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Author Topic: Genetic predisposition to suicide  (Read 4434 times)

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Online VekseidTopic starter

Genetic predisposition to suicide
« on: June 09, 2009, 11:28:42 AM »
A bit counterintuitive...

Quote
...
From the 162 families, the researchers selected 417 subjects who were diagnosed with schizoaffective/bipolar disorder, bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder.

These subjects were asked whether they had ever attempted suicide and the degree of intent of the most serious attempt. One hundred fifty-four subjects said they had attempted suicide, and 122 stated that they had “definite” intent. For the purpose of this study, the latter were considered to have a history of attempted suicide.

Data for all 417 subjects was entered into a computer program that looks for genetic similarities between subjects with similar psychological profiles. Results indicated that family members with a history of attempted suicide and bipolar disorder showed a high degree of genetic similarity at a specific area -- DNA marker D2S1777 -- on a section of chromosome 2 referred to as 2p12. This is the same marker implicated in a 2004 study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that looked at attempted suicide and major depression. And it is close to another marker, D2S1790, located in the 2p11 region of chromosome 2, which was identified in a 2004 study from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine that looked at alcoholism and attempted suicide.
...

Offline Elayne

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2009, 11:39:02 AM »
Not at all. 

People who are mentally ill are much more likely to attempt suicide then people who are not mentally ill.  Most mental illness do have markers that are based in brain chemistry and affected by genetic markers.  Plus, a strong indicator or symptom of mental illness is a predisposition towards self harm.  For instance, bipolar disorders are often first diagnosed when a patient begins to demonstrate self-destructive tendencies.

Futhermore, many medications that would suppress symptoms of schitzophrenia are depressants -  Most medicated patients describe feelings of powerlessness, impotence, disconnection and depression.

Also, the specific study that John Hopkins made examined families.  Obviously, family life can play a huge role in suicide.  Specifically, John Hopkins looked at families who already had histories of mental illness.

Now imagine this - you are a teenager.  Your mother is being medicated for bipolar disorder and seems constantly 'out of phase'.  You are not able to connect with her, or receive approval from her due to her own conditions.  Your father (if he is still around, mentally ill patients have a ridiculously high incidence of divorce) is the sole breadwinner, at work and stressed.  You are then diagnosed with bipolar disorder yourself and begin taking medication that makes you woozy, nauseous and makes the world feel ephemeral.  In addition, your going through the typical teenaged problems (your peer group makes fun of your mental health, your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you, you don't make the sports team or you get bad grades, your stressed with SATs and college applications, the economy's in a recession, etc.)

Under those conditions, it's pretty obvious that OF COURSE the subject is going to be depressed and anxious.  It would actually be abnormal for you NOT to be depressed under those circumstances, because depression is the natural response to stressors, which you are receiving in abundance.

So, it's not that 'suicide' is genetic -  But mental illnesses, which can be genetic, have a causative effect on suicidal tendencies, as well as creating the conditions where suicide can occur.

One of the major challenges of the modern psychological community is to combat this tendency by trying to engage the community with patients who are mentally ill and vice versa;  Trying to foster a feeling of legitimate social connection and positive human interaction can be an important factor in countering a mentally ill person's feelings of despondency and giving them a sense of hope for rehabilitation.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2009, 11:48:41 AM by Elayne »

Online VekseidTopic starter

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2009, 12:34:49 PM »
The idea of it being counterintuitive can still make sense on deeper reflection, but most people would equate a tendency for suicide to not reproducing. Thus...

Quote
One of the major challenges of the modern psychological community is to combat this tendency by trying to engage the community with patients who are mentally ill and vice versa;  Trying to foster a feeling of legitimate social connection and positive human interaction can be an important factor in countering a mentally ill person's feelings of despondency and giving them a sense of hope for rehabilitation.

Is that what is behind those 'depression kills' PSAs lately?

The knowledge that there is a genetic factor is itself quite powerful, though. Having a self awareness that one's current thought process is not 'right' or 'healthy' is itself a powerful defensive mechanism.

Offline Elayne

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2009, 12:41:10 PM »
Sorry, PSAs aren't my department.  :)  But I'd imagine so. 

Offline Lithos

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2009, 01:06:52 PM »
This is a bit to the side of the topic, but anyway something I think that might be wrong in the method of research, mainly the question of how serious the intent was. I do believe that the "definite" intent is a bit suspicious if the person still lives. Anyone that has actual, serious intent can figure out method and execution for suicide that actually works. I think that many of the failed suicide attempts are calls for help and / or attention themselves.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2009, 01:08:04 PM by Lithos »

Offline Elayne

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2009, 03:51:56 PM »
I really couldn't disagree with you more.

Suicide is the culmination of self-destructive tendencies and behaviors and these can be measured and, hopefully, prevented.

