Is there a link between the brain and mental illness?

Every now and again, we may experience a period of depression. Even though we know better, there are times when we make jokes about someone being mad or utterly insane. We've all had some experience with mental illness, but that doesn't imply we really comprehend or realize what it includes. Mental disease can emerge by influencing your ideas and feelings, influencing your behavior. This might make it difficult for the person to function in daily life. This, understandably, causes them a tremendous lot of grief.

People are typically reluctant to discuss mental illness. It might be difficult to comprehend why someone feels low or acts differently than normal. But it's vital to realize that everyone is unique and that we all cope differently.

Social factors can contribute to mental illness. Long-term stress, being in debt, losing a loved one, or experiencing abuse, neglect, or solitude are some of these reasons. A person's living environment might also contribute to poor mental health. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is one example, as is trauma from an accident, military duty, or witnessing a crime. Physical factors might include a head injury from a fall or a seizure. Finally, genetics can contribute to poor mental health.

Depression

Despite the fact that most causes are external, with the exception of heredity, a mental disease is frequently associated with the brain. This is due to alterations in the brains of persons suffering from mental diseases. However, it is crucial to realize that not everyone with a change in their brain will develop a mental disease. And not everyone suffering from a mental disorder will see a change in their brain.

Each form of mental illness is unique and can impact both the brain and the individual in different ways. It is important to note that not all brain disorders are mental health problems. Dementia, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis are among them. Having said that, when people deal with these life-changing diagnoses, these diseases can contribute to poor mental health.

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It is composed of grey matter, which is actually millions of neurons. These neurons communicate with the nerves in the body. Synapses transmit these messages from one nerve cell to another. These synapses are actually very small spaces between neurons. Messages are sent electrically along the neurons (also known as nerves). The message is chemically transmitted across the gap via neurotransmitters when it reaches the synapse. This is an oversimplified explanation of a complex process.

This is because mental health disorders can influence the brain's structure, chemistry, or function. Some mental diseases are caused by errors in how neurons communicate when the brain's chemistry is disturbed. For decades, researchers have claimed that persons suffering from depression had low amounts of the chemical serotonin in brain synapses. However, a fresh study has called that notion into question.

Antidepressant medicine that elevates serotonin levels in the brain has been used for many years and appears to offer advantages for persons with depression based on the assumption that low serotonin levels are associated with depression. Some experts believe that this might be due to the placebo effect. Evidence is also pointing to SERT, a protein that transports serotonin. However, the chemical imbalance idea appears to have some merit. Sorry if this perplexes you, but mental health and the brain are both extremely difficult topics.

According to the chemical imbalance idea, there is little serotonin but an excess of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol levels that are too high can harm the brain, notably the hippocampus. Because the hippocampus is crucial for learning and memory, injury to this portion of the brain can result in difficulty remembering things and difficulty learning, concentrating, or making decisions. It can eventually develop to dementia. Depression also has an effect on the brain, leading certain parts to be less active and others to be more active.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that can lead the person to see things that aren't there, speak in a garbled manner, and behave inappropriately or unexpectedly. There are various hypotheses on what changes in the brain create schizophrenia. One is that there is insufficient dopamine in the brain. Another issue is that certain locations have too much dopamine while others have not. This is problematic because dopamine is supposed to overstimulate neurons. This might result in aggressive or impulsive behavior. Another idea is that either too many or too few receptors exist. Receptors are the “lock” in neurons, while dopamine is the “key” that unlocks them. This is yet another incredibly complicated biological process, and while dopamine appears to influence the brain and behavior, the explanation for this is unknown. To make matters even more complicated, two more brain chemicals are involved in schizophrenia. Glutamate and norepinephrine are the two (also known as noradrenalin).

Drugs that inhibit dopamine receptors are one type of medicine used to treat schizophrenia. However, they have unpleasant side effects such as muscular spasms, stiffness, and tremors, which are all hallmarks of Parkinson's disease, which is also associated with low dopamine levels in the brain.

Anxiety and anxiety disorders account for 40% of all medical visits, which is troubling. Anxiety occurs when a person is too sensitive to events and is constantly worried or scared. The effect of anxiety on the brain is first and foremost that the stress hormone cortisol is present on a continuous basis. As previously stated, this can result in hippocampal brain damage. Chronically high cortisol levels can also impair sleep, exacerbating anxiety. Anxiety also causes the amygdala to expand, making it hypersensitive. The amygdala is a component of the limbic system, which is associated with emotions. Because of the amygdala's hypersensitivity, anxious persons are always scared and apprehensive. It also makes rational cognition and happy feelings much more difficult. Unfortunately, the amygdala is not acting alone in causing anxiety. Constant contact between a region of the brain's frontal lobe and the amygdala reinforces feelings of worry and terror.

As previously stated, the brain is inextricably intertwined with mental health since these conditions frequently produce chemical and anatomical changes in the brain. The good news is that many mental diseases are treatable with medicine and behavioral therapy.

References

  1. Mental health problems – an introduction https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/mental-health-problems-introduction/causes/
  2. The risk of developing depression when suffering from neurological diseases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3546419/
  3. Brain Basics: The Life and Death of a Neuron https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/public-education/brain-basics/brain-basics-life-and-death-neuron
  4. What has serotonin to do with depression? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471964/
  5. The serotonin theory of depression: a systematic umbrella review of the evidence https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-022-01661-0
  6. Overview – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/medicines-and-psychiatry/ssri-antidepressants/overview/
  7. Placebo Effect in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00407/full
  8. The serotonin theory of depression: a systematic umbrella review of the evidence https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-022-01661-0
  9. Effects of brain activity, morning salivary cortisol, and emotion regulation on cognitive impairment in elderly people https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616250/
  10. Where in the Brain Is Depression? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619732/
  11. Schizophrenia https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443#
  12. What Is Dopamine? https://www.verywellhealth.com/dopamine-5086831
  13. Schizophrenia https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/schizophrenia
  14. Dopamine and glutamate in schizophrenia: biology, symptoms and treatment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6953551/
  15. The Relationship Between Schizophrenia and Dopamine https://www.verywellmind.com/the-relationship-between-schizophrenia-and-dopamine-5219904
  16. Pathogenesis of Parkinson's Disease: dopamine, vesicles and α-synuclein https://bit.ly/3fqjtKB
  17. 40 per cent of all GP appointments about mental health https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/40-per-cent-of-all-gp-appointments-about-mental-health/
  18. The Neurobiology of Anxiety Disorders: Brain Imaging, Genetics, and Psychoneuroendocrinology https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684250/
  19. Anxiety and Sleep https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep

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