The world is constantly telling us how to feel, where to go and who to be. For those of us who are wired differently, who do not necessarily follow the expected social norms because of health irregularities or diverse circumstances, it may be a constant battle trying to be socially acceptable when we know in our hearts and in our heads that we are different. Our minds are always racing, but our hearts are beating slower and slower by the day. There is a churning in our stomachs, like any second, the bottom is going to drop, and we would be left looking at incomplete versions of ourselves – versions who do not deserve to be here. While others may go about their day like they have the world at their feet, we feel like we may have just been swallowed by the world. These feelings although so personal should not be monopolized because a lot of people deal with mental illness.
No doubt, a label such as mental illness is very strong and those who may be going through it may see themselves as social pariahs; people who are misunderstood, unable to hold it together, and impossible to love. They may not understand it and therefore feel so alone in a world with billions of people. No matter who you are, where you come from and what you may be suffering from, everyone deserves to be here. Everyone deserves to live a healthy, full and prosperous life. We know that sometimes that is not the case, things happen in our lives that set us back or make us feel like we are not whole. But we are everything and anything we decide to be. So, the first step to dealing with issues such as mental health/mental illness is to understand it better. If we understand it, acknowledge its existence, and what is does to our whole being, we can start looking for ways and methods in which it can be managed. Let’s break it down, shall we?
MENTAL:-The word mental refers to the mind or an intellectual process of one’s thinking.
MENTAL ILLNESS:- also known as mental disorder is a wild range of conditions that can physically affect or completely change the behavioral pattern, mood, and thinking process of a person.
Mental health and Mental illness is a very vast topic. It is also a vague and sensitive subject, hence, should be discussed with care and diagnosed by a professional as there are various levels and forms of mental illness. The Symptoms showing that a person is mentally ill may not be clear and easily perceived by others. Regardless, the slightest symptom should never be ignored because the condition associated with mental illness in most cases, progressively gets worse over a period of time, if it is not attended to promptly.
Not to deviate from the topic but I have seen scenarios where people use “the mental illness pity card” as a pass to not take responsibility for their actions or wrong doings. Yes! The mental illness pity card is a thing for people that are truly suffering to give them a chance to get help. But, it is unfortunate that most people abuse this type of privilege that is given to help people who are suffering. We must understand that taking responsibility for one’s action is a very difficult task. The term responsibility comes with a lot of obligations and challenges that people often shy away from. Mental illness is a serious issue and should always be treated as such.
Let us take a look at some common symptoms and conditions associated with this disorder:
- Mood disorder (depression disorder)
- Eating disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Personality disorder
- Psychotic disorder
- Trauma-related disorders/ post-traumatic stress disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
In order for us to understand how these disorders are developed and how much of an impact they have on the human mind and body, let us take a quick overview of how the brain functions daily.
HOW THE BRAIN FUNCTIONS
As we know, the nervous system controls and integrates the activity of various parts of the body. The nervous system is divided into two parts, the central nervous system [CNS] and the peripheral nervous system [PNS]. The Central Nervous System consist of two vital Organs; spinal cord and the brain.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord, a spiral structure running almost the full length of the back, carries information to and fro from the brain and the body. At the brain stem where the spinal cord is attached to the brain, it links the 31 spinal nerves of the peripheral nervous system; [8 cervical pairs of nerves, 12 thoracic pairs of nerves, 5 lumbar pairs of nerves, 5 sacral pairs of nerves, 1 coccygeal pair of nerve]. Alongside the other nerves of the peripheral nervous system that runs in from the skin, muscles, and the joints.
The brain which is a huge and complex part of the Central nervous system is responsible for interpreting information from the outside world and also responsible for the ability to process responsivity, emotions, memory and creativity. The brain has 4 different lobes and each lobe have sub-units that function differently, but they are all connected to serve a major purpose; ‘interpretation of information and the processing of a response’.
The lobes of the brain
- Frontal lobe [located near the forehead]:- Responsible for personality, behavior, emotions, judgment, planning, problem solving, speech [broca’s area], body movement, self-awareness, and intelligence.
- Occipital lobe [located at the rear portion of the skull, behind the parietal and temporal lobes]:- Interprets vision from the retina of the eye.
- Temporal lobe [also known as the neo-cortex is located at the middle cranial fossa, a space located close to the skull base]:- Understanding language (Wernicke’s area), memory, and hearing.
- Parietal lobe [also known as the sensory area is located near the center of the brain, behind the frontal lobe, at the front of the occipital lobe and above the temporal lobe]:- Is responsible for the sense of touch, pain, temperature and the interpretation of language, hearing and memory.
The Cortex, hypothalamus, thalamus , cerebellum, etc…. all make up to form the brain. Each are separately categorized into the different lobes of the brain. From information being stored in the brain to how the brain processes those information, we can see that the nervous system plays a key role in one’s daily life. For example, a change in temperature will affect the way the brain processes an information to produce a response. Even a change in environment will also affect the way the brain processes an information to produce a response. People think differently, everyone has a different level of intellectual processing. Overall, whatever information has been stored in the brain will have an impact to how the brain processes a response in our daily lives.
STRESS AND HOW IT AFFECTS BRAIN FUNCTIONS
The most common cause of brain impairment is “stress”. Stress can affect not only one’s memory but, it can also affect other brain functions like, responsivity – (mood and anxiety). In recent years, stress has been noted as one of the major causes of cardiac health problems like hypertension.
According to Dr. Ressler from the Harvard medical school (www.health.harvard.edu), -“Researchers believe that when one part of your brain is engaged, the other parts of your brain may not have as much energy to handle their own vital task. For example, if you are in a dangerous or emotionally tasking situation, the amygdala (the part of your brain that governs your survival instincts) may take over, leaving the parts of your brain that helps to store memories and perform higher-order tasks with less energy and the ability to get their own jobs done. The basic idea is that the brain is shunting its resources because it’s in survival mode, not memory mode. This is why you might be forgetful when you are under stress or may even experience memory lapses during traumatic events.
So, we have established what a mental illness is, the common disorders associated with mental illness, and an understanding on how the brain functions. Next time, we will take a look at the types of mental disorders and how they can cause life impairment.
Thank you for reading. Please share and let’s educate ourselves more on the topic; “Mental Health” in order to improve our lives.
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Written by Rachanta Rach (BSC Biochemistry)
Edited by @ayamba.theblog. Follow us on Instagram for more updates
PLEASE, REMEMBER TO ASK FOR HELP. KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE) – National Hope line Network
- 1-866-488-7386 (1-866-4.U.TREVOR aimed at gay and questioning youth)
- National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Helpline— 1-800-931-2237 or text NEDA to 741741
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders(ANAD) — 630-577-1330
Mental Health Crisis Lines / Suicide Hotlines
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline— 1-800-273-TALK
- Trevor helpline / Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ+ Teens— 1-866-488-7386
- Crisis Text Line— Text HOME to 741741
- Gay & Lesbian National Hotline— 1-888-THE-GLNH (1-888-843-4564)
- IMAlive— online crisis chat
- National Runaway Safeline— 1-800-RUNAWAY (chat available on website)
- Teeline— 310-855-4673 or text TEEN to 839863 (teens helping teens)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)