Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's Wrong With Dr. Phil's Food Plan?

I really like Dr. Phil, so I wanted to like his new book on weight loss. And I do like some of it, however, there's a big problem with the chapter on what to eat. Dr. Phil proposes exactly the same eating plan for everyone. This will NOT work!
His plan may include too many calories for some people, mostly small-framed people. I was actually eating a very similar amount of food at one time, watching my fat intake carefully, eating plenty of fiber, and my weight wouldn't budge. When I joined Weight Watchers, I learned that I was eating too much (for someone my size) to lose weight. After following their suggestions, I eventually lost 40 pounds and have maintained a healthy weight for almost 5 years.
Dr. Phil's plan also actually provides too few calories for many people to be successful. Sound impossible? Let me explain.
Your body needs a certain number of calories to sustain normal functions like pumping blood, breathing, and digesting food (called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR.) This need actually depends on your current weight. The heavier you are, the more calories your body needs just to function, even at rest. There are several websites to visit for a BMR calculator and more information on this subject. You also burn calories during exercise; your adjusted caloric needs including your activity level is called the AMR (active metabolic rate). Some of the sites you'll find will calculate both your BMR and AMR, so keep looking if you don't see AMR on the first one you hit. As you lose weight, your BMR and AMR will drop.
We all know that if we eat too much, we gain weight. We also all know that if we eat way too little, we can starve to death. But somewhere in between, we can lose weight healthfully. Our bodies are smart enough to know where that range is and to protect us if we eat too little. (It also tries to protect us from eating too much. That's what feeling uncomfortably stuffed is all about!) If you eat a little below your AMR, you can lose weight healthfully. If you eat farther below, your body will protect you by reducing your BMR (and AMR) to conserve energy, and you'll stop losing weight. Eat too far below, and you'll start losing again-but you're starving yourself.
What does this mean? You must eat enough to lose weight healthfully! If you eat too few calories, you'll likely either get stuck on a plateau, or you'll lose weight too fast with potential health consequences. A healthy rate of weight loss is no more than 2 pounds per week average, after the first 2-3 weeks on a plan. A good recommendation for healthy weight loss is to eat 500 calories under your AMR (not below your BMR!) and to remember to recalculate your needs as you lose weight (recalculate after every 25 pounds lost, if you get stuck and are not losing, or if you increase your activity significantly).
Dr. Phil doesn't provide different plans based on your starting weight and activity level, and he is against counting calories (or exchanges or Points.) But without knowing your approximate AMR and calculating the calories (or exchanges or Points) in a food plan, it's impossible to know how much food to eat to start out. And without recalculating your AMR as you lose and adjusting your food plan accordingly, it's difficult to keep losing weight at the proper rate. He makes no mention of changing your food plan until you reach your final goal. But people who have a significant amount to lose will need to adjust their calorie intake several times before reaching goal.
One size does NOT fit all! Frankly I am quite surprised nobody told him this before he published! If you are serious about losing weight healthfully, either calculate this for yourself or join a program (like Weight Watchers) where they teach you how much to eat without restricting your food choices. With just a little information about yourself and your body, you can do this RIGHT.

Struggling To Keep Your Workout Schedule? So am I ... !!

Sometimes following a fitness program or workout schedule is not quite as do-able as the folks writing the advice make it sound. I suppose the idea is to tell you what you should be doing to achieve your fitness or weight-loss targets, but you know sometimes life gets a bit in the way of all these plans, and there is just no way you can follow your intended program.
I know, because I am in exactly that position myself right now, and it is very easy to get derailed or discouraged and start to wonder if it's all just a bit too much to keep up in the face of uncontrollable obstacles.
My difficulty is that the local pool has closed for six weeks, and that's quite a blow to a training program designed to take me into the World Top Ten Swimming Masters again this year, so I've tried to find somewhere else to get in the necessary daily workout routine, but it seems everywhere I turn, I find the same refurbishing going on and pools closing all over the place; so what do we do? Well the point of all this personal story stuff is to say, "yes we have a real problem in sticking with the training plan but we can, and have to, adapt just to keep the ball rolling to our benefit". The last thing we want to do is give up or say, "let's forget the whole thing".
I guess I sound repetitive, as I say this in several articles, but you must, "keep on keeping on". That's the key to maintaining weight loss or maintaining fitness. It's so easy to get discouraged by the events and obstacles that life puts in the way, but the "can't beat me" kind of feeling can be nurtured by finding an alternative to your workout, and I bet that most of us have some aspect of our program that we have been meaning to work on, but have been too tied up in the regular main activity to focus on.
For example, here's what I have done to combat the lack of pool time. I'm doing some sit-ups, heaven knows I've been avoiding that pleasure for ages now, and I'm getting in some push-ups and a little work on the arms with some light weights, or if you have no weights, try two milk container jugs (the ones with the handles) filled with water, as barbells. Yes we all know that one, but you get the idea of what I'm saying, improvise, you don't have to have all the gear just to keep a maintenance level of fitness and you can also do all this stuff if you're on the road and in a hotel with no weight room.
Now one of the things you don't hear much from the pundits pushing their fitness or weight-loss programs is how they are doing and, if we do, it's all upbeat and rah-rah. Well let me tell you, I went quite some distance to find a pool that was open, as it had been close to two weeks without any swim workout, and boy, oh boy did I feel pretty bad! Arms of lead and legs that reconfirmed to me that if you don't have those legs in shape, you're "cooked". This is the other area I'm always harping on about, but you know it is true that the legs are the key to core strength and if we don't get them in shape, it really doesn't matter how good the rest of the body is because the leg fatigue will suck all the power from the engine.
So I struggled through my session and at the end it was a little better, but knowing I had at least put in a maintenance type session made me feel better and back on track, if not improving at least holding steady and not rolling backwards and that's my point. Whatever is temporarily disrupting your plans or throwing you off your schedule, work around it by adapting and using inventive thinking to keep you from slipping backwards. Like I've said in my articles before, the key phrase is, "keep on keeping on!" So keep on and don't give up!
Good luck, all the best.

Chiropractors: They're on My Team!

Whenever I see the title "men's health", it conjures up a couple of images in my mind, and as far as most of the articles I see on the subject, they fall into one of two distinct and very different categories. It's either a sort of bodybuilding bust-your-buns biceps and washboard abs type deal with the fake tan and the body oil and the ubiquitous smile or it's the serious senior, Alan Alda persona doctor advising on the necessity of enduring an examination with a latex glove and all the guilt you have to endure if you don't.
Who needs to be reminded that there is something slowly going wrong with you inside and it's your duty to identify it and do something about it? Hey, leave me alone, I'm feeling pretty good and who wants to rush to diagnosis? And as I said, the other extreme is the in-your-face body that only took thirty hours a week at the gym for the last three years and a basin-load of creatine to realise. I don't think there is much point in writing about "pumping iron" workouts, when every gym in the land will counsel you on how to get those pecs bulging like they're on steroids.
No, for me men's health is sort of like the Cresta Run or the Luge at the Olympics, you hurtle down an icy slope flat on your back and try to steer clear of the sides; that's the part that I think is like men's health, try to steer clear of the sides and slip on through to the finish in one piece.
Anyway, here is my content part as opposed to my comment part: Chiropractors. They are a staple in my team to get through to the end and they can help you and me make it to the finish line in much better shape than we would without them. But, heavens, you would not believe the number of guys I run across complaining about some part of their body and how incapacitated they are and how they can't do so many of the usual things and then, when I suggest that a chiropractor could fix that problem in about fifteen minutes flat, they shy away shaking their heads, "oh no my brother-in-law was screwed up by a chiro" or, "no I don't trust them " or simply, "no I've been through this before, it only lasts about four weeks", hey, oh great, only four weeks!!
So I incorporate a regular chiropractic adjustment every five to six weeks into my schedule, just to keep my spine limber and supple and no I'm not going to him because I have a problem, but maybe that's why I don't have a problem. So with the medical professionals it's sort of like having a team of specialists, each one taking care of a particular aspect of your overall health. And, seriously here, I genuinely feel that chiropractic care is a plus especially for anyone with athletic aspirations; these guys are not just for the sore backs, they can be a definite asset in your athletic arsenal. Funny thing is that if they deal mostly with athletes, I think they seem to call them Sports Kinesiologists; much more palatable to the athlete and sounds so much more "formula one" type stuff, right?
So consider getting yourself organized with a good chiropractor and see how it goes, I bet you will not believe the kinds of problems you might get solved by a chiropractic adjustment; again it's not just about sore backs and slipped discs. I certainly put them high on my list, and when I may have overdone it a bit here and there, it does impart a certain amount of confidence knowing that there's a pretty good chance that my chiropractor can respond to my slightly irreverent request, "OK, now put me back in the game, doc." Some even have a sense of humour: I was complaining to mine the other day about getting older and he just said, rather wryly, "hey, the alternative is not so hot either!"

Walking for Fat Loss???

