Savvy Psychologist: Today, we’re lucky to have with us Dr. Gail Saltz, who brings us a really interesting idea, which can be summed up in the title of her new book: The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius. In the book, she looks at the flip side of disorder and shows how many diagnoses—from depression to anxiety to ADHD-—can link to a hardwired strength. Dr. Saltz, welcome to the show
Dr. Gail Saltz: Thanks so much for having me.
SP: In your book, you introduce a new term, "brain difference." What is a brain difference?
GS: I tried to use this as a global way of understanding brains. We tend to think that if you have something going on, you must have something very broken. That's our society's current way of viewing things, as if there's this clear line between healthy and mental illness. And there really isn't. There's a project going on called the Connectome Project, where they're looking at thousands of "normal subjects" to study brain variation, because we don't actually have a current brain map.
And what is already apparent is that there is tremendous variation in brains - in structure, in connectivity, and in the ways that structures are connected to each other. There's always going to be some sort of bell-shaped curve, where things tend to fall in a wide range in the middle and then, of course, there will be things that fall on the end that maybe cause particular kinds of symptoms—symptoms that cause high anxiety, or that cause deep depression, or bipolar disorder etc—and those differences are just that: different. But we have tended to think of different as bad, and what I'm trying to explain in my book is that symptoms can be bad, and they can definitely make us suffer, and they should be understood and treated, but at the same time, when you have a difference, there's often a tie to very particular hard-wired strength. I think it's particularly important for the many people who suffer from these differences, as well as their loved ones and friends, to be able to search for that strength, and play to that strength, and nurture that strength, particularly in children.
Want more? Tune in using the podcast player below to hear the rest of the interview, including:
· Why some individuals can tap into their flip side strength and others can’t
· How to find the “sweet spot” between typical brains and brains that are hindered by disorder
Dr. Saltz is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital/ Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. She is a psychiatrist, columnist, bestselling author, television commentator, and magazine contributor and has been featured on Oprah, Dateline, Fox News, Anderson Cooper, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and many others. Pick up a copy of her newest book, The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius, wherever books are sold.