We are not the Slaves of our Brains: Peter Kinderman

In my last blog post, I criticised the approach of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA in treating addiction as a medical disorder. Of course, it is not just addiction that is thought to be due to brain dysfunction by many neuroscientists, psychiatrists and other medical practitioners. Mental health problems are considered to reflect neurotransmitter dysfunction by many people in these professions. And Big Pharma (the drug industry) encourages this view.

I am reading a fascinating book at the moment, A Manifesto for Mental Health: why we need a revolution in mental health care by Clinical Psychologist and academic Peter Kinderman. I thought the following quote from Peter’s book to be particularly appropriate to what I said about brain and behaviour in my last blog post. [I have shortened Peter’s paragraphs to make the quote easier to read online.]

‘It is a simple fact of life that all of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions emanate from the biological activity of our brains. But this does not imply that mental health problems therefore need to be regarded as brain diseases.

Our brains have evolved to allow us to process information about the world and make sense of our environment. These neurological mechanisms underpin all psychological processes, whether that involves depression, anxiety, falling in love, writing poetry or going to war.

It is vital to understand the involvement of neurotransmitters, of synapses and neurones in human behaviour, but it is misleading to suggest that only mental health problems have biological elements. The biology of human thought and human emotion is universal.

When things happen to us, there are biological consequences (our brains change, physically, for example, when we’re lonely), but those consequences are true for all of us, not just those of us labelled as ‘ill’.

We all differ in our basic biological makeup, but the science is clear: biological differences between people seem to explain very little of the differences between us in terms of our mental health.’

Thank you, Peter, for these wise words.

Photograph by Nick Shuliahin, shown on Unsplash, a source of free high resolution photographs.