With obesity and disease increasing dramatically, many fitness experts are recommending walking for weight loss and fitness. Some are even going so far as saying that walking is the best way to burn fat and lose weight. I strongly disagree with this and am going to show you why walking is NOT effective at burning off body fat.
Yes, you read that correctly...
Walking is NOT effective at burning body fat and if your goal is fat loss you might be wasting your time. I am not saying that walking is not beneficial, I am saying that if fat loss is the primary goal, there are far better choices that will deliver far better results.
The primary benefits of walking are increased blood flow and circulation, improved recovery, and a strengthened immune system. There are several reasons why walking in not the best choice when it comes to fat loss. Here are just a few:
Walking does NOT burn a lot of calories
The lower the intensity of the activity or exercise the smaller the number of calories burned per unit of time. For example, you can burn more calories in 15 minutes of bicycling at a high intensity level than you can in 45 minutes of easy walking.
Walking does NOT result in a large increase in metabolism
Another downside to walking is that because it's generally low intensity it results in only a small increase in metabolism that will only last approximately 1-2 hours after the walk. On the other hand, metabolism increases are larger and last longer (4-24 hrs or more) when you perform high intensity cardio workouts.
Walking does NOT deplete muscle glycogen
Low intensity exercise like walking does not deplete muscle glycogen levels and therefore, later that day if you have excess calories they will likely be stored as body fat whereas if you deplete the glycogen the excess calories will primarily be stored in the muscles.
So why then do so many fitness and health experts recommend walking for weight loss? One reason is that people don't want to hear that they have to work hard so they figure some activity is better than none. Another reason is that the body burns more fat for fuel when exercising at an easy pace, however, the total amount of energy used is so small that you end up burning off little body fat. That's also why when you choose the "fat burning" program on your treadmill or bike it has you exercise at any easy level. Yes, you're burning fat, but so little that you'd have to exercise at that easy pace for hours and hours each day.
High intensity cardiovascular/aerobic exercise is much more effective in burning off the excess body fat. In fact, several studies have been done to prove this. In one study they compared one group who did moderate level aerobics for 45 minutes with another group who performed high intensity workouts for 15 minutes. They did before and after fitness testing including body fat analysis and found that the group who performed the high intensity aerobics lost nine times as much body fat!
Want more proof?
Compare the bodies of a walker, marathon runner, and sprinter. If you are not familiar with what a sprinters body looks like, it is very muscular and has little body fat while on the other hand the body of a walker will likely have the opposite, little muscle and more fat. The sprinter does little or no low intensity exercise and does primarily short hard bursts of work while the marathoner overtrains so much they burn off both the body fat and the muscle and that's why they tend to look almost sickly thin.
So what should you do then if your main objective is to shed those excess pounds of body fat?
Two things: Perform some form of high intensity cardio 2-4 times per week Stabilize blood sugar to minimize the storage of new fat
I know some of you by now are saying "I can't do high intensity exercise, I have a bad knee" and don't worry, I have a solution for you. The good news is that high intensity is all relative to you and your current fitness level. For example, fast walking up and down hills may be high intensity for you... it all depends. So don't think that you have to start running or something like that. Just slowly start to increase the intensity of your cardio workouts while also maybe decreasing the time because you can either work hard or you can work long.
Also, you can make almost any activity or exercise high intensity.... here are a few examples: increase your speed use an incline or hills increase resistance perform intervals ( the most effective method)
Obviously, some exercises/activities or better suited than others but the point is if you want to burn more fat and make your workouts as productive as possible you need to increase the intensity.
To learn more about high intensity cardiovascular exercise please check out the following articles: Forget the Fat Burn Zone - In Search of the Ideal Aerobics Routine - Heart Rate Guidelines -
Be sure to also check out my Burn Fat FAST! ebook and audio program here: - it covers everything from cardiovascular training to strength training to nutrition and more.
As with any changes to your fitness program be careful and don't over do it. Just because high intensity workouts burn more fat, don't think that you'll get even better results by doing it everyday - that will quickly lead to over-training and a loss of muscle which will only make it even harder to burn off the fat.
So if your primary goal is fat loss, don't waste your time walking and instead focus on progressive, high intensity cardio to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts.

What is ADHD?

It seems that the "What is ADHD" question is not very easy to answer, despite the plethora of studies, research and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity testing over the past decades.
In asking the question, "What is ADHD," it is easier to answer by describing what ADHD is not. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder testing and research has not proven that ADHD is a medical condition. There is no concrete research that supports that Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a genuine disorder or a disease.
What we do know is that Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD is becoming a modern day American plague. It is the fastest growing diagnosis given to children and teens, often based on subjective Attention Deficit Disorder Hyperactivity testing of parent ratings and doctor observations.
Doctors use a standard checklist of characteristics when Attention Deficit Hyperactivity testing to make a diagnosis and prescribe a standard course of stimulant drug therapy in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity.
ADHD symptoms commonly include aggressive behavior, constant activity, easy distractibility, impulsiveness and/or the inability to concentrate. These ADHD symptoms may include fidgeting or constant movement, excessive talking and difficulty participating in "quiet" activities like reading.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder children always seem to be in motion. They dash around, wiggle, squirm, fidget and talk nonstop. They are whirlwinds that leave messes, throw tantrums, start fights and act obstinate.
It's hard to miss ADHD in children but if the parent happens to miss the signs, the child's teacher certainly will make a point of clearly pointing it out to the parent.
The most prevalent, and most controversial, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is drug therapy. The top drugs of choice being Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine and Concerta.
Now here's the scary part; These commonly prescribed drugs in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder fall in the same drug category (Schedule II) as cocaine, methadone and opium.
Only a decade ago, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder testing and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was virtually unheard of.
The 1987 edition of the Webster's Dictionary, touting 50,000 entries and modern definitions, does not even include the word "Hyperactive" or "Hyperactivity." The American Psychiatric Association did not name Attention Deficit as a disorder until 1990.
Young boys, by nature have higher levels of energy than their female counterparts. Boys are diagnoses at a rate three times higher than girls.
When did active, high-spirited, strong-willed and oft times uncooperative kids move from kids being kids to children having a mental disorder? If using ADHD medication sales as a marker, this shift began right about the time the American Psychiatric Association named this set of characteristics as a disorder.
Since 1990, prescriptions for ADHD medications quintupled.
As Attention Deficit Hyperactivity testing and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder reach all-time highs and continue to climb in this country, other countries around the world seem relatively unaffected by this "disorder." This is America's plague.
This country uses 500% more Ritalin than all the rest of the world combined.
It is rare to find an Asian child undergoing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder testing, much less receiving treatment. European children are diagnosed at a rate of about 10 percent of their American counterparts.
Either the United States has some pretty hyped up kids or American doctors are over-diagnosing Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Some people argue that Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are not disorders at all, but simply personality types. Some people can sit still, pay attention, concentrate on specific tasks and exhibit proficient social skills. Others get fidgety, jump from project to project or just do not fit in the societal "norm."
The argument is that ADHD people are not "sick" and in need of dangerous drug therapy but simply have a different way of dealing with the conventional world.
Sure these high-energy and on-the-go kids can be incredibly irritating to teachers, energy draining to parents and general all-around hassles in the grocery store but they are also unique, creative, expressive and full of life. And boy, are they full of life!
Maybe we, as a society, should encourage some of these freethinking traits instead of expecting these children to sit quietly.
After all, had Albert Einstein, Lugwig Van Beethoven, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Henry David Thoreau grown up in today's society, they likely would have been slapped with the Attention Deficit label and placed on medications to make them conform to societal standards.
Should we stifle the natural enthusiasm and fervor of hyperactive people with drug medications? Would we have the genius of these incredibly unique minds if stifled by altering drugs?
You have to wonder...
In the conventional treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the goal is short-term, as are the effects. The goal is to make the child more compliant (usually so they can sit quietly in school) and ADHD medications do work effectively for the majority of children.
However, the price paid for compliant children can be detrimental to the child's mental and physical well being is high.
You want your child to be able to focus, sustain attention and behave calmly and appropriately on his own instead of relying on a pharmaceutical drug to do that for him. We do not want a generation of children to grow up automatically thinking that drugs are the answer.
Treatment should address the root of the problem instead of temporarily masking the symptoms and it should produce lasting changes instead of "fixing" the problem for a couple hours.
A large body of research indicates that environmental factors - nutritionally deficient diets, lead poisoning, food allergies and such - cause ADHD symptoms.
By ruling out environmental toxins, food allergies and other possibly causes and by increasing the body's strength and wellness through sound diet and nutritional supplementation, Attention Deficit problems can be gently and effectively addressed without the use of dangerous medications.
We also believe that ADHD should stand for "Absolutely Delightful, Hardy and Daring" young children that will one day grow into fine adults if raised in an accepting, loving and stable environment.
So what is ADHD? Nothing to be feared, nothing to dreaded, nothing other than a label placed on the societal wild children that need a little extra love and a whole lot of patience.

Is Modern Life Hurting Your Health?

