Could viruses and infectious diseases cause mental health disorders? Scientific author and researcher, Harriet A. Washington, argues there is a compelling link. Her latest book, Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We “Catch” a Mental Illness, offers a groundbreaking look at germ theory and mental illness. On Tuesday, April 26th, NAMI Metro Baltimore and the Enoch Pratt Free Library welcomed Washington to Baltimore to discuss this cutting-edge research.
In the Writers LIVE Lecture, Washington presented case studies of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anorexia, that were likely caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Cases included links between bacteria in cat litter, paresis, and influenza and psychiatric symptoms. She further demonstrated that attributions of mental illness to genetics can also be explained by infectious causes. Washington highlights that in identical twins there is only a 40% chance that both individuals will develop schizophrenia.
Harriet Washington addressed more than 50 Baltimore community members. Among the audience were researchers Dr. Robert Yolken of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, whose work informed Washington’s book.
Washington concludes that this paradigm shift is critical to developing new approaches to not only treatment but also prevention. You can read more about her work here.
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