We’ve probably all heard the hypothesis that autism rates in the US are somehow related to vaccinations. Now, there are several factors on both sides of this issue:
1. Mercury used to be used in vaccinations but is no longer used.
2. Mercury poisoning causes brain damage with symptoms similar to autism, but it is not, technically, autism.
3. The reason for increasing “rates” of autism is that autism is being more frequently diagnosed. It was not even recognized in the earliest versions of the DSM. Autism in its severist form used to be considered a form of schizophrenia until the 1960s.
4. Wondering why we have “more” cases of autism would be like people a generation or two now wondering why there were increased cases of Loeys-Deitz Syndrome.
5. The term “autism” was originally coined by Eugen Beuler to describe schizophrenics being focused inwardly: literally “self-ism”. Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner were the first to describe young “schizophrenic” children being “autistic,” around the same time, but it is not known whether they were aware of each other’s research.
6. People generally think autism is supposed to be something rare. In fact, one of Asperger’s points was that in any large school, there were a certain number of students who had these characteristics.
So, the theory that autism is somehow spiking in our society due to some other factor (like vaccinations) is really just a factor of autism being identified.
Now, what about parental wisdom coming into play? One of the most basic flaws of medical ethics is the refusal of doctors to trust patients’ self-knowledge. I spent nearly seven years trying to get someone to listen about my TIAs till an angiogram turned up my brain aneurysm.
So parents say their kids start showing signs of autism when they get vaccinated. Maybe it’s not anything in the vaccine; maybe it’s the vaccine itself.
Autism is, fundamentally, an attachment disorder. I’ve read about studies where autistic patients were given pitocin, and it basically cured their autism. The endorphin-oxytocin cycle of the brain actually explains a great deal of mental health issues.
Oxytocin is the hormone that helps humans form pair bonds, particularly family bonds. It is triggered by several activities, and is the hormone that gives that true feeling of “euphoria” you get from:
1. Having a great conversation
2. Meeting someone you really like/are interested in (whether in terms of romance, friendship or professional relationship).
3. Skin to skin contact
4. Completing a job.
5. Prayer or meditation
6. Lots of exercise
8. Childbirth and breast feeding.
Most people who’ve heard of oxytocin have heard of it because of its role in childbirth and breast feeding. The mother’s body releases a ton of oxytocin when she gives birth, to both loosen her joints and loosen her mind. Her body also releases a ton of it when she breastfeeds, to help bond her with her baby. But oxytocin is triggered by any of the above activities, giving the body a sense of satisfaction and relaxation, and opening the mind to pair-bonding, whether it’s parent/child, husband/wife or friend/friend.
There is a cycle of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain which starts with endorphins and dopamine. These are the body’s “reward” hormones. They give that basic buzz you get when you finish a small pleasant task. The idea is to keep you going for the next “buzz” till the job’s done.
ADHD medicines trigger that part of the brain. So do caffein and cocaine. So does autoeroticism. Most addictive behaviors are addictive because they give the body that dopamine buzz. But the purpose of dopamine is to facilitate production of oxytocin, and too much triggering of dopamine can impede oxytocin.
So a great deal of mental health issues, including autism, are linked in some degree or another to failure of oxytocin in the system. The research I mentioned earlier tried artificial pitocin–the huge dose of artificial oxytocin sometimes given to pregnant woman to induce labor or help in a difficult labor–on autism patients and found them almost cured by it. But the dose was too strong to be healthy, and the implications of a drug that would make people trust one another implicitly were scary.
Now, let’s get back to the vaccination question. Vaccinations don’t cause autism, but do they exacerbate it? Parents think vaccines cause autism because the children’s behavior changes after receiving their shots. Mary says that about our own kids, that she saw marked changes in their behavior after their first sets of shots, not necessarily the first, but definitely the second.
Could the real connection not be a biochemical one, per se, but a psychological one? The infant’s entire sense of safety and trust is bound up in the parent bond. Vaccination takes that relationship of trust and immediately throws it into a challenge. The parent has brought the child to this stranger to be poked with a painful needle.
To a child with the genetic predisposition to autism, could this traumatic experience in infancy lead to a worse or earlier manifestation of autistic symptoms by breaking that crucial bond?