How often have you said to yourself, "I wish things would slow down"? "I wish life was simpler!"
Modern life can be taxing. Today we live faster, work more, and have less free time than ever before. In addition, our 'conveniences' often come at the expense of the purity of our environment.
It's no wonder we are the 'stress generation'. Did you know that you hear more news in one DAY that your great-grandparents heard in an entire year? One day!
Combine the stress caused by too much information with the changes in our environment and the food we eat and you end up with a losing combination.
What can we do to fight back against the unseen environmental factors that rob us of our health and peace of mind?
Here are the top three environmental factors that have a negative impact on your life and what you can do about each.
1. Air pollution
This problem can sneak into your home or office without you even noticing. And the problem is very real. From airborne pollutants to toxic mold, our breathing is under attack.
Many cities now routinely warn citizens to stay indoors during certain parts of the day, particularly in the summer, due to elevated ozone levels. Of course, summer is the time when our children and we often want to be outdoors.
The good news is that this is a problem with several solutions. Today we have a wide variety of air filters from which to choose. Ranging from those that simply filter our air to more expensive models that 'treat' the air, be sure you get a filter that traps super-small particles and defends against ozone as well. And change your filter often. Experts now recommend changing filters up to once a week.
You may not be able to change the air outside but you can make a difference in the air your family breaths when they are in your home.
2. Water pollution.
If you remember high-school science, you will remember that there is no new water. That's right, the water you drank today is completely re-circulated from the clouds above. Makes air pollution take on a completely new meaning, doesn't it?
Water is essential to life. When NASA speaks about the possibility of life existing on Mars or any other planet, what they look for is whether that planet has or has ever had water. The majority of the human body is made of water. We cannot live without it.
Like our air, our water is polluted with chemicals and toxins from various sources in the environment.
Thankfully, water filtration is sophisticated. Having an effective home water filtration system is within the reach of virtually everyone.
Whether you choose a 'whole house' filter or one that runs from the faucet, be sure that the particle size that it filters is sufficiently small. Look specifically to see that your filter will remove contaminants like lead, mercury, and asbestos.
3. Chemical Residue
If our air and water are both polluted, where does that leave our homes? By cleaning up the air we breath and the water we drink, we are on the road to providing a safer environment for our families. However, we're not there yet.
Every surface in our home collects dust, dirt, germs, and grease that need cleaning regularly. That's no problem, you say! You can just pick up your handy dandy bottle of all-purpose chemical cleaner and begin, wait, did you say chemical cleaner?
We filter chemicals out of our air and water and then put them right back into our home environment by cleaning every surface in our home with chemical cleaners, exposing our families to their vapors in the process.
Modern advancements come to the rescue in the area of cleaning as well. For the first time, we have easy access to methods of cleaning that will do a great job without bringing us the chemicals and toxins that we don't want.
In each area of household cleaning you undertake, be sure to choose products that won't leave a chemical residue or strong chemical odors in the air. Your health and your lungs will thank you.
By making a few simple changes, you can have a permanent impact on your life and the lives of your family members. Why not start today? Take back your peace of mind and begin the journey to happier and healthier lives.

Warning! Lack Of Exercise Could Be Harmful To Your Health

You know it's bad when the Surgeon General issues a warning that lack of exercise is hazardous to your health. And that was back in '96. Since then, the stats haven't improved much, either: 25% of the American population is still sedentary and 60% do not exercise regularly (Reference:
For fitness minded folks, we could do worse than to follow the "hour-a-day" prescription outlined by the Surgeon General's Healthy People Report. It's just a guideline, of course and, as you already know, any amount of activity packed into your busy schedule is going to earn you healthy rewards. But there are plenty of other reasons to exercise.
"If people exercised only moderately," says Janet Kneiss, Physical Therapist, "there would be far less incidence of injury. The 15 or so people I see daily, who come in with back and neck problems, usually don't want to exercise, they want a quick fix."
The solution as she sees it?
"I think, if people could just reframe the idea of it [exercise] being so much work and focus more on the enjoyment of doing it,they would find the experience more positive."
So, if exercise alone can keep you injury and disease free, how do you keep it from being just another thing "to-do?" Here are a couple ideas:
Do something you enjoy: This sounds incredibly simple, but it's worth mentioning. As we've already said, most seasoned fitness fanatics as well as neophytes will be the first to tell you: if you do something you enjoy, you will stick to it. What do you like to do? Walk? Run? Spin the treadmill while watching the tube? Or how about branching out and trying something unique and different like kick-boxing or martial arts? It's a great idea to add variety; it will keep your exercise fresh and interesting.
Mix it up! Speaking of variety, you can also mix up your routine. For example: try splitting up your exercise sessions. If you take a half-hour walk in the morning, take a half-hour to stretch or resistance train in the afternoon. Just adding a bit of variety could spice things up and keep you motivated. Make an appointment with yourself. Make the commitment to exercise by making an appointment with yourself. Write it on your calendar. If you've never exercised before, start slow [10-15 minutes] then build up. Begin exercising three times a week, then slowly build up your time and your frequency. If you love to exercise, try listening to your bio-rhythms. If you can, schedule exercise during peak energy periods.
Strive for your personal best. A friend e-mailed to tell me he was gearing up for another 5K relay race. I wasn't surprised. When he was 50, never having run before and not having "runners genetics" as he puts it, he decided at 15 pounds overweight and asthmatic, he was going to run. He made up his mind. For a year he trained, dropped the weight and signed up. His first goal was simply to finish. Did he do it: you bet. Did he work through an asthma attack to get across the finish line? He did, but he kept going. Now, he continues to train and improve his time with each race. His secret, he tells me: enjoy the journey, live in the moment, and focus on your personal best.
"So, Laura, what's the take home message?" you ask. Never mind what everyone else is doing. Stay focused on you, doing what you enjoy and what is fun and exciting for you. Learn everything you can about health and fitness. Then, do the best you can. In so doing, you will be an inspiration for others. To summarize: A quote from one of my favorite inspirational writers Dr. Wayne Dyer, who says: "I don't want to be better than anybody, I just want to be better than I was yesterday."

Hair Analysis . The Roadmap to Wellness

Did you know that your hair has the advantage of long-term memory? Hair is a permanent record, like tree rings. A three-inch strand of human hair will give a six-month history of what's going on in the body since head hair grows at a rate of about a half an inch a month.
A hair analysis determines exactly what chemicals are inside of you, including radiation, heavy metals like mercury, food chemicals such as aspartame, pesticides, bacteria and more. The hair analysis is the best "roadmap" to view a history of what's going on inside of you.
What Is a Hair Analysis?
The protein in hair fiber holds the composition of the body tissues for a permanent period. By analyzing the hair fiber composition, a trained eye can tell what toxins have accumulated in the body tissues and what vitamins and minerals are depleted or too abundant causing an imbalance in body function.
By detoxifying unnatural chemicals like mercury and lead, and by replacing specific vitamins individual to your needs, proper health can be restored using nutrition. The human hair analysis can detail these levels.
It can be overwhelming to walk into a vitamin store and wonder out of the thousands of bottles on the shelves, "Which ones do I need?" The hair analysis specifies which supplements your body is lacking, and which, if any, you are too high in. It saves time and money to know exactly what your body needs, or doesn't need, nutritionally.
My own hair analysis was an important part of my natural healing from Grave's Disease in 1991. I discovered through my personal recovery, I couldn't fight what I couldn't see. The hair analysis is an excellent tool to identify specific toxins, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by them. As with any chemical in solution, food chemicals like aspartame and MSG saturate the body with toxins that penetrate the brain and infuse the bloodstream. Human beings are polluted with over 14,000 food chemicals we are exposed to daily. The hair analysis allows you to 'see' what damage these toxins may be causing.
Is the hair analysis really accurate?
The hair analysis is as credible as a standard blood or urine test – maybe more. The key to a good hair analysis is the capability of a credentialed laboratory and the expertise of the practitioner interpreting the results. The American government and law enforcement agencies have depended upon hair analyses for decades to provide conclusive evidence in crime investigations and for drug testing for prison parolees. The cause of death by poisoning can only be determined conclusively via a hair analysis, as in the case of President Andrew Jackson.
A hair analysis is not understood in traditional medicine, but is highly respected in the world of forensics, scientific research, and drug testing. A hair analysis works the same as a soil or water sample to a geologist and engineer - it leaves a permanent imprint of the body's 'environment' within the protein in the hair follicles.
If you want to determine if your well or tap water is polluted, you have a water test performed, right? If you're drilling for oil, you have a soil test done. So, it is with the human body. If you want to know if toxins are within your tissues, have a hair analysis performed.
Do Medical Doctors Use The Hair Analysis?
One of the shortcomings of the American Medical Association (AMA) is the lack of nutritional education required for medical students. American medical schools promote more of the pharmaceutical philosophy of healing by drugs opposed to a nutritionally based curriculum of natural healing.
Blood and urine tests have value, of course, as those results can identify disease present within the body and they help your doctor determine the amount and kind of drugs and medications needed.
The hair mineral analysis on the other hand, identifies long-term nutritional deficiencies that can be at the root of disease, along with identifying toxic metals within the body that can cause disease. Most traditional medical doctors do not know how to interpret a hair analysis, and therefore, discount them as an important tool in natural wellness.
You can read more information about the hair analysis and Dr. Hull's hair analysis program by visiting the link below:

Is Your Dog Fat?

