Are you suffering from a mental health issue? Do you want to know how these mental illnesses affect the anatomical structure of the brain? Reading through this article will help you learn more about mental health problems and how mental illness can affect our daily lives. 

Mental illnesses are real and have an impact on our physical health. Having a healthy mental condition is also important to our overall well-being. Mental illnesses can be managed and treated if correctly diagnosed.

What is 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. There are different kinds of mental health conditions  — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 

During the COVID 19 outbreak, a lot of us have been through an emotional rollercoaster. We have experienced different mental health issues. These issues can develop into an illness if not treated. Its symptoms can affect our behavioral function.

Mental illness can cause complications in our daily lives. It can affect our relationships, our work, and our personality. But did you know that mental illness can also affect our body, especially our brain? Mental illness can affect brain chemistry, brain structure, chemical reactions, and other 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 these examples are some of the common signs of mental illness found in adults. 

  • Severe changes with mood or mood swings
  • Prolonged feelings of anger
  • Extreme feeling of sadness
  • Decrease ability to cope with stress
  • Being delusional and paranoid
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Having difficulty to focus and learn new things
  • Avoiding social groups and friends
  • Unable to perceive changes with personal feelings and what others might feel
  • Substance abuse like drugs or alcohol
  • Changes with eating habits
  • Being worried about gaining body weight and physical appearance 
  • Prolonged apathy and depression

What Cause 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 the abnormality of the nerve pathways and other nerve cells. These are the pathways that connect the different brain regions. Its biological factors contribute to the adverse effects that influence mental health. 

Genetics or heredity

Mental illness runs in the family. Having a family member with a history of mental illness increases the risk of developing it too. 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 affects the child’s brain development. This could cause common mental health disorders like such as autism and ADHD. 

Caused by Infection

Some psychiatric disorders are caused by viruses and bacteria. This is when bacteria enter the central nervous system and infects the brain. It causes inflammation and destroys the tissues of our brain. Infection can influence brain activity and develops into mental or brain disorders. 

Brain Defect and Injury

A traumatic brain injury can lead to mental disorders. The brain is important 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 the function of the brain’s structure.

Poor Parenting and Abuse

Having a traumatic childhood can lead to depression and anxiety. It can also have a negative impact on the child’s brain development, which may develop into psychological and behavioral problems later in life. Experiencing this kind of maltreatment develops aggressive behavior or PTSD. 

Poor Nutrition

What we eat affects our mental health. Having a healthy diet is beneficial to our body and our brain too! Eating the right food is important 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 handles decision-making, behavior, and how we react to things. It controls everything from our actions and movement to our senses and memories. It is 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 all 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 and command our glands, muscles, and nerves. 

When someone has a mental illness, it affects the brain’s chemistry and function. It disrupts the communication between the neurons. And 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 an excessive amount of cortisol. This chemical is our body’s main 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 Institute of Health believe that patient with depressions has a lower level of serotonin, which is an example of neurotransmitters. 

Taking antidepressants can also cause an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. When taken for a long time, it could lead to mental disorders such as Dementia or Parkinson’s disease. 

Different Kinds of Mental Illness

Diagnosing mental illness does not rely on the psychological aspect alone. The abnormal behavior shown by a person can be influenced by environmental factors. Each of us is unique and responds unlikely to stressors.

Imagine you and a friend both failed an exam. Then he started crying while you moved on. It doesn’t mean that he has mental issues. The way he copes with stress is different from yours. 

Here are some mental illnesses that are recognized by mental health professionals:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder 

Patients with OCD are bothered by constant fears. These worrying thoughts make them perform repetitive actions. Missing a single step from their ritual increases their anxiety. This urges them to repeat the routine all over again to gain relief from their obsession. These rituals are called compulsions. For example, a person with a fear of germs would wash their hand every 10 minutes. 

Bipolar Disorder

This is also known as manic depression. People with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings. It can range from extreme happiness to intense sadness or anger. There are times that a patient with this does not have any psychotic symptoms. 

Panic Disorder

It is when the patient is experiencing recurrent panic attacks. These attacks are sudden surges of extreme terror even if there is no danger. This discomforts peaks within a couple of minutes. They even show physical symptoms such as increased heartbeat and sweating. 

Major Depressive Disorder

This type of mental illness is a mood disorder. Depression does not only mean that the patient is feeling sad. Feeling low could also mean loss of enjoyment and interest or reduced energy. Extreme depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations. Treating depression could be challenging, especially if the patient is in denial of the disease.  

Schizophrenia

It is a type of mental disorder that affects how the patient thinks, feels, and behaves. It is characterized as having delusions and imagining things. It could be acquired through genes or through psychosocial factors. 

How to Treat Mental Health Condition?

Diagnosis of treatment of mental illness is not the same as other diseases. Heart disease could be easily identified through a blood test. Mental illness is more behavioral and subjective. There are no laboratory tests that could determine that you have bipolar disorder. 

The 5th edition of DSM by the American Psychiatric Association is the standard manual for diagnosing most mental illnesses. Mental health experts also use tools to see inside the brain. This is to know and understand how these mental conditions affect the function of the brain. 

There are scanning devices used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental conditions. One of these is a task-based device called Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 

Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) use this tool to compare brain involvement. It is done while patients are completing an activity. Mental illness can change the way how we carry out daily activities. 

Brain scan results alone can not prove the presence of a mental illness. It is still important to seek a mental health expert for proper diagnosis. 

When To See a Professional?

Reading and being well informed of the different causes of mental illness is the first step. If you or someone close to you is suffering from a mental health condition, ask for help. Do not be afraid or embarrassed, and find a mental health professional. This kind of psychological illness does not get better on its own. Mental illness can get worse if not treated immediately. 

Dealing with a mental health problem can be challenging. You have to understand that the symptoms that you are experiencing are subjective. You do not imagine things! You might be at risk for mental health illness. If you need support and assistance regarding your mental health, you could always contact us at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). You can set an appointment on our website KCC Direct Service. Have mental health counseling at your convenience.

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