Implying that it's not serious; Any attempt of self-harm is serious, particularly when mental illness is involved.  When people mistakenly believe that "if he was serious, he'd just do it", it results in people who need help not getting the help the need, with tragic consequences.  It's incredibly rare for someone to simply commit suicide;  Suicide is virtually always at the end of a string of self destructive behaviour that can be noted and tracked.  And yes, this certainly includes previous attempts:  In most 'suicides", the victim had a prior attempt before succeeding.

I could refute the "It's a cry for help /attention" hypothesis as well, but I'm going to take a different approach.  So what?  So what if it's a cry for help?  Are you suggesting that if someone needs help, even if that help is simply attention, that it is somehow demeaning for them to ask for or receive help?  That's like saying that hospitals shouldn't treat someone who injures themselves on the work, because dialling 911 is just a call for help, or that an battered woman just wants attention brought on her abusive relationship.

Even if an attempt is a cry for attention, how does that make the attempt any less serious?

Even if an attempt is a cry for help, how does that in any way shape or form mean that help should not be given?

Offline Trieste

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2009, 09:12:51 PM »
If suicidal tendencies were inherited, wouldn't it have been selected out of the majority of the population by now?

[Random comment ripping on 'emo', or possibly punning on 'emu', goes here.]

I found it funny that the article specified that site 2p11, etc, is on chromosome 2. That's what the 2 at the beginning means... and if anyone is going to be able to read anything into the sites they give, they would already know that it would be on the upper arm of chromosome 2... One of those redundancies, I guess...

Online VekseidTopic starter

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2009, 09:22:05 PM »
Well it's not like the majority of the population is suicidal. Some also skip generations, I don't really get how that works, but it's err, pretty clear from my own first hand experience.

Then there's the matter of onset - while tendencies can be caught really quickly, the most vulnerable period doesn't necessarily occur in the teens, but rather in the 20's or 30's and on. Plenty of time to breed.


Offline Trieste

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2009, 09:31:35 PM »
Skipping a generation = recessive gene.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2009, 09:45:04 PM »
Recessive genes are harder to 'select out'.  Those carrying both recessives could be weeded out, but those with a masking dominant gene could still pass it on.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2009, 09:56:18 PM »
Yes, and it's even more difficult if it's X-linked or Y-dependent, etc. One child may have it, the other child may not.

Offline Lithos

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2009, 10:00:58 PM »
Here at Finland suicide used to be so popular that it was something like national sport, and has been researched a lot. And for what I can see, inherited properties do not have much to do with it. This post contains a bit of numbers but I find the subject interesting.

At 1991, Finland was the world leader in teen suicides, and among the top three in overall suicides alongside New Zealand and Iceland. But that has changed drastically in these past 18 years. Now we are at about same figures as other countries in the world. Personally, I would actually say that what dropped the figures was arrival of cell phones and internet. I think that they have way to decrease depression that comes from isolation, specially at dark times of winter.

But what ever the reason, this speaks very very strongly against suicide being genetic I think. If it was genetic, drastic changes like this in suicide rates would not happen now would they?

For practical example, consider these figures:

18 out of 100,000 Commit suicide in Finland these days. This figure was 30 out of 100,000 at 1991. Interestingly enough, the peak in suicide rates was also at peak of the growth of our economy so financial factors do not count in the least. At that time people here were wealthier than ever, and now at times of economic depression, suicide rates are down... maybe it affects suicide tendency in reverse way? x.x

Offline Maeven

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2009, 08:44:57 AM »
This is a bit to the side of the topic, but anyway something I think that might be wrong in the method of research, mainly the question of how serious the intent was. I do believe that the "definite" intent is a bit suspicious if the person still lives. Anyone that has actual, serious intent can figure out method and execution for suicide that actually works. I think that many of the failed suicide attempts are calls for help and / or attention themselves.

It's actually harder to kill yourself than you might think.

I tend to believe that many who end up being unsuccessful are guilted into 'admitting' that they really didn't want to end their life by family members who feel guilt at not recognizing the 'signs' and providing or getting help for their loved one. 

If suicidal tendencies were inherited, wouldn't it have been selected out of the majority of the population by now?

Not if the suicidal tendencies don't tend to emerge until after childbearing age.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2009, 11:31:30 AM »
Not if the suicidal tendencies don't tend to emerge until after childbearing age.

Yeah, mea culpa, mea culpa. I forgot how early we're able to produce offspring, and that not everyone is 26 and childless. :P

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2009, 12:49:50 PM »
Yeah, mea culpa, mea culpa. I forgot how early we're able to produce offspring, and that not everyone is 26 and childless. :P

You can have one of mine if you're feeling the void. :P

... No, really.  Please take one. 

Offline Trieste

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2009, 02:57:38 PM »
No, I'm not. I'm really not. :P

Offline Indigo

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2009, 05:39:44 PM »
Hmm..

...ugh....