Obesity is one of the greatest health concerns facing dogs. You can and should do something about it. Overweight dogs may live shorter and less healthy lives and your enjoyment of their unconditional love and companionship may be shortened because of it.
Extra pounds place an excess burden on bones and joints and can make arthritis problems worse. Overweight dogs are less able to exercise and play comfortably and their breathing may be labored. Their bodies may be less able to resist infections, and they may be at greater risk for problems during surgery and anesthesia.
Potential health problems include: Joint or Locomotion Difficulties. Extra pounds add stress to joints, bones, ligaments and muscles. Conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal disc disease and ruptures of joint ligaments may be caused or aggravated by obesity. Heart and Respiratory Disease. Excess fat tissue in the chest cavity and around the muscles of the heart can decrease the efficiency of the heart and lungs. Your dog's heart and lungs have to work harder to provide adequate oxygen and circulation. Diabetes. Just as in humans, diabetes is much more common in obese dogs. Liver Disease. Obese dogs are prone to liver disease. Heat Intolerance. The insulating properties of excessive fat make it harder for obese dogs to tolerate heat and they feel uncomfortable. Skin Problems. Obese dogs may have trouble grooming because the rolls of skin built up by fat deposits can often harbor dirt, bacteria and other harmful organisms. Gastrointestinal Disorders. Inflammation of the pancreas is frequently found in obese dogs. It is painful and can be life threatening.
How Dogs Become Overweight?
Dogs most always become overweight from lack of good exercise and from eating more food than they require. Food calories, which aren't burned during their daily activities, are stored as fat.
Overeating can result from greediness, boredom, or overfeeding. Feeding leftovers or giving frequent snacks or treats often contributes to excess weight problems.
Over-fed puppies tend to become overweight dogs. They also have a greater risk of developing orthopedic problems. Properly feed puppies will be less likely to suffer from weight problems later in life.
Occasionally, metabolic disorders can cause a dog to become overweight. But overfeeding and under exercising are much more common causes of excess weight. If your veterinarian suspects that a metabolic disorder is causing your dog to gain weight, he or she will test for that disorder and treat it accordingly.
How Can I Tell if My Dog is Overweight?
A quick check to determine whether your dog is overweight is to feel his ribs with the flat palm of your hand. If you have difficulty feeling his ribs, then your dog probably needs to lose weight.
Helping Your Dog Lose Weight.
Weight loss for most dogs involves increased exercise and eating food with fewer calories. It's generally easier to feed normal amounts of a low-calorie dog food than to feed much smaller amounts of his/her regular dog food. In addition, your dog will not feel as hungry when fed a normal amount of food
Dieting for Dogs.
Your vet will help set a weight goal for your dog and will recommend how much food he should eat each day. A special diet may also be prescribed. The food choice should be designed to satisfy your dog's appetite and provide him all the vitamins and minerals he needs while at the same time helping him to lose weight.
Your dog may need a gradual transition from the old to the new diet. So, you would feed him increasing amounts of the new diet while decreasing the amounts of the previous diet each day over several days until the transition is complete.
To help keep your dog from begging, feed him before your family eats, and keep him out of the room during your meal. It is also a good idea to feed overweight dogs at the same time as other pets to help prevent food stealing from their slimmer companions. Always provide plenty of clean, fresh drinking water.
Regular exercise, such as walks or runs, is good for most dogs because it increases the number of calories they burn. If your dog is old or in poor health, check with your vet before increasing exercise.
The time period your dog will require to lose weight depends upon how much weight he is required to lose. Your dog may need 8 to 14 weeks or longer to reach his target weight.
What Type of Dog Food is Good for Weight Control?
A dieting dog has special nutritional needs. His diet should be balanced with a proper ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates. The diet should also provide a normal volume of food to satisfy his hunger and the food should also provide quality nutrients.
Weight loss plans don't need to include high levels of fiber. Fiber is not necessary for weight loss in pets, and in large amounts, it may have side effects such as increased feces and lack of interest in the food because of its poor taste.
We recommend Canine Zone – a revolutionary weight loss dog food based on Dr. Barry Sears' Zone Diet. Millions of people all over the world have improved their health and have lost weight on Dr. Barry Sears' Zone Diet. Now you can get your dog in "The Zone". Canine Zone is based on the Zone's 30-30-40 ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates. This revolutionary new dog food will help your dog achieve a balance so his or her body can operate at its maximum efficiency while shedding unwanted pounds.
Always consult with your vet before you start a weight loss program for your dog.

Eat Fat to Burn Fat

For about 50 years now, Americans have been eating low fat (some no fat) diets and the funny thing is we have gotten progressively fatter and less healthy. Who ever said low fat diets were healthy, and more importantly, why does eating less fat mean you'll be less fat?
In attempt to keep this easy to understand, as most of what you read and hear is complicated, confusing, and contradictory, I'm going to be direct, to the point, and explain things in a way that most people can understand.
Where to start??? Well, I've done some research on this and have found very little science to back up the claims that eating less fat will keep you trim. I have also found many examples that totally dismiss this idea. For example, the French eat significantly more fat than we do here in the US while there obesity AND disease and illness rates are quite a bit lower.
Another example is the Alaskan Eskimos. They consume as much as 70% of their calories from fat (whale blubber and fish) and they have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world – until they come to the US and eat like us!
Before I cover other examples I'd like to talk about some the reasons why the "low fat diet" is not only making us fatter, but also killing people faster than you can imagine!
Does that shock you? If so, do I have news for you!
Ok… here are just a few reasons:
Eating less fat means you have to eat more protein or carbs and most people end up eating more carbs (and the wrong type!)
Dietary fat is very slow burning in the body so when you replace the fat with faster burning carbs you tend to feel less energetic, risk burning muscle tissue, and wreak havoc on your metabolism and hormones because your energy levels (blood sugar) are like a roller coaster.
Dietary fats supply some of the best, and most stable sources of energy. So if you want to feel good all day long, you need to make sure you are getting enough fats, and the right types. I'll touch on which types to avoid and which to include in your diet later in this article.
The human body needs fat just to function properly, let alone optimal health
Certain amounts of fat are necessary for proper hormone production. If hormone production is off so will your metabolism be. Hormones regulate many things in the body including your ability to build and maintain muscle tissue, which is responsible for a large portion of your energy expenditure. In simple terms, muscle burns calories 24 hours a day and if you eat a low fat or no fat diet you will have a hard time building and maintaining muscle.
Here are some facts:
Obesity increased from 14% of the American population in 1960 to over 22% by 1980
The Harvard Nurse's Health Study which ran well over 10 years found that not only did low fat diets not decrease the risk of heart disease but also that saturated fat wasn't so bad after all, and that too little was just as harmful
To read more of the facts about dietary fat and health check out these great resources:
So to sum things up…
If you want to lose weight and be healthy – DON'T eat a low-fat diet! You would have to be absolutely insane to after learning the truth about dietary fats. If you have doubts or questions please do some research and you will be amazed at what you will find out. In the meantime, go eat some healthy fats!

5 Fitness Myths That Are Responsible For Thousands of Fitness Failures

Unfortunately, many people are misinformed and are also misled by the many promises of the weight loss industry. Everywhere you look, you see or hear of people promising "Dramatic Weight Loss" with products such as "The Fat Trapper", or "Exercise in a Bottle".
Then you also have the hundreds of diets out there such as "The Zone", "Sugar Busters" or "The Atkins Diet". I'm sure you have heard of many of these yourself. You might have even tried some of them. Unfortunately, these products and diets are not the quick fix, or the miracles they are portrayed as. They are also usually very dangerous.
Below are some common misconceptions among people with regard to exercise and nutrition.
1. You need to exercise to burn fat.
The truth is you don't gain body fat because of a lack of exercise. You gain it because your blood sugar levels exceed what you are using. Basically, you are eating too many calories at one time.
2. Your metabolism slows down once you hit 30.
WRONG! Actually, hundreds of research studies have shown that the slow down in metabolism is due to a loss of muscle tissue. And the loss of muscle tissue is directly related to a lack of hard physical activity!
3. Pasta and bread are fattening.
Anything is fattening! Lettuce can be stored as fat! Any food or drink, which contains calories, can be stored as body fat if it causes your blood sugar levels to exceed what the body needs at that time. Bread and pasta are actually great sources of complex carbohydrate! The key is how much you eat and when you eat it.
4. Eating after 7pm will make you fat.
Absolutely false! It all depends on whether or not the body needs that amount of calories at that time. Keep in mind your body is constantly burning calories, 24 hours per day, just the amount varies.
5. Strength training will make you bulk up.
Another NO! It seems as if mostly women are concerned with this one. Muscle size is primarily affected by genetics and hormone production; therefore, most women don't have the potential to build very large muscles.
Muscle burns calories, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn which makes easier to burn fat and harder to gain it!
By no means is this a complete list! There are so many I could write a whole book just about them. The key is in education, but not by reading fitness magazines!

So Your Lower Back Hurts???

Low back pain is one of the most common ailments people suffer from and approximately 8 out of 10 people will deal with back pain at some point in their life. That's a lot of people… are you one of them?
Out of all of the various forms of back pain, lower back pain is by far the most common and there's a good explanation for this. Any idea why?
It's not car accidents, it's not work-related injuries, and it's not a lack of prescription medications either. Lack of movement and use is the number one cause of back pain!
I bet your orthopedic specialist or chiropractor didn't tell you that, did they?
It's the lack of movement in various muscles over years that leads to muscle imbalances and uneven wear and tear on your body, especially the spine. For example, how many times a day are you bending, leaning, or twisting.
Here's what the typical person's day is like: Wake up Eat breakfast (hopefully) Drive or ride to work Sit at desk Eat lunch Sit at desk some more Drive or ride home Eat dinner Sit on couch and watch tv Go to bed
Notice the trend here? That's an awful lot of sitting and not moving. Well, this is what leads to serious muscle imbalances and so what do we do, we go to the gym and perform exercises that only make the imbalances worse!
The key to eliminating back pain (nearly any ache, pain, or injury for that matter) is to identify the muscle imbalances that are pulling the spine, bones, and joints out of place and then stretch the tight muscles while strengthening the weak muscles.
How do I know this? Well, as certified personal fitness trainer and post-rehabilitation specialist, I have worked with hundreds of individuals with back pain and the conditions that ranged from sciatic pain, to bulging discs, to spinal fusion, and others. In working with these individuals I discovered some startling facts.
1. Many people who seek professional help are often mis-diagnosed and end up following a treatment plan that fails to eliminate the cause of their back pain.
2. Nearly all of the individuals I worked with were able to eliminate their back pain, or significantly improve their condition even though all of the traditional treatments failed them (physically therapy, chiropractic care, cortisone injections, anti-inflammatory medications, surgery, etc).
Even more amazing is the fact that most of these individuals were able to eliminate their back pain in a matter or days or weeks simply by performing a handful of exercises and stretches! These weren't your basic exercises or the standard back stretches and stomach exercises most "experts" recommend – these were specific exercises and stretches prescribed based on the individual.
Many of these people had suffered for years and years with aches, pains, and stiffness and lived inactive lives because of their back pain.
3. Most treatment plans offered only address the symptoms and don't address the cause, which usually delivers just temporary relief for the individual.
In addition to helping hundreds of others eliminate back pain, I also have had personal experiences with back pain and other various conditions such as tendonitis, muscle strains and sprains, and more. In every single situation the traditional treatments did nothing but treat the symptoms (often times not successfully) and the only approach that gave lasting improvements and relief was targeted stretches and exercises.
Have you tried traditional treatments and found little relief? I am not saying these treatments are not effective at temporarily reducing the pain or inflammation, but I am saying nearly all fail to get rid of the underlying cause of the problem.
So how do you identify these muscle imbalances? Well, it isn't easy but with a basic understanding of how your body works you can at least start looking at your situation and find out which muscles are over worked and too strong and/or tight and which ones are too weak and stretched out.
It also helps if you can find a qualified health professional who specializes in identifying muscle imbalances. Unfortunately, there are still few professionals who use what I call the "common sense approach." However, your best bet is to look for a personal fitness trainer that is trained and certified in post-rehabilitation, a manual physical therapist, or an osteopath. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions... you need to take charge of your health care and be sure to quiz them to find out what type of an approach they take in treating back pain.
I also recommend you my video, "Lose the Back Pain" here: . It's shows you step-by-step, how to identify the true cause of your back pain and what specific exercises and stretches you need to do to correct it.
I wish you the best and remember the key to a healthy back is movement!

