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Re-thinking the Mental Health Crisis

Emma Tekstra > Mental Health  > Re-thinking the Mental Health Crisis

Re-thinking the Mental Health Crisis

Life is tough. Unreasonable deadlines at work, an abusive boss or partner, financial worries, job insecurity, racism, stressful living situation, physical ill health, death of a loved one, relational difficulties… are all part of the human experience. What is it that enables some people to face these challenges with resilience and a positive outlook while others succumb to emotional ill health? Even those who are not dealing with these stressors in their life can regress into conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia. Kids are being diagnosed with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders at alarming rates.

What is it that enables some people to face these challenges with resilience and a positive outlook while other succumb to emotional ill health?

It’s a complicated and multi-faceted topic that I cannot do justice to in a short post. But I wanted to throw out a few nuggets for thought and I look forward to the discussion.

It’s interesting that for the most part conditions deemed to be “psychiatric” in nature are diagnosed through symptom clusters which are scientifically meaningless. A 2019 study of DSM-5* at the University of Liverpool raised an alarm over this practice. For example the study showed there are 24,000 possible combinations of symptoms for panic disorder; there are various diagnoses where two people could share the label but have zero symptoms in common; and there is so much overlap in symptoms that two doctors could come to completely different diagnoses for the same patient.

Symptoms are the body’s cry for help. But why is it that psychiatrists are the only medical professionals that do not look at the organ they treat, ie. the brain? Neurologists will look at the brain but their sphere of influence tends to be limited to afflictions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, noted as “neurological” conditions rather than “psychological”.  This further propagates the stigma of certain conditions as a moral failing of some kind rather than biological ill-health.

We can’t separate psychological conditions and mental health from our biological (physical) health. Brain “inflammation” is the common denominator in everything from Parkinson’s, to multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, autism, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and even depression. Unlike the rest of the body though, our brains don’t have any pain receptors so we can’t feel brain inflammation. It only manifests itself as symptoms, some of which may be in the realm of emotions or behavior.

Just as with any health condition it is important to dig into the root cause(s). 

Potential root causes of mental ill health

Head injury – your brain is soft and squishy housed inside a bony skull. It doesn’t take much to damage it. Falling out of bed, slipping in the shower, the car accident you had 3 years ago…

Emotional trauma – beyond the typical life experiences mentioned, a more acute trauma such as a natural disaster, being exposed to combat or physical/sexual abuse; even just witnessing someone being hurt or killed, can affect the brain long after the event has passed.

Toxins – such as mercury in your dental fillings, aluminum in your medications, pesticides and additives in your food, exposure to mold (that give off mycotoxins highly damaging to the brain).

Unbalanced microbiome – a shortage of good bacteria in your gut that make short-chain-fatty-acids which are important to synthesize critical hormones and neurotransmitters.

Food sensitivities – to food dyes and additives for example can commonly be expressed as neurological symptoms. It’s been shown that gluten sensitivity does not have to exhibit digestive problems and often neurological symptoms is the only manifestation.

Nutritional deficiencies – are the most common underlying cause of so much ill health. Pellagra for example was known in the 1930s as a deficiency of Niacin (vitamin B3). Pellagra psychosis was indistinguishable from schizophrenia. Studies have shown many schizophrenics can be completely cured through mega-dosing with Niacin.  

Blood sugar management – can impact brain health. Alzheimer’s is starting to be referred to as Type III diabetes due to the damage excess sugar does to the brain.

Thyroid disfunction – can affect any bodily system due to its role as the master metabolic regulator. Depression is often the first sign of a thyroid disorder.

Disordered immune system – due to an autoimmune condition or a chronic underlying infection such as Lyme disease, Epstein Barr, parasites, Candida etc. All have been known to raise the risk of psychiatric problems.

Lack of restorative sleep – can seriously affect the brain. See earlier posts on sleep.

Social isolation – humans are wired to need other humans in a physical (In-Real-Life) way.

So before you simply jump to a psychiatric medication (which can have serious side effects and addictive qualities that make them hard to discontinue) spend some time digging into the root causes. We’ll look at drug-free approaches to mental health in later posts.

*DSM-5 is the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Emma Tekstra
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