Brain And Mental Illness
Mental illness is a vast range of mental disorders that affect our emotions and behavior. These include anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and depression. Different mental health conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Many of us have been through an emotional rollercoaster since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Many of us have experienced different mental health issues, ranging from mild depression to suicidal ideation. These issues can develop into illnesses if not treated, as their symptoms can affect our behavioral function.
Mental illness can cause complications in our daily lives. It can affect our relationships, work, and personality. But did you know that mental illness can also affect our body, especially our brain? Mental illness can affect brain chemistry and structure, chemical reactions, and different brain regions.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness
Signs and symptoms vary depending on the kind of mental problem. Trying to differentiate these mental illnesses through presenting symptoms is not easy.
We usually go to a qualified mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis, but the signs below are some common symptoms of mental illness in adults.
- Mood swings or severe changes in mood
- Prolonged feelings of anger
- Extreme feeling of sadness
- Decrease ability to cope with stress
- Being delusional and paranoid
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Having difficulty focusing and learning new things
- Avoiding social groups and friends
- Inability to perceive changes in personal feelings and what others might feel
- Substance abuse like drug addiction or alcoholism
- Changes in eating habits
- Being worried about gaining body weight and physical appearance
- Prolonged apathy and depression
What Causes Mental Illnesses?
The definite cause of mental illness is unknown, but there are a lot of factors that contribute to mental disorders. These factors can be genetic, environmental, behavioral, or psychological.
Mental illnesses may cause abnormality of the nerve pathways and other nerve cells. These are the pathways that connect the different brain regions. The biological factors of a mental illness contribute to the adverse effects that influence mental health.
- Genetics or Heredity
Mental illness runs in the family. A family member with a history of mental illness also increases the risk of developing it. Being at risk is passed on to generations through genes, and life experiences such as abuse, stress, or a traumatic event can trigger it.
- Prenatal Damage
Unborn children exposed to environmental stressors can have developmental problems. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect the child’s brain development. This could cause common mental health disorders, such as autism and ADHD.
Viruses and bacteria cause some psychiatric disorders. This is when bacteria enter the central nervous system and infect the brain. This leads to inflammation and the destruction of brain tissue. Infection can influence brain activity and develops into mental or brain disorders.
- Brain Damage or Injury
A traumatic brain injury can lead to mental disorders. The brain is essential for our nervous system to function well. Any damage to it can cause our bodies to malfunction. Head traumas and brain tumors can both alter brain function and structure.
- Poor Parenting or Child Abuse
Having a traumatic childhood can lead to depression and anxiety. It can also hurt the child’s brain development, leading to psychological and behavioral problems later in life. Experiencing adverse childhood events (ACEs) may cause aggressive behavior or PTSD.
- Poor Nutrition
What we eat affects our mental health. Having a healthy diet is beneficial to our body and brain. Eating the right food is essential for proper brain development. A protein-rich diet nourishes brain tissues and enzymes.
How Mental Illness Affects the Brain
The human brain is the organ that controls decision-making, behavior, and how we react to things. It controls everything, from our actions and movement to our senses and memories. It is also the source of all human emotions.
We all know that understanding brain function can be complex and confusing. But all we need to know is that the brain sends a message throughout the body through the spinal cord and the nerves.
The brain sends electrical signals through a process called neurotransmission. Nerve cells that are responsible for these electrical signals are called neurons. Neurons communicate with each other and control our glands, muscles, and nerves.
When someone has a mental illness, it affects the brain’s chemistry and function. It disrupts communication between the neurons. These changes also affect the flow of neurotransmission. Mental disorders are linked to changes in levels of the chemicals in the brain.
Suffering mental stress causes our adrenal glands to produce excessive cortisol. This chemical is our body’s primary hormonal response to stress. It helps our brain control our moods and emotions. Too much of it can change the brain’s chemistry and trigger symptoms of depression.
Our brains have chemicals called neurotransmitters. They help the brain communicate with other neurons. Having a mental illness affects the levels of these chemicals in the brain. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health believe that a patient with depression has a lower level of serotonin, a type of neurotransmitter known for its mood-boosting benefits.
Taking antidepressants can also cause an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Taking it for a long time could lead to mental disorders such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease.
Brain And Mental Illness
- Discuss the importance for the psychiatric nurse practitioner of knowing the relationship between brain development, neurotransmitters, and mental illness.
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