The Functional Training Craze

In the past few years I've seen a huge transition in the fitness industry. More and more people are using functional training, and some argue it's the only way to train. The purpose of this article is to give people an understanding of what functional training is, and what it does and does not do.
First, lets look at what functional actually means. 1. capable of operating or functioning, 2. capable of serving the purpose for which it was intended (Webster's Encyclopedia 2nd Edition, 1996)
Based on that definition, you can draw many conclusions as to what is functional. Depending upon who you ask, you will most likely get a diverse variety of responses as to what is functional. All human movement is a combination of various functions. Human movement cannot take place without muscular function. According to the functional training "experts", functional training uses bands, balls, free-weights, and plyometric exercises in an attempt to condition the body in an un-stable environment. Many of the experts feel that performing exercises that mimic activities or specific skills is the most effective way to train, regardless of ones goal.
What is the safest, most efficient and effective way to optimize human performance?
Factors Affecting Human Performance
In order to maximize human performance, you must have a good understanding of what affects performance. The factors that play the greatest role in performance are: Power (Strength and Speed), Agility (Flexibility/Mobility/Stability), Cardiovascular and Respiratory Conditioning, Sport Skill (Neuromuscular Coordination and Efficiency), and Genetic Potential.
Let’s take a look at each factor and determine which training methods are going to deliver optimal results. By optimal results, I mean the greatest amount of improvement, with the least amount of risk, and in the shortest amount of time.
Power= Force x Distance
Power can be increased three ways.
1. Increase Force (Strength)
What is the most effective method of increasing strength and/or muscle tissue? In my opinion, High Intensity Strength Training is the most productive, safe, and time efficient approach available. I am not stating that one set of each exercise is the best choice. My definition of High Intensity Training is: training to momentary muscular failure, with brief and infrequent workouts in which all variables are prescribed based on the individuals: goals, age, current fitness level, fiber types, personal preference, and past experience.
The purpose of strength training is to increase strength and lean body mass, NOT for training a specific skill or movement-that's called practice! People strength train for many reasons and there are many methods that work. For years, many trainers and coaches have had their clients and athletes perform Olympic lifts because they feel it will transfer over into the performance of their skill. Numerous studies have shown that the neurological transfer of skills is not optimal unless the skill is practiced EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. Therefore, performing power cleans because you play football is NOT optimal. Performing power-cleans will only get you better at performing power-cleans! Focus on increasing strength and lean body mass, and practice your skill exactly as it is performed during competition.
2. Increase Speed
Increasing the speed at which a skill is performed is another great way to improve power. Speed is primarily predetermined by the individual's genetic make up. However, that does not mean that you cannot improve speed by practicing the skill EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. A great deal of focus should be placed on perfecting the technique. By practicing the skill in this manner, you will improve neuromuscular efficiency, which will result in faster and more accurate performance.
3. Increase Distance (flexibility/range of motion)
Increasing flexibility is another way to improve power. By increasing flexibility, you increase the distance that force is applied which results in an increase in power.
The safest and most effective method to increase flexibility is by performing full range of motion exercises and incorporating a sound stretching routine.
Improving ones agility is another way of optimizing performance. Agility drills should be SPECIFIC to the activity or event. For example, having someone do Plyometric jumps off of boxes is NOT specific to someone who plays basketball! Yes, a basketball player jumps, but not off of boxes. Having the athlete practice jumping from the floor would be much more specific to their sport. Always ask yourself, “What is the goal?” “Is what I’m doing going to give me the outcome I desire?” “Is it optimal?”
Cardiovascular and Respiratory Conditioning
Increasing cardio/respiratory output and endurance is another factor that has a major impact on performance. This topic is one of such importance that it is beyond the scope of this article. In general, if you increase the individual's cardiovascular and respiratory output and endurance, there will be a corresponding increase in performance. Cardiovascular training should also be specifically geared towards improving the individuals conditioning in the metabolic pathway in which they compete or perform. For example, someone who plays tennis should primarily train at a slow to moderate pace and incorporate bursts of high intensity effort. Interval training would be a good choice for this individual. Keep the training specific to the individual.
Sport Skill
This is an area in which there is a lot of confusion among many athletes, coaches, and trainers. Skill acquisition and strength levels are two completely different things. Therefore, they should be trained separately, and with different methods. In order to optimize the performance of a specific skill or movement, it needs to be practiced EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. It has been shown that each activity or movement has it's own neuromuscular pathway, and that just because a movement is similar does NOT mean there will be a positive transfer or carryover of skill. In order to maximize performance the individual should attempt to perfect their movement or skill with endless hours of practice. The goal of practice should be to improve the technique, accuracy, and increase the speed at which the skill can be performed. This topic was addressed earlier in the section titled “Increase Force.”
Genetic Potential
This is the factor that I have found to have the greatest impact on human performance. Genetic potential is something many people overlook. Regardless of what methods of training I use, I will never be a world-class marathoner. I can train twice a week or I can train 5 hours a day, it still won't change the fact that my body wasn't designed to excel at endurance activities. I hear of too many coaches and trainers having people follow dangerous training programs in an attempt to drastically improve their performance. This is not to say that you cannot improve performance. When training yourself or a competitive athlete, always set realistic goals. As stated earlier, the best thing to do is utilize the most effective methods available and work hard!
Differences between Functional Training and Machine Based Training
Most, if not all of the so-called functional exercises, fail to supply constant and variable resistance. Most quality machines supply constant tension and variable resistance based on the strength curve of the particular muscle, and track proper joint function.
For example, compare dumbbell bicep curls on a Swiss ball to a bicep curl on a quality machine (such as Hammer Strength.) While performing the dumbbell curl, there is no tension on the biceps in the bottom or top positions. The resistance is greatest when the dumbbell is perpendicular to the floor. The amount of stimulus is also decreased due to the fact that the individual must balance his/her self on the ball. While using a machine, there is constant tension on the biceps and the amount of tension varies during the exercise based on the strength curve of the biceps muscle. Which is going to make the individual stronger? Which is going to stimulate more muscle fibers in the biceps?
In my opinion, machine based training is by far superior if the goal is to increase strength, and/or muscle tissue. Keep in mind that more muscle equates to a faster, stronger, and better athlete, providing they practice their specific skill or movement.
This is not to say that functional exercises serve no purpose. There are benefits to functional exercise; just not as many as some people are lead to believe. Exercise selection and the training methods used should be based on the individual's goals. Instances where functional training may be effective would be in individuals who need to improve balance, stability, and neuromuscular coordination. Below is a chart that shows the differences between Functional Training and Machine Based Training.
Machine-Based Training
Functional Training
Provides constant and variable resistance
Movement tracks proper joint function
Effectively overloads musculature (if used properly)
Safer to perform
Many machines available to work every muscle in the body
Very effective at improving balance, stability, and coordination
Does NOT effectively overload musculature
Does NOT provide optimal transfer of skill performance
Very difficult to measure and monitor progress
Higher chance of injury
Functional training obviously has some benefit, and can be a great addition to a well-designed strength program. However, I personally feel it should never take the place of a structured strength training routine. I recommend using a combination approach, which utilizes machines, free-weights, bodyweight, balls, bands, and anything that is going to deliver the desired results. Always remember that training for strength and/or increases in muscle tissue and training for skill are two completely different things. When designing or assessing a training program the following questions should be asked. What is the goal? Is it time efficient? Is it safe? Is it delivering the desired results? Is it optimal?
References Schmidt, R. A : Motor Learning and Performance -From Principles to Practice. Human Kinetics Books; Champaign , IL 1991 Bryzcki, Matt : A Practical Approach to Strength Training, Masters Press; Indianapolis , IN 1995 Magil, R : Motor Learning -Concepts and Application, 4th Edition, C. Brown Publishing, Madison , Wisconsin 1993 Chek, Paul : What is Functional Exercise? (Article), C.H.E.K Institute Calais-Germaine, Blandine : Anatomy of Movement, Easterland Press, Seattle , WA 1993 Tortora, Gerard, J : Principles of Human Anatomy, 5th Edition, Harper Collins Publishers, New York , NY 1989 Stein, Alan : Improving Athletic Power (Article), Hard Training Newsletter Manny, Ken : Skill Development : An Open and Closed Case (Article) Kielbaso, Jim : Plyos - My Story (Article)

