Oleh Chaban: A normal person must cry

12.09.2011 | Text: Kateryna Hrebenyk Komentari:

MD Oleh Chaban, Professor, Academician of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Head of the Department of Borderline States and Somatoform Disorders of the Ukrainian R&D Institute of Social and Labor Psychiatry and Narcology under the Healthcare Ministry, and First Vice President of the Association of Psychotherapists and Psychoanalysts of Ukraine gave an interview for k:

KW: To what extent does a persons mental health depend on their standard of living and social well-being? What factors external or internal play the lead role in the appearance of psychic disorders?

O.C.: Physical and mental health depend on a number of essential factors, one of them being a persons individual genetic composite. If, for example, the parents of children suffer from a mental disorder like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder etc, the probability that it is hereditary is 10-15% to 25-30% depending on whether such diseases are observed throughout the genetic line. But from these figures it is also clear that there are other factors. After the genetic factor, socio-psychological determinants form the second most influential factor.


KW: Can you say that the remaining 70-90% are their contribution?

O.C.: Nobody can tell today whether the ratio is 50/50 or 75/25. It is difficult to calculate a persons genetic predisposition, since no scholars know it for certain. How well do you know the history of diseases in your family? At best, the grandfather and grandmother are healthy. But this is minimal information and if you dig a bit deeper, it is a black hole. Meanwhile, the genetic factor is passed down from generation to generation and nobody knows of its origin.

KW: What point of view on this matter is currently accepted in scientific circles?

O.C.: Last year, a large study focusing on the extent to which the biological factor influences a persons life expectancy was conducted. Its results showed that we exaggerate the significance of biological and genetic factors. The socio-psychological state of a person upbringing, living conditions, environment, the feeling of happiness with life and self-realization accounts for over 50% of their significance. These factors can fully eliminate the genetic factors. In addition, their significance is currently on the rise.

KW: Does this mean that a socially satisfied person is less vulnerable to such diseases?

O.C.: Not only does such a person get sick less, but they also recover faster and experience fewer complications. As paradoxical as it may seem, this also applies to infectious diseases. Every year we have a flu epidemic of some new strain that nobody has immunity to seeing as there are so many of them. In any case, some people get sick and some dont. Why? What is the reason? Is it a persons immune system? For example, the studies of German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann proved that the probability of catching the flu and getting sick depends on a persons level of satisfaction, happiness and optimism.

KW: So, what exactly is depression the cause of a disease or a consequence of disruption of a persons health?

O.C.: In psychiatry distraction and depression are diseases that have a clear determinant and biological and socio-psychological constituents. Cases of depression in the modern world are steadily on the rise and people are starting to get the impression that the world is getting depressive on the whole. Whats going on? Did people lose their minds over a hundred years or did the neurotransmitter serotonin suddenly leak out of their brains? Most likely, the matter is one of socio-psychological factors, such a continuous state of crisis, social unrest and technical over-saturation.

KW: How do you assess the role of the informational background in the range of psycho-social factors?

O.C.: Clearly, human beings cannot live outside the information box, as they are social creatures. However, if to take any newspaper and evaluate every plot and story with a plus or minus sign, we will see that there are many more cons than pros. Meanwhile, there exists the notion of psychological balance. It is believed that a person must receive seven pluses for every minus in order to be psychologically well-balanced. And people must find those positive aspects inside themselves in order to neutralize the negative ones.

KW: It turns out that positive thinking is a guarantee of persons strong health?

O.C.: I dont like the term positivism at all. It stands for an entire field in psycho-therapy founded by German scientist Nossrat Peseschkian. Personally, I am against such western, American types of people that constantly have a smile on their face. A normal person must rejoice and suffer. Sometimes a person needs to cry. As Sigmund Freud said, the task of a psychotherapist is to rid a person of their pathological grief, which prevents a person from social adaptation and give him a normal suffering.

KW: Then why should one treat depression if emotional suffering is normal for a person?

O.C.: There is a heated discussion in the U.S. whether there is some biologically determined rationale to depression. Scientists came up with the term rumination, which is a state of mind where a person is basically in stagnation in terms of social activeness. In the chase after a career, success, money and happiness, people simply lose their essential guidelines in life. At some point, they need to stop and pinch themselves to wake up. That is when depression comes as a blessing - lie down and relax, suffer and think about where are you going and what do you want or need from life. But I dont want to talk about depression as an existential crisis that every person must go through. I am a psychiatrist and every day I see depressed people that needs medical treatment. But I also understand that this is due to the socio-psychological rat race when people substitute some profound values with business or trade relations based on the principle I saw it on TV and so I need that.

KW: How in this case how can a person realize that they are in a state of depression that must be cured?

O.C.: Weight loss, sleep disorders, lack of vital energy and loss of work efficiency can be observed. In addition to that, a person gives deep thought to the hardships of life and cannot get any satisfaction from everyday usual things.

Such people are not happy with anything in life, they only think about the past believing that everything good is a thing of the past and nothing good is on the horizon. If this goes on uninterrupted for two weeks straight, wouldnt you fall into clinical depression and possibly need to consult a doctor.

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