Psychology post

Could One Factor Explain All of These Psychological Disorders?

Arguing against the one box fits all title

There was a post in Psychology Today, bearing the same provocative suggestion: Could One Factor Explain All of These Psychological Disorders?

A new theory of psychological disorders proposes that it is not just what you can control but also whether you fear you will lose control. According to Concordia University’s Adam Radomsky, in a newly published paper (2022), “individuals struggling with a wide array of psychological problems do report concerns about losing control over a range of cognitive, emotional, physiological, and contextual domains”(p. 1).

My response was and is: Nah, that smacks of “I have this hypothesis, so I’ll just find the data to support it.”

(“well that happened”) Flashbacks and fear of it happening again (not always unrealistic); it’s triggered reactions. If a war vet dives under a table after a loud bang in civvy street, that’s NOT fear of loss of control; it’s a survival instinct being triggered.

(well, that happened a lot when I was younger). Same deal but way more complicated as this level of trauma in a maturing brain can and in many cases does cause actual neurological damage to the amydala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Put another way, child abuse causes actual brain damage, even without physical head trauma. It can wreck the body’s flight or flight system.

Society Anxiety:
How often is that down to abuse by ‘peers’ in the formative teenage years, picking on the odd kid, the ginger, the one in glasses, the overweight kid, the one in hand-me-downs? Easy targets for bullies. It carries forward in life, and the victim – and they are victims – finds a way to deal with it or not. They may try to control the factor (e.g. weight), but that’s not the same as fear of loss of control.

Again, that can often be traced to an event that triggered the behaviour. That’s not fear of loss of control; that’s an obsessive need to control one specific thing, whether it’s general cleaning, checking, double checking, triple checking something. And returning home to check again to make sure… That’s driven behaviour, not fear of loss of control.

This is a bit more complex as it leans more towards nature than (lack of) nurture and is often a comorbidity with high-functioning autism. Again, here it’s not fear of a loss of control but a need for conformity in the environment. Like books need to be in a set order. “This collection needs to be complete.”

Most people with mental disorders either fall into antisocial social disorders (where the loss of control is the issue, rather than fear of loss of control (but one can trigger the other, here) … Or they fall into “this was caused by life and or people with control issues and antisocial social disorders”. In the latter case, they don’t have the control to fear losing it.

Think in terms of a secretary with a controlling, bullying, shouty boss. Senior management doesn’t care, they put the bully in place; the secretary can’t leave because they need the job and is demoralised to the point he/she believes it will be the same in the next job if they can even find another post, so they stay and their mental health takes more hits.

So, yes, I think it’s a case of “this is what I think, so I’ll find data to support it.” A hundred years of research data already argue against one box fits all!

Counter and checkmate

I would say “In fairness…” because the article does points this out:

Is This Really a Theory of Everything?
It may never be possible to have one unified theory of all behavior, much less all behavior involved in psychological disorders

Then she goes and ruins it by jumping in with, “Yes, but I think it’s right, let’s find more shapes to fit in the box!”

However, Radomsky presents compelling evidence of the centrality of this concept.

To sum up, this “transdiagnostic” state of fear of loss of control could ultimately prove to have overarching value as an approach to anxiety and other disorders.

I certainly would not argue against the idea that, in some cases, this may lead to cause and solution. However, to try and use it as a broad brush for all the complexities of mental health and their underlying physical, emotional, neurological, and genetically bound factors is, at best, inane.

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