Eugenics and the Future of the Human Species

"It is clear that modern medicine has created a serious dilemma ... In the past, there were many children who never survived - they succumbed to various diseases ... But in a sense modern medicine has put natural selection out of commission. Something that has helped one individual over a serious illness can in the long run contribute to weakening the resistance of the whole human race to certain diseases. If we pay absolutely no attention to what is called hereditary hygiene, we could find ourselves facing a degeneration of the human race. Mankind's hereditary potential for resisting serious disease will be weakened."
Jostein Gaarder in "Sophie's World", a bestselling philosophy textbook for adolescents published in Oslo, Norway, in 1991 and, afterwards, throughout the world, having been translated to dozens of languages.
The Nazis regarded the murder of the feeble-minded and the mentally insane - intended to purify the race and maintain hereditary hygiene - as a form of euthanasia. German doctors were enthusiastic proponents of an eugenics movements rooted in 19th century social Darwinism. Luke Gormally writes, in his essay "Walton, Davies, and Boyd" (published in "Euthanasia Examined - Ethical, Clinical, and Legal Perspectives", ed. John Keown, Cambridge University Press, 1995):
"When the jurist Karl Binding and the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche published their tract The Permission to Destroy Life that is Not Worth Living in 1920 ... their motive was to rid society of the 'human ballast and enormous economic burden' of care for the mentally ill, the handicapped, retarded and deformed children, and the incurably ill. But the reason they invoked to justify the killing of human beings who fell into these categories was that the lives of such human beings were 'not worth living', were 'devoid of value'"
It is this association with the hideous Nazi regime that gave eugenics - a term coined by a relative of Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton, in 1883 - its bad name. Richard Lynn, of the University of Ulster of North Ireland, thinks that this recoil resulted in "Dysgenics - the genetic deterioration of modern (human) population", as the title of his controversial tome puts it.
The crux of the argument for eugenics is that a host of technological, cultural, and social developments conspired to give rise to negative selection of the weakest, least intelligent, sickest, the habitually criminal, the sexually deviant, the mentally-ill, and the least adapted.
Contraception is more widely used by the affluent and the well-educated than by the destitute and dull. Birth control as practiced in places like China distorted both the sex distribution in the cities - and increased the weight of the rural population (rural couples in China are allowed to have two children rather than the urban one).
Modern medicine and the welfare state collaborate in sustaining alive individuals - mainly the mentally retarded, the mentally ill, the sick, and the genetically defective - who would otherwise have been culled by natural selection to the betterment of the entire species.
Eugenics may be based on a literal understanding of Darwin's metaphor.
The 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say:
"Darwin's description of the process of natural selection as the survival of the fittest in the struggle for life is a metaphor. 'Struggle' does not necessarily mean contention, strife, or combat; 'survival' does not mean that ravages of death are needed to make the selection effective; and 'fittest' is virtually never a single optimal genotype but rather an array of genotypes that collectively enhance population survival rather than extinction. All these considerations are most apposite to consideration of natural selection in humans. Decreasing infant and childhood mortality rates do not necessarily mean that natural selection in the human species no longer operates. Theoretically, natural selection could be very effective if all the children born reached maturity. Two conditions are needed to make this theoretical possibility realized: first, variation in the number of children per family and, second, variation correlated with the genetic properties of the parents. Neither of these conditions is farfetched."
The eugenics debate is only the visible extremity of the Man vs. Nature conundrum. Have we truly conquered nature and extracted ourselves from its determinism? Have we graduated from natural to cultural evolution, from natural to artificial selection, and from genes to memes?
Does the evolutionary process culminate in a being that transcends its genetic baggage, that programs and charts its future, and that allows its weakest and sickest to survive? Supplanting the imperative of the survival of the fittest with a culturally-sensitive principle may be the hallmark of a successful evolution, rather than the beginning of an inexorable decline.
The eugenics movement turns this argument on its head. They accept the premise that the contribution of natural selection to the makeup of future human generations is glacial and negligible. But they reject the conclusion that, having ridden ourselves of its tyranny, we can now let the weak and sick among us survive and multiply. Rather, they propose to replace natural selection with eugenics.
But who, by which authority, and according to what guidelines will administer this man-made culling and decide who is to live and who is to die, who is to breed and who may not? Why select by intelligence and not by courtesy or altruism or church-going - or al of them together? It is here that eugenics fails miserably. Should the criterion be physical, like in ancient Sparta? Should it be mental? Should IQ determine one's fate - or social status or wealth? Different answers yield disparate eugenic programs and target dissimilar groups in the population.
Aren't eugenic criteria liable to be unduly influenced by fashion and cultural bias? Can we agree on a universal eugenic agenda in a world as ethnically and culturally diverse as ours? If we do get it wrong - and the chances are overwhelming - will we not damage our gene pool irreparably and, with it, the future of our species?
And even if many will avoid a slippery slope leading from eugenics to active extermination of "inferior" groups in the general population - can we guarantee that everyone will? How to prevent eugenics from being appropriated by an intrusive, authoritarian, or even murderous state?
Modern eugenicists distance themselves from the crude methods adopted at the beginning of the last century by 29 countries, including Germany, The United States, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Venezuela, Estonia, Argentina, Norway, Denmark, Sweden (until 1976), Brazil, Italy, Greece, and Spain.
They talk about free contraceptives for low-IQ women, vasectomies or tubal ligations for criminals, sperm banks with contributions from high achievers, and incentives for college students to procreate. Modern genetic engineering and biotechnology are readily applicable to eugenic projects. Cloning can serve to preserve the genes of the fittest. Embryo selection and prenatal diagnosis of genetically diseased embryos can reduce the number of the unfit.
But even these innocuous variants of eugenics fly in the face of liberalism. Inequality, claim the proponents of hereditary amelioration, is genetic, not environmental. All men are created unequal and as much subject to the natural laws of heredity as are cows and bees. Inferior people give birth to inferior offspring and, thus, propagate their inferiority.
Even if this were true - which is at best debatable - the question is whether the inferior specimen of our species possess the inalienable right to reproduce? If society is to bear the costs of over-population - social welfare, medical care, daycare centers - then society has the right to regulate procreation. But does it have the right to act discriminately in doing so?
Another dilemma is whether we have the moral right - let alone the necessary knowledge - to interfere with natural as well as social and demographic trends. Eugenicists counter that contraception and indiscriminate medicine already do just that. Yet, studies show that the more affluent and educated a population becomes - the less fecund it is. Birth rates throughout the world have dropped dramatically already.
Instead of culling the great unwashed and the unworthy - wouldn't it be a better idea to educate them (or their off-spring) and provide them with economic opportunities (euthenics rather than eugenics)? Human populations seem to self-regulate. A gentle and persistent nudge in the right direction - of increased affluence and better schooling - might achieve more than a hundred eugenic programs, voluntary or compulsory.
That eugenics presents itself not merely as a biological-social agenda, but as a panacea, ought to arouse suspicion. The typical eugenics text reads more like a catechism than a reasoned argument. Previous all-encompassing and omnicompetent plans tended to end traumatically - especially when they contrasted a human elite with a dispensable underclass of persons.
Above all, eugenics is about human hubris. To presume to know better than the lottery of life is haughty. Modern medicine largely obviates the need for eugenics in that it allows even genetically defective people to lead pretty normal lives. Of course, Man himself - being part of Nature - may be regarded as nothing more than an agent of natural selection. Still, many of the arguments advanced in favor of eugenics can be turned against it with embarrassing ease.
Consider sick children. True, they are a burden to society and a probable menace to the gene pool of the species. But they also inhibit further reproduction in their family by consuming the financial and mental resources of the parents. Their genes - however flawed - contribute to genetic diversity. Even a badly mutated phenotype sometimes yields precious scientific knowledge and an interesting genotype.
The implicit Weltbild of eugenics is static - but the real world is dynamic. There is no such thing as a "correct" genetic makeup towards which we must all strive. A combination of genes may be perfectly adaptable to one environment - but woefully inadequate in another. It is therefore prudent to encourage genetic diversity or polymorphism.
The more rapidly the world changes, the greater the value of mutations of all sorts. One never knows whether today's maladaptation will not prove to be tomorrow's winner. Ecosystems are invariably comprised of niches and different genes - even mutated ones - may fit different niches.
In the 18th century most peppered moths in Britain were silvery gray, indistinguishable from lichen-covered trunks of silver birches - their habitat. Darker moths were gobbled up by rapacious birds. Their mutated genes proved to be lethal. As soot from sprouting factories blackened these trunks - the very same genes, hitherto fatal, became an unmitigated blessing. The blacker specimen survived while their hitherto perfectly adapted fairer brethren perished ("industrial melanism"). This mode of natural selection is called directional.
Moreover, "bad" genes are often connected to "desirable genes" (pleitropy). Sickle cell anemia protects certain African tribes against malaria. This is called "diversifying or disruptive natural selection". Artificial selection can thus fast deteriorate into adverse selection due to ignorance.
Modern eugenics relies on statistics. It is no longer concerned with causes - but with phenomena and the likely effects of intervention. If the adverse traits of off-spring and parents are strongly correlated - then preventing parents with certain undesirable qualities from multiplying will surely reduce the incidence of said dispositions in the general population. Yet, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. The manipulation of one parameter of the correlation does not inevitably alter it - or the incidence of the outcome.
Eugenicists often hark back to wisdom garnered by generations of breeders and farmers. But the unequivocal lesson of thousands of years of artificial selection is that cross-breeding (hybridization) - even of two lines of inferior genetic stock - yields valuable genotypes. Inter-marriage between races, groups in the population, ethnic groups, and clans is thus bound to improve the species' chances of survival more than any eugenic scheme.

