorable and lovable, because we are supposed to take care of them. Not only as a family, but collectively as a society and a species. I think anyone who doesn’t have these instincts is a sociopath, a seriously defective individual, who cannot participate in this loving, nurturing survival dance. But hopefully and luckily, even though our parents most likely weren’t perfect, they were not sociopaths either. So here we are, human beings who were hopefully given enough love to survive and flourish. And we in turn form attachments, and have a family, and have children, and we are loving and supportive to them, and the dance goes on.

Of course, a person with a mental illness fares better when they have support and love from their friends and families. Life is hard, you need friends and family. Life with a mental illness is harder still, you really need friends and family. And if you have a family circle and a social circle, then you will be surrounded with love and support and will fare better than if you are alone. Family and friends, loving, supporting each other, getting on each other’s nerves sometimes (haha) but definitely a necessity for a happy, well adjusted, loving life.

If you don’t have a lot of family, or if they’re not close by, no worries, good friends are just as loving and supportive as families can be. The saying “Good friends are the family you choose” is so true. My best friends are like my chosen sisters. And we have known each other since were in our teens. I am lucky to have these lengthy, close relationships even though I moved from Islamabad, Pakistan to Buffalo, NY just 10 days shy of my 12th birthday in 1972. I am lucky. I hope we are all as lucky!

Why Don’t Animals Get Schizophrenia (and How Come We Do)? Article in Scientific American


Short answer: Because their brains aren’t as complex as human brains. Unfortunately that’s the price we people with prefrontal cortexes pay. In bipolar disorder, as in schizophrenia, people with these illnesses can become out of touch with reality. This is called psychosis, or being psychotic. Auditory hallucinations happen to 90% of people with schizophrenia, i.e. they hear voices, this also happens up to 80% of people with bipolar d/o. There are also visual hallucinations (seeing things), even olfactory hallucinations, where you may smell something that isn’t there! (Luckily for me, I have never had auditory hallucinations, I am forever grateful for this! Interestingly enough, I have had olfactory hallucinations, I smelled the scent of Camay soap once when it was nowhere to be found.)

Let’s get back to the point of this article from Scientific American. It basically says that schizophrenia 9and I assume bipolar d/o in psychosis) are the price we pay for a much more complex brain. It is a defect of the gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) system. This is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it inhibits neurons from firing, in part by suppressing dopamine in certain parts of the brain. So when there is a problem with this system, then neurons that wouldn’t normally be firing are firing, and dopamine is also not suppressed, and this is happening in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This leads to hallucinations. See quote below.

Yes the psychotic brain, whether in schizophrenia or bipolar d/o runs amok. And it can run so crazily amok because it is so complicated. So complicated that when things go wrong, they go wrong in a big way. Hence hallucinations.

“They also found that these culprit genes are involved in various essential human neurological functions within the PFC, including the synaptic transmission of the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA serves as an inhibitor or regulator of neuronal activity, in part by suppressing dopamine in certain parts of the brain, and it’s impaired transmission is thought to be involved in schizophrenia. If GABA malfunctions, dopamine runs wild, contributing to the hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking common to psychosis. In other words, the schizophrenic brain lacks restraint.”