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Just as we can get physically and emotionally sick, we can also get mentally sick and these type of illnesses have even greater repercussions. Just as emotional sickness affects us physically, so mental sicknesses can affect us both physically and emotionally. The impact ripples down through the other bodies, and it is futile trying to treat any manifesting physical or emotional symptoms – they will keep recurring until the root mental cause has been addressed.
Sometimes these mental conditions can be easier to treat than the emotional ones, because mental conditioning in the conscious brain is easier to work with than re-programming in the limbic brain which is below the level of our conscious awareness.
Some types of mental sickness are:
- Anorexia nervosa – an eating disorder based around fear of gaining weight, resulting in people (most often women) becoming thin and underweight to the point of death. Karen Carpenter was a famous singer with a beautiful voice who died at a young age (32) from the complications of anorexia. The condition appears to be the result of irregularities in the serotonin pathways in the prefrontal cortex.
- Autism – a neuro-development disorder affecting about 0.5% of the population. The severity varies, but whereas Asperger’s and PDD-NOS and High-Functioning Autistic’s can often live independent lives, those with severe autism have mental conditions that require long term life care. Whilst there seems to be a hereditary link, autism does not appear to be genetic. The brain appears to be normal, but for some reason the growing child seems to favour the development of certain neural pathways over others. There are countless millions of possible combinations of neural links in the brain, but as we grow we create preferential pathways and most of us have similar preferential pathways. Autistic people seem to develop an alternate set of neural pathways in the pre-frontal cortex, and this limits their mental and social interactions. Environmental conditions seems to play a part in this, so that the hereditary traits may be picked up as learned conditions from their parents rather than genetically. Whilst autism is debilitating for most, there are rare cases of Savants who demonstrate remarkable mental abilities in certain areas – there is much we have yet to learn about the brain.
- Bulimia nervosa – another eating disorder like anorexia, but manifesting as binge eating followed by purging. It affects approximately 1% of the population and mainly women (Princess Diana suffered from Bulimia). It is classified as a mental condition because it appears to be a problem with self-image. It then manifests as emotional problems like depression and anxiety, and the physical affects of the binge eating and purging on the body.
- Epilepsy – this is a seizure in the cortex of the brain, rendering a person unconscious and immobile for a period of time. The cause is unknown but appears to be genetic. The seizure occurs when neurons in the brain become highly active and fire in a synchronised manner. Typically only a small number of neurons in the brain fire at once, and the firing patterns are quite random. With epilepsy an active wave of synchronised firing begins and spreads across the brain and this renders a person unconscious until the wave is over. Headaches and visual problems, including the ability to see auras, occur during the abnormal brain activity.
- Intellectual disability – or mental retardation. This is where brain development appears to be below average, and such people are described as having an IQ less than 70. What makes some people more “intelligent” than others? Physical developmental disorders due to malnutrition or the presence of alcohol or drugs during foetal development account for some of the causes. If the necessary brain structures are not in place, then it is not possible for us to use our prefrontal cortex faculties for decision making, reasoning and problem solving. Downs Syndrome (or Mongolism) is due to a genetic abnormality and results in mental disabilities, and affects 1 in 1000 births (0.01% of the population).
- OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder. This is a mental condition resulting a rituals and repetitive behaviour, and leading to emotional problems such as anxiety and social issues when these rituals are interrupted. They may be simple, like high standards of cleanliness or repeatedly washing hands, but can also be debilitating – I knew someone who had to repeatedly return to their house to check the taps were off and the door was locked – this could require 4 or 5 return visits to the house before they were finally able to leave and was extremely annoying when I was in a hurry to go somewhere. Serotonin and the reward system of the limbic brain could be involved, but the root issues seem to be in the prefrontal cortex.