Narcissism, Substance Abuse, and Reckless Behaviours

Pathological narcissism is an addiction to Narcissistic Supply, the narcissist's drug of choice. It is, therefore, not surprising that other addictive and reckless behaviours – workaholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping, or reckless driving – piggyback on this primary dependence.
The narcissist – like other types of addicts – derives pleasure from these exploits. But they also sustain and enhance his grandiose fantasies as "unique", "superior", "entitled", and "chosen". They place him above the laws and pressures of the mundane and away from the humiliating and sobering demands of reality. They render him the centre of attention – but also place him in "splendid isolation" from the madding and inferior crowd.
Such compulsory and wild pursuits provide a psychological exoskeleton. They are a substitute to quotidian existence. They afford the narcissist with an agenda, with timetables, goals, and faux achievements. The narcissist – the adrenaline junkie – feels that he is in control, alert, excited, and vital. He does not regard his condition as dependence. The narcissist firmly believes that he is in charge of his addiction, that he can quit at will and on short notice.
The narcissist denies his cravings for fear of "losing face" and subverting the flawless, perfect, immaculate, and omnipotent image he projects. When caught red handed, the narcissist underestimates, rationalises, or intellectualises his addictive and reckless behaviours – converting them into an integral part of his grandiose and fantastic False Self.
Thus, a drug abusing narcissist may claim to be conducting first hand research for the benefit of humanity – or that his substance abuse results in enhanced creativity and productivity. The dependence of some narcissists becomes a way of life: busy corporate executives, race car drivers, or professional gamblers come to mind.
The narcissist's addictive behaviours take his mind off his inherent limitations, inevitable failures, painful and much-feared rejections, and the Grandiosity Gap – the abyss between the image he projects (the False Self) and the injurious truth. They relieve his anxiety and resolve the tension between his unrealistic expectations and inflated self-image – and his incommensurate achievements, position, status, recognition, intelligence, wealth, and physique.
Thus, there is no point in treating the dependence and recklessness of the narcissist without first treating the underlying personality disorder. The narcissist's addictions serve deeply ingrained emotional needs. They intermesh seamlessly with the pathological structure of his disorganised personality, with his character faults, and primitive defence mechanisms.
Techniques such as "12 steps" may prove more efficacious in treating the narcissist's grandiosity, rigidity, sense of entitlement, exploitativeness, and lack of empathy. This is because – as opposed to traditional treatment modalities – the emphasis is on tackling the narcissist's psychological makeup, rather than on behaviour modification.
The narcissist's overwhelming need to feel omnipotent and superior can be co-opted in the therapeutic process. Overcoming an addictive behaviour can be – truthfully – presented by the therapist as a rare and impressive feat, worthy of the narcissist's unique mettle.
Narcissists fall for these transparent pitches surprisingly often. But this approach can backfire. Should the narcissist relapse – an almost certain occurrence – he will feel ashamed to admit his fallibility, need for emotional sustenance, and impotence. He is likely to avoid treatment altogether and convince himself that now, having succeeded once to get rid of his addiction, he is self-sufficient and omniscient.

The Cyber Narcissist

To the narcissist, the Internet is an alluring and irresistible combination of playground and hunting grounds, the gathering place of numerous potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, a world where false identities are the norm and mind games the bon ton. And it is beyond the reach of the law, the pale of social norms, the strictures of civilized conduct.
The somatic finds cyber-sex and cyber-relationships aplenty. The cerebral claims false accomplishments, fake skills, erudition and talents. Both, if minimally communicative, end up at the instantly gratifying epicenter of a cult of fans, followers, stalkers, erotomaniacs, denigrators, and plain nuts. The constant attention and attendant quasi-celebrity feed and sustain their grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image.
The Internet is an extension of the real-life Narcissistic Pathological Space but without its risks, injuries, and disappointments. In the virtual universe of the Web, the narcissist vanishes and reappears with ease, often adopting a myriad aliases and nicknames. He (or she) can thus fend off criticism, abuse, disagreement, and disapproval effectively and in real time – and, simultaneously, preserve the precarious balance of his infantile personality. Narcissists are, therefore, prone to Internet addiction.
The positive characteristics of the Net are largely lost on the narcissist. He is not keen on expanding his horizons, fostering true relationships, or getting in real contact with other people. The narcissist is forever the provincial because he filters everything through the narrow lens of his addiction. He measures others – and idealizes or devalues them – according to one criterion only: how useful they might be as Sources of Narcissistic Supply.
The Internet is an egalitarian medium where people are judged by the consistency and quality of their contributions rather than by the content or bombast of their claims. But the narcissist is driven to distracting discomfiture by a lack of clear and commonly accepted hierarchy (with himself at the pinnacle). He fervently and aggressively tries to impose the "natural order" – either by monopolizing the interaction or, if that fails, by becoming a major disruptive influence.
But the Internet may also be the closest many narcissists get to psychodynamic therapy. Because it is still largely text-based, the Web is populated by disembodied entities. By interacting with these intermittent, unpredictable, ultimately unknowable, ephemeral, and ethereal voices – the narcissist is compelled to project unto them his own experiences, fears, hopes, and prejudices.
Transference (and counter-transference) are quite common on the Net and the narcissist's defence mechanisms – notably projection and projective identification – are frequently aroused. The therapeutic process is set in motion by the – unbridled, uncensored, and brutally honest - reactions to the narcissist's repertory of antics, pretensions, delusions, and fantasies.
The narcissist – ever the intimidating bully – is not accustomed to such resistance. Initially, it may heighten and sharpen his paranoia and lead him to compensate by extending and deepening his grandiosity. Some narcissists withdraw altogether, reverting to the schizoid posture. Others become openly antisocial and seek to subvert, sabotage, and destroy the online sources of their frustration. A few retreat and confine themselves to the company of adoring sycophants and unquestioning groupies.
But a long exposure to the culture of the Net – irreverent, skeptical, and populist – usually exerts a beneficial effect even on the staunchest and most rigid narcissist. Far less convinced of his own superiority and infallibility, the online narcissist mellows and begins – hesitantly – to listen to others and to collaborate with them.

What is Narcissism?

A pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.
Most narcissists (50-75%, according to the DSM IV-TR) are men.
The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of a "family" of personality disorders (known as "Cluster B"). Other members of Cluster B are Borderline PD, Antisocial PD and Histrionic PD.
NPD is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders ("co-morbidity") - or with substance abuse and impulsive and reckless behaviors ("dual diagnosis").
NPD is new (1980) mental health category in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM).
There is only scant research regarding narcissism. But what there is has not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural, economic, genetic, or professional predilection to NPD.
It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population suffer from NPD.
Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud. Other major contributors are: Klein, Horney, Kohut, Kernberg, Millon, Roningstam, Gunderson, Hare.
The onset of narcissism is in infancy, childhood and early adolescence. It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers.
There is a whole range of narcissistic reactions - from the mild, reactive and transient to the permanent personality disorder.
Narcissistic Supply is outside attention - usually positive (adulation, affirmation, fame, celebrity) - used by the narcissist to regulate his labile sense of self-worth.
Narcissists are either "cerebral" (derive their narcissistic supply from their intelligence or academic achievements) - or "somatic" (derive their narcissistic supply from their physique, exercise, physical or sexual prowess and romantic or physical "conquests").
Narcissists are either "classic" - see definition below - or they are "compensatory", or "inverted" - see definitions here: "The Inverted Narcissist".
The classic narcissist is self-confident, the compensatory narcissist covers up in his haughty behaviour for a deep-seated deficit in self-esteem, and the inverted type is a co-dependent who caters to the emotional needs of a classic narcissist.
NPD is treated in talk therapy (psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioural). The prognosis for an adult narcissist is poor, though his adaptation to life and to others can improve with treatment. Medication is applied to side-effects and behaviours (such as mood or affect disorders and obsession-compulsion) - usually with some success.
The American Psychiatric Association, based in Washington D.C., USA, publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), 2000.
Click here to read the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The international equivalent of the DSM is the ICD-10, Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, published by the World Health Organization in Geneva (1992).
Click here to read the ICD-10 diagnostic criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The DSM defines NPD as "an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts."
The ICD regards NPD as "a personality disorder that fits none of the specific rubrics." It relegates it to the category "Other Specific Personality Disorders" together with the eccentric, "haltlose", immature, passive-aggressive, and psychoneurotic personality disorders and types.
The DSM specifies nine diagnostic criteria. For NPD to be diagnosed, five (or more) of these criteria must be met.
(In the text below, I have proposed modifications to the language of these criteria to incorporate current knowledge about this disorder. My modifications appear in bold italics.)
(My amendments do not constitute a part of the text of the DSM-IV-TR, nor is the American Psychiatric Association (APA) associated with them in any way.)
Click here to download a bibliography of the studies and research regarding the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) on which I based my proposed revisions.
Proposed Amended Criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);
Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation - or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);
Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favourable priority treatment;
Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;
Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;
Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly;
Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, "above the law", and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy.