My family is terribly depressed.  My mothers younger brother committed suicide before age 50, my brothers son climbed over my mothers 5th story balcony less then a year ago, my neighbors son, that I knew more then two years, shot himself in the head. Let's not even, speak of me.

So I ain't one of these 'Oh yes, I am depressed, so I know, I know what it's like!" people.  Do I sound like a bitch saying this? Fine, I never decided I'd be anything other then what I am, so I guess I dared to be a bitch and speak the truth instead of trying to be something I'm not.  I can't stand those who try to 'fit in' even when they really know they don't 'fit in' or know what they hell they're talking about.

Don't like me for it? Goooooooood.  I'm glad. *grins*

ON SUBJECT:

YES. I very much think there is a genetic predisposition..Why?  Because I think when you are born with a certain way of seeing things, and your family perhaps, hmm, also makes you aware of these things, and you cannot help but be immersed in certain things that could be incredibly depressing, then YeS YeS YeS, you can be predispositioned to this type of thing.

Whomever says otherwise has never lived in a family that is a 'classic' case and has no idea what they are speaking of.  Rhetoric counts for naught....it's experience that matters.

Offline Lithos

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2009, 07:40:05 PM »
Rhetoric counts for naught....it's experience that matters.

Experience is good thing to have, yes. But statistics tend to count for more overall.

Offline Indigo

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2009, 08:19:50 PM »
*snickers*

Ah yes...'but the statistics refute your expertise, so accept it.'

How droll.

I'm not trying to be an ass, but hell, I don't consider 'rolling over and accepting statistics' to be normal, so well....there we go, eh?

*smooch*

 ;D

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2009, 11:06:49 PM »
Don't really think this study, or at least the highlighted text anyway, says anything....at all really.  Honestly I'm not sure how the experiment got past any sort of review before someone actually invested in it.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2009, 08:03:14 AM »
I've come to this thread late, so apologies if I'm repeating anything that's already been said.  The first thing I want to say that a predisposition to suicide is not necessarily counterreproductive. 

I think that the effect of the age at which the tendency occurs has been well discussed and that the example of Huntington's Chorea (an autosomal dominant which causes an incurable disease which severely limits life expectancy) is apposite.  Owing to the late onset of symptoms, it has no effect on reproduction.

Secondly, I'd comment that the research refers to the inheritance of bipolar disorders and not a tendency to suicide per se.  The closest it comes to suggesting that a tendency to suicide is heritable is in saying that the bipolar disorders show links between two chromosome markers and bipolar conditions and that people with those conditions are more likely than the population average to commit suicide.  While the tendency to suicide might be exert a negative selective pressure, there are other aspects of bipolar disorders that do the opposite.  In other words, it's not as simple as it looks.  If you examine the list of people with bipolar disorders on wikipedia, you can see a number of very charismatic individuals, who may well owe that charisma to the "up" side of the bipolar coin.  In the case of someone like Russell Brand, whose bipolar disorder manifests in sex addiction (when he's up, he has sex because he feels good and when he's down, he has sex to cope with a poor self-image) that very characteristic might well improve reproductive performance.

The last thing I'd like to explore is the possible dangers inherent with identifying a perceived negative trait with a genetic marker.  The personality is the result of the interactions of a chaotically complex set of variables, some of them genetic and some of them environmental.  To place an over reliance on a chromosomal marker as an indicator of a personality trait seems simplistic at best and dangerous at worst.  I know that I risk rehashing the do we have the right to play god?© argument here, but when you look at the list referenced above, our society would be very much impoverished without the individuals mentioned.

It's an interesting piece of research, but I think that a lot more work is needed before it's findings can be considered to be the foundations on which future actions can be taken.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2009, 08:10:30 AM »
At best, I would consider using it only as a way of noting a possible future problem that could then be better treated, much the same way that inherited diabetes, heart disease or sickle trait are monitored. 

Offline Gunslinger

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2009, 11:37:00 PM »
I am skeptical.

I think they should have done this study in Japan. The country with the biggest suicide rates and is it an effect of a social condition rather then the DNA.

Offline Lithos

Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #23 on: June 15, 2009, 12:25:09 AM »
As I said, research here suggests that suicides are more of a social phenomenon instead of hereditary. There are certain types of mental conditions that make suicide more likely, and these might well be hereditary. The amount of such cases of total amount of suicides committed is minor though, at least around this part of the world.

Genetic disposition to suicide is entirely wrong term, more correct one would be genetic disposition to bipolar disorder for example, or to what ever condition is resarched.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Genetic predisposition to suicide
« Reply #24 on: June 15, 2009, 07:58:24 AM »
I am skeptical.

I think they should have done this study in Japan. The country with the biggest suicide rates and is it an effect of a social condition rather then the DNA.

Then you'd run into the question of whether it was a gene peculiar to the Japanese.  Ideally, the study would consist of an international set of subjects.