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All psychiatric conditions are caused by an interaction between a person’s mind and body, writes Peter White. Anorexia is a quite recent phenomenon, writes Declan Flynn

While it’s welcome news that researchers have found that certain metabolic genes are linked to anorexia nervosa (Anorexia ‘not solely a psychiatric problem’, 16 July), I suggest that Gerome Breen and colleagues have made a conceptual error in suggesting that this means the condition is not psychiatric. Psychiatric conditions are illnesses primarily concerning mental processes and symptoms, but this definition does not imply a psychological cause, and physical symptoms are common in mental illnesses – just think of the palpitations and over-breathing of a panic attack.

All psychiatric conditions are caused by an interaction between a person’s mind and body; specifically their biology (particularly their DNA), psychological makeup and social context. And gene activity itself can be determined by our environment through epigenetics. Biological processes are increasingly apparent in all mental illnesses through technical advances such as functional brain scans and genomic studies. Advances in prevention and treatment will come through greater understanding of how both mind and body interact to cause a mental illness, not by redefining such illnesses as solely physical.
Peter White
Emeritus professor of psychological medicine, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London

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After our daughter’s death I was overwhelmed by pain and anxiety. Microdosing home-grown mushrooms helped me cope

It was spring when my wife’s waters broke, three months early. We rushed to hospital, terrified. If our daughter arrived now, she might not survive. If she did, she would probably be plagued by lifelong health problems. Jo spent the next four days in hospital, while we prayed labour wouldn’t begin. But the night after we returned home, Jo’s contractions started and we raced back to hospital. Straight away, a foetal monitor was placed on her tummy. The brisk heartbeat we had been following so closely in the previous days was gone. Our daughter had died.

The train of our life was shunted on to a parallel track. We could see the train we were meant to be on pulling away, passing the milestones – the due date, introducing the baby to our family, the first smiles. But ahead of us now lay despair, guilt, a funeral, photos of our precious girl that some family members could barely bring themselves to look at, and support groups where every story would be more heart-rending than the last. There is no right way to deal with losing a baby, but I would call my coping strategy unusual: I became obsessed with growing magic mushrooms.

I was risking seven years’ jail time and the destruction of my family for what had essentially become a mad hobby

As scientific research goes, it was about as far from a controlled experiment as it is possible to get

Related: 'It makes me enjoy playing with the kids': is microdosing mushrooms going mainstream?

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The endless targets and tests are clearly causing harm, writes Fiona Carnie. And Janet Mearns laments the state of school administration systems when it comes to bereaved pupils

Instead of training up teachers to recognise children who are showing signs of mental distress, it might be preferable to support them to make their classrooms into stress-free zones (Teachers to be trained to spot mental health issues, 17 June). There is no reason why learning should be unduly stressful. And yet at an education conference in London last week, attended by a representative of the Department for Education, there was explicit recognition by headteachers that schools are stressful places. The endless targets and tests are clearly causing harm.

I have visited joyful schools in such countries as Denmark, Finland, Bhutan and India as well as, occasionally, in the UK. It would be a better use of resources to make all our schools into positive, healthy environments where children feel nurtured and respected than to put measures in place to deal with the fallout of a system that is failing those it exists to serve.

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Singer says she pulled her performance because she felt ‘incredibly weak and full of anxiety’

Jess Glynne has been banned from performing at the Isle of Wight festival after cancelling her 16 June set at the last minute. Festival boss John Giddings told the Mirror that Glynne’s behaviour was “shocking” and “shows no regard for people that bought a ticket”.

He said: “She will never be booked to play the Isle of Wight again.” Glynne has not commented. The Guardian has contacted representatives for the singer.

Related: Jess Glynne’s no-makeup stunt at the Brits was trite, skin-deep feminism

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The more I stayed in, the more scared I became of going out. Signing up for improv classes helped my shyness to melt away

A few years ago I watched a comedy troupe improvise an Uber journey through Nudist Narnia. I studied their joyous, earnest expressions. I took in how genuinely happy and safe they looked in their whimsy. “You joyful fools,” I thought. “Your vigour for life appals me.”

Last year, my social anxiety was sky-high and my insomnia the worst it had ever been. Exhausted, I said no to every social invitation, but the more I stayed in, the more scared I became of going out. Work was stressful and adulthood felt so goal-oriented: work longer, run faster, cycle further, vegan harder.

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New guidance means those with conditions such as dementia or anxiety may be eligible for parking permit

People with invisible disabilities can now apply to use blue badge parking permits, the government has announced.

The Department for Transport (DfT) issued the new guidance on Saturday, advising that those with conditions such as dementia or anxiety disorders could be eligible for the scheme, which allows people to park closer to their destination.

Related: 'Don’t dwell on what you can’t do': travelling with disabilities

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Listening to people in need has enabled me to process my own emotions and appreciate the complexity of life

A ghostly, grey rubbery screen bulges with indistinct, yet recognisably human, shapes: a hand here, a face there. An unsettling hum underlies eerie, dislocated sounds. An icy voice half sings: “Is there anybody out there?” There is a harrowing howl, then a moment of respite: the word “yes” appears, followed by: “The Samaritans”.

These 55 seconds of existential desperation followed by five seconds of hope were shown on ITV in 1986, when I was seven. This advert had an effect on me. It was as if I had suddenly become aware of the extent to which humans could suffer. I had no idea what the Samaritans did, just that they were there.

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It’s not just about erections – from body confidence to chronic pain, people worry about sex for many reasons

  • This piece appears in ‘The ultimate guide to sex and intimacy’, free with the Guardian in the UK on Saturday

Sexual performance anxiety is a phrase often associated with men, conjuring images of ailing erections. But it’s a struggle common to many.

For me, as a chronically single people-pleaser with anxiety, sex with virtual strangers is the only way I get to have it. But this makes it even harder for me to say what I really want. This hit home recently when I found myself having terrible sex on an uninspiring mattress without a bed frame, with someone I’d met through a dating app, too anxious to say that this really wasn’t working for me.

I was absolutely terrified the first time I slept with another woman, because I was afraid I’d be awful

Related: Yes! Yes! Yes! We must break the silence about female pleasure

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Having concerns about how you look is not in itself a mental illness, but can trigger a range of problems

Like it or not, most of us are aware of how we look. We have all had a bad hair day, or worried whether we are wearing the right clothes for a particular event.

The traditional stereotype is that young women are more concerned about their appearance than young men. Societal pressures, media images, and doting relatives saying how pretty a female child looks all have an impact.

Related: One in three UK teenagers 'ashamed of their body'

Related: We’re deluged with images of ‘beauty’. No wonder so many of us feel so badDawn Foster

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BMJ findings reveal sleep problems, burnout and drink dependency due to heavy workloads

Doctors are turning to drink, binge-eating and prescribed drugs to cope with the mounting stresses of their jobs, research reveals.

Large numbers of doctors are troubled by sleeping problems, fatigue and headaches because workloads have become so heavy. And more than half of all medics (55%) are suffering from burnout, from the emotional exhaustion of their jobs.

Related: Junior doctor suicide makes me worry about how I'll cope in the job

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