Chemical “Lochas” in the Brain

Since our childhood days we have been taught about the importance of physical health in life and the numerous ways to avoid sickness and diseases altogether. But the topic of mental health isn’t taken up as such.

Why is it so? Is it that the so called “mental patients” are different than us? Or is it that they are always dangerous to the people around them? The answer is a straightaway NO. Anyone from us – you, me or any of our acquaintances can suffer from any of the various mental illnesses, at any point of time in our lives. Some cases are subtle and can be easily coped up with, while others are so severe that the patient might require a mental asylum.

The point being that mental health is a pressing issue today and needs immediate attention of the society. As said by Dr. Vikram Patel,”There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone, and mental health is everyone’s business.” On this note, let me summarise a few of these “chemical lochas” observed nowadays 😛

      Alzheimer’s Disease:

Starting out with a known disorder. All of us at some point of time in our lives might have heard about it, but may not know exactly what it is. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder which causes brain cells to degenerate and die. To put in layman’s terms, the gradual loss of memory.

The major symptom of Alzheimer’s is the loss of memory. Beginning with forgetting recent conversations or events, it might worsen over time, to forgetting names of family members or even forgetting commonly used words and phrases. The other symptoms include – trouble in thinking and reasoning, personality changes, mood swings, or forgetting how to perform basic daily routines. However, many skills like, singing, dancing or drawing, etc. remained preserved for a longer time in such a case.

The causes, although not yet fully understood, are generally observed to be – lifestyle, heart health and in some rare cases, genetic. The medical treatment employs medication as the major tool. However, outside the hospital, lifestyle changes like taking proper and nutritious meals, regular exercising, can go a long way in helping in the treatment.

      Schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder which affects how a person thinks or behaves. Schizophrenic people may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Schizophrenia is sometimes found as a genetic disorder, while other cases might result due to an imbalance in the brain reactions or even due to improper development of brain before birth. The symptoms usually start between the age of 16 to 30. In rare cases, it may be found in children too.

The symptoms might be easily identifiable like frequent hallucinations or delusions. The person might also exhibit reduced speaking or inability to feel pleasure in everyday life. The cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are also observed, which might be subtle in some cases and severe in others. These include problems with using given information to form thoughts or a lack of focus and attention.

There are many treatments used by psychiatrists. These include antipsychotic medication, psychosocial treatments, family involvement all of which are aimed at reducing the experienced symptoms and increasing the quality of life of the patient.

      Obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD:

OCD is a chronic disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and behaviours that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. The symptoms of OCD are categorised into two – obsessions, or repeated thoughts or urges, and compulsions, or repetitive behaviours.

Obsessions could be the fear of contamination, aggressive thoughts towards self or others, a suspicion that a partner is unfaithful, etc. Compulsions include excessive cleaning, arranging things in a particular way or repeatedly checking on things. A person with OCD might spend one or more hours on such thoughts and behaviours leading to so many problems in their everyday lives.

You might think what is so wrong with a repetitive behaviour. But, people with OCD might also suffer from other mental disorders like anxiety and depression which would be highly dangerous. Although there is no cure for OCD, treatments include a combination of medication and psychotherapies which help in lessening the interference of the symptoms in one’s life.

      Anterograde amnesia:

Anterograde amnesia, to put it simply, is loss of the ability to make new memories, thus, leading to the inability of recalling the recent past or sometimes even long term memories of things happened before the commencement of the disease.

The symptoms are pretty simple to observe. The affected person would find it difficult to retain things in his/her memory, like they might forget what they had for lunch the same day, or might even not recognise the person they met just a few minutes back. The cause of this disease is not specific. It is generally caused by brain damage, more particularly, the memory-making parts like thalamus. It might be the result of a severe accident or a mental trauma.

There isn’t any proper medication that can cure amnesia since it is caused by brain damage. But, the treatment of amnesia is based on condition management. Therapies and techniques that can be used include – memory training, occupational therapy or technological assistance, such as reminder apps.

      Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia is a fear of getting into situations where escape might be difficult, or of not getting help when things go wrong. The causes of agoraphobia vary from person to person. In some cases, the cause observed is people having a history of panic attacks. They associate those attacks with the places or situations they occurred in and start avoiding them. Another set of cases show the fear of crime, terrorism or being in an accident, to be the major cause. It can also be a genetic disorder.

The symptoms consist of – the fear that a panic attack will be life threatening or will make you look stupid in front of others, fear of being alone in your house, avoiding situations that might cause anxiety or ones where you feel like having company of someone trustworthy, when you go anywhere.

Treatment includes lifestyle changes for minor cases. Taking regular exercise, eating more healthily and avoiding alcohol, drugs and caffeine containing drinks like tea and coffee might be helpful. In case these changes don’t work, use self-help techniques during a panic attack, like, deep breathing and focusing on things which are non-threatening.

There are several other diseases like dementia, bipolar disorder, autism, etc. The main aspect of treatment in anyone of those is the constant emotional support from friends and family. In case of appearance of any symptom in yourself or any close friend or relative, it should never be ignored. Medical help should be sought as soon as possible. As said by Kate Middleton,” We have seen that two heads are better than one when dealing with a mental health problem.” In case you are diagnosed with a disease, do not hesitate to let in your near and dear ones on that. There is no shame in being diagnosed by a disease, is it? Then why should a mental illness be considered a taboo. We have to understand and also tell others about the importance of a society where everyone can be open about their mental state. The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10th October every year. Let us all set our minds right about mental health and sickness.

With this thought, I’d like to take your leave now. Stay tuned for more such informative blogs ahead. Signing off!!

“Applaud others when they run.

Console them when they fall.

And cheer them when they recover.

As water is to flowers,

So is praise to the heart of another.”

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