The P-Factor

“‘One of the most interesting origins for much of this aberrant thought comes out of harsh and inconsistent and unpredictable early environments,’ Caspi tells me. ‘Those kinds of experiences that set up the anticipation of bad things happening, or they set up the anticipation of being rejected, they set up the anticipation of being violated, they set up anticipation of constantly being threatened, and things going wrong. Things, you know, being unalterable. And thereby spiraling out of control. So I think a lot of it is about what those early experiences do – they distort our expectations about the future. And that’s why they’re so consequential.’…

…The p-factor might turn out to be nothing more than a statistical artefact. But if there’s some value in its conception, it’s in raising the possibility that targeted measures in childhood – prevention of abuse, effective treatment of mental disorders in parents, and cognitive behavioral therapy lessons in schools – could reduce the prevalence of the most severe mental disorders that diversify and disable throughout a person’s life…”

—Alex Riley, “The seed of suffering.” Aeon. May 14, 2021.

I buy the notion the mental illness has a progression, where our childhood lays the groundwork and our sensitivities combined with later environments can lead to different sequela that emerge from common origins, with inflammation serving as a useful metaphor.