Please note this post is very science heavy…
Recent article from The New York Times, “In a Novel Theory of Mental Disorders, Parents’ Genes Are in Competition“a biologist and sociologist give new thought to how Autism and Schizophrenia might form the two poles for a spectrum of mental disorders.
Interesting enough when I was studying psychology at NC State University, I did a bit of hypothesis building of my own in regards to the linkage between AD(H)D and bipolar disorders. These happen to very similar to spectrum disorders and at the time a lot of research had been done on childhood AD(H)D and implications for adulthood. The synopsis of my survey of literature pointed to the fact that there was a connection in occurrences in families for both disorders and that the genetic research to date (some being done and NCSU by visiting professors) and leading AD(H)D research like that of Russell Barkley indicated that there could be biological and environmental explanations for manifestation of a spectrum of ADD to Bipolar.
It is a logical conclusion that there would be a larger spectrum of mental disorders but I believe the two in the nytimes.com article drastically downplay the role of multiple genes interacting and the role environment plays is wiring the brain to act in certain ways, for example, as it is exposed to specific levels of chemicals or reactions over a prolong period of time. This could explain why a child with ADD that is treated early on can see the disappearance of symptoms as they become adults — the medication and treatment (biofeedback or counseling) reinforce the way the brain should develop despite chemical imbalances that exist thus “hard wiring” and “training” the brain to act in a new way to stimulus.
I am very glad to see new thought being developed in this area. It is a taboo area and underfunded despite how many people and families are impacted by these types of disorders. I am the son of a father with bipolar.