The Myth of Mental Illness

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing – that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."
Richard Feynman, Physicist and 1965 Nobel Prize laureate (1918-1988)
"You have all I dare say heard of the animal spirits and how they are transfused from father to son etcetera etcetera – well you may take my word that nine parts in ten of a man's sense or his nonsense, his successes and miscarriages in this world depend on their motions and activities, and the different tracks and trains you put them into, so that when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, away they go cluttering like hey-go-mad."
Lawrence Sterne (1713-1758), "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" (1759)
I. Overview
Someone is considered mentally "ill" if:
His conduct rigidly and consistently deviates from the typical, average behaviour of all other people in his culture and society that fit his profile (whether this conventional behaviour is moral or rational is immaterial), or
His judgment and grasp of objective, physical reality is impaired, and
His conduct is not a matter of choice but is innate and irresistible, and
His behavior causes him or others discomfort, and is
Dysfunctional, self-defeating, and self-destructive even by his own yardsticks.
Descriptive criteria aside, what is the essence of mental disorders? Are they merely physiological disorders of the brain, or, more precisely of its chemistry? If so, can they be cured by restoring the balance of substances and secretions in that mysterious organ? And, once equilibrium is reinstated – is the illness "gone" or is it still lurking there, "under wraps", waiting to erupt? Are psychiatric problems inherited, rooted in faulty genes (though amplified by environmental factors) – or brought on by abusive or wrong nurturance?
These questions are the domain of the "medical" school of mental health.
Others cling to the spiritual view of the human psyche. They believe that mental ailments amount to the metaphysical discomposure of an unknown medium – the soul. Theirs is a holistic approach, taking in the patient in his or her entirety, as well as his milieu.
The members of the functional school regard mental health disorders as perturbations in the proper, statistically "normal", behaviours and manifestations of "healthy" individuals, or as dysfunctions. The "sick" individual – ill at ease with himself (ego-dystonic) or making others unhappy (deviant) – is "mended" when rendered functional again by the prevailing standards of his social and cultural frame of reference.
In a way, the three schools are akin to the trio of blind men who render disparate descriptions of the very same elephant. Still, they share not only their subject matter – but, to a counter intuitively large degree, a faulty methodology.
As the renowned anti-psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz, of the State University of New York, notes in his article "The Lying Truths of Psychiatry", mental health scholars, regardless of academic predilection, infer the etiology of mental disorders from the success or failure of treatment modalities.
This form of "reverse engineering" of scientific models is not unknown in other fields of science, nor is it unacceptable if the experiments meet the criteria of the scientific method. The theory must be all-inclusive (anamnetic), consistent, falsifiable, logically compatible, monovalent, and parsimonious. Psychological "theories" – even the "medical" ones (the role of serotonin and dopamine in mood disorders, for instance) – are usually none of these things.
The outcome is a bewildering array of ever-shifting mental health "diagnoses" expressly centred around Western civilisation and its standards (example: the ethical objection to suicide). Neurosis, a historically fundamental "condition" vanished after 1980. Homosexuality, according to the American Psychiatric Association, was a pathology prior to 1973. Seven years later, narcissism was declared a "personality disorder", almost seven decades after it was first described by Freud.
II. Personality Disorders
Indeed, personality disorders are an excellent example of the kaleidoscopic landscape of "objective" psychiatry.
The classification of Axis II personality disorders – deeply ingrained, maladaptive, lifelong behavior patterns – in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition, text revision [American Psychiatric Association. DSM-IV-TR, Washington, 2000] – or the DSM-IV-TR for short – has come under sustained and serious criticism from its inception in 1952, in the first edition of the DSM.
The DSM IV-TR adopts a categorical approach, postulating that personality disorders are "qualitatively distinct clinical syndromes" (p. 689). This is widely doubted. Even the distinction made between "normal" and "disordered" personalities is increasingly being rejected. The "diagnostic thresholds" between normal and abnormal are either absent or weakly supported.
The polythetic form of the DSM's Diagnostic Criteria – only a subset of the criteria is adequate grounds for a diagnosis – generates unacceptable diagnostic heterogeneity. In other words, people diagnosed with the same personality disorder may share only one criterion or none.
The DSM fails to clarify the exact relationship between Axis II and Axis I disorders and the way chronic childhood and developmental problems interact with personality disorders.
The differential diagnoses are vague and the personality disorders are insufficiently demarcated. The result is excessive co-morbidity (multiple Axis II diagnoses).
The DSM contains little discussion of what distinguishes normal character (personality), personality traits, or personality style (Millon) – from personality disorders.
A dearth of documented clinical experience regarding both the disorders themselves and the utility of various treatment modalities.
Numerous personality disorders are "not otherwise specified" – a catchall, basket "category".
Cultural bias is evident in certain disorders (such as the Antisocial and the Schizotypal).
The emergence of dimensional alternatives to the categorical approach is acknowledged in the DSM-IV-TR itself:
"An alternative to the categorical approach is the dimensional perspective that Personality Disorders represent maladaptive variants of personality traits that merge imperceptibly into normality and into one another" (p.689)
The following issues – long neglected in the DSM – are likely to be tackled in future editions as well as in current research. But their omission from official discourse hitherto is both startling and telling:
The longitudinal course of the disorder(s) and their temporal stability from early childhood onwards;
The genetic and biological underpinnings of personality disorder(s);
The development of personality psychopathology during childhood and its emergence in adolescence;
The interactions between physical health and disease and personality disorders;
The effectiveness of various treatments – talk therapies as well as psychopharmacology.
III. The Biochemistry and Genetics of Mental Health
Certain mental health afflictions are either correlated with a statistically abnormal biochemical activity in the brain – or are ameliorated with medication. Yet the two facts are not ineludibly facets of the same underlying phenomenon. In other words, that a given medicine reduces or abolishes certain symptoms does not necessarily mean they were caused by the processes or substances affected by the drug administered. Causation is only one of many possible connections and chains of events.
To designate a pattern of behaviour as a mental health disorder is a value judgment, or at best a statistical observation. Such designation is effected regardless of the facts of brain science. Moreover, correlation is not causation. Deviant brain or body biochemistry (once called "polluted animal spirits") do exist – but are they truly the roots of mental perversion? Nor is it clear which triggers what: do the aberrant neurochemistry or biochemistry cause mental illness – or the other way around?
That psychoactive medication alters behaviour and mood is indisputable. So do illicit and legal drugs, certain foods, and all interpersonal interactions. That the changes brought about by prescription are desirable – is debatable and involves tautological thinking. If a certain pattern of behaviour is described as (socially) "dysfunctional" or (psychologically) "sick" – clearly, every change would be welcomed as "healing" and every agent of transformation would be called a "cure".
The same applies to the alleged heredity of mental illness. Single genes or gene complexes are frequently "associated" with mental health diagnoses, personality traits, or behaviour patterns. But too little is known to establish irrefutable sequences of causes-and-effects. Even less is proven about the interaction of nature and nurture, genotype and phenotype, the plasticity of the brain and the psychological impact of trauma, abuse, upbringing, role models, peers, and other environmental elements.
Nor is the distinction between psychotropic substances and talk therapy that clear-cut. Words and the interaction with the therapist also affect the brain, its processes and chemistry - albeit more slowly and, perhaps, more profoundly and irreversibly. Medicines – as David Kaiser reminds us in "Against Biologic Psychiatry" (Psychiatric Times, Volume XIII, Issue 12, December 1996) – treat symptoms, not the underlying processes that yield them.
IV. The Variance of Mental Disease
If mental illnesses are bodily and empirical, they should be invariant both temporally and spatially, across cultures and societies. This, to some degree, is, indeed, the case. Psychological diseases are not context dependent – but the pathologizing of certain behaviours is. Suicide, substance abuse, narcissism, eating disorders, antisocial ways, schizotypal symptoms, depression, even psychosis are considered sick by some cultures – and utterly normative or advantageous in others.
This was to be expected. The human mind and its dysfunctions are alike around the world. But values differ from time to time and from one place to another. Hence, disagreements about the propriety and desirability of human actions and inaction are bound to arise in a symptom-based diagnostic system.
As long as the pseudo-medical definitions of mental health disorders continue to rely exclusively on signs and symptoms – i.e., mostly on observed or reported behaviours – they remain vulnerable to such discord and devoid of much-sought universality and rigor.
V. Mental Disorders and the Social Order
The mentally sick receive the same treatment as carriers of AIDS or SARS or the Ebola virus or smallpox. They are sometimes quarantined against their will and coerced into involuntary treatment by medication, psychosurgery, or electroconvulsive therapy. This is done in the name of the greater good, largely as a preventive policy.
Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, it is impossible to ignore the enormous interests vested in psychiatry and psychopharmacology. The multibillion dollar industries involving drug companies, hospitals, managed healthcare, private clinics, academic departments, and law enforcement agencies rely, for their continued and exponential growth, on the propagation of the concept of "mental illness" and its corollaries: treatment and research.
VI. Mental Ailment as a Useful Metaphor
Abstract concepts form the core of all branches of human knowledge. No one has ever seen a quark, or untangled a chemical bond, or surfed an electromagnetic wave, or visited the unconscious. These are useful metaphors, theoretical entities with explanatory or descriptive power.
"Mental health disorders" are no different. They are shorthand for capturing the unsettling quiddity of "the Other". Useful as taxonomies, they are also tools of social coercion and conformity, as Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser observed. Relegating both the dangerous and the idiosyncratic to the collective fringes is a vital technique of social engineering.
The aim is progress through social cohesion and the regulation of innovation and creative destruction. Psychiatry, therefore, is reifies society's preference of evolution to revolution, or, worse still, to mayhem. As is often the case with human endeavour, it is a noble cause, unscrupulously and dogmatically pursued.