Mental Health At Work I work in a large manufacturing facility, so I meet lots of people with totally different attitudes and opinions about psychological health. I was diagnosed with […]
Broken Brain Mentality
”The Broken Brain Mentality: If It’s Not Your Brain, It’s Your “Mother”!
So what is all this about a “ broken brain, ” you ask? When Western medical science seeks out the answers to a problem, it focuses its search on the physical rather than mental. That is its area of expertise, and it does this extremely well. First, it isolates the problem to a particular system in the body, such as circulatory, digestive, respiratory, or, in the case of depression, the nervous system. The next step is to centralize the problem to a speciﬁc organ, such as the heart, stomach, intestines, lungs, or the brain. Victory is theirs, Western medical scientists believe if they can ﬁnd a problematic molecule. When low levels of the brain chemical serotonin were linked to low mood and other depressive symptoms the medical community thought that it had discovered what was wrong in the body and how to heal it; that is how Prozac, a drug that increases serotonin levels in the brain, became a household name.
This line of thinking and its success should not be dismissed. There is a wealth of clinical evidence that biological and chemical processes in the brain inﬂuence thinking and emotion. Logic, therefore, dictates that if those processes go wrong, abnormalities in thinking and emotions will be the result. In other words, if the brain breaks, the emotions suffer; but does this line of thinking really tell the whole story? Maybe Not!
Beyond the broken brain 9
If the brain is “ broken,” what or even who caused the breakage? Different opinions exist. Medical doctors are inclined to focus on the physical, whereas psychologists focus on the mind(mental). You are the product of your experiences, the psychologist surmises. Since the neurons in your brain are hardwired in early childhood, the experiences and family patterns of interactions at that time are pivotal in making you who you are today. The biological and chemical processes in your brain, the theory goes, reﬂect your ongoing relationship with your environment. Depression, according to this line of thinking, is the result of a lifelong collection of experiences, from childhood to the present. Because memories are stored in your brain, the key to living depression- free is to understand the thought patterns in your head. Therefore, psychologists claim, talk therapy and the changes that result from such therapy are the solutions. In other words, if it’s not your brain, it ’ s your “ mother”!
Treating the Organ of Depression, Not the Cause: What’s Wrong with This Picture?
Antidepressant medications artificially and externally manipulate the level of chemicals in the brain. Ultimately, the brain reacts to this artiﬁcial manipulation by blunting its sensitivity to these chemicals. This is not unlike hearing loss that results from long-term exposure to excessively loud noise. The person who is taking the medication is then forced to incrementally supply the brain with more and more of the substance in order to achieve its purpose. This is generally followed by the need to take another medication to counteract the negative side effects of the antidepressant. It is not uncommon for people who increase their antidepressant during the day to then need a sedative or a sleeping pill at night. (How depressing!) The three natural brain chemicals that are associated with feeling good— dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin— work together with one another. Nature did not intend for one of them to work independently of the others. Nature intended for them to work synergistically and in balance with one another. This is what brings long-lasting happiness and relief from your symptoms.
Healing depression the mind-body way
If one aspect of the body is interrupted, it triggers a cascade of reactions that runs through and disrupts the balance of the entire body. Unfortunately, medications generally target only one or two of the brain chemicals. This part of the solution can potentially create other problems. Given how medical doctors and psychologists perceive the problem of depression, it is no wonder that they focus on the biochemicals and the life experiences that inﬂuence brain function. The most common treatment modalities used by Western medicine today are drugs and talk therapy. Drugs, whether synthetic or natural, manipulate the chemicals in the brain. Generally speaking, talk therapy aims at ﬁguring out the inner workings of the mind.
Drugs: A Window of Light? When it comes to the question of depression, we want you to consider the following: What came ﬁrst, the chemical imbalance or the episode of sadness? It is generally accepted that a chemical imbalance accompanies depression. Depression is associated with a biological derangement in the brain. This derangement may be triggered by a genetic tendency, lifestyle choices, a tragic event, or a combination of all three. In other words, a chemical imbalance coincides with the presence of depression. However, this coincidence (known in science as a correlation ) does not necessarily indicate causality. It also does not indicate the direction of the causal relationship. That is, does the chemical imbalance cause the depressive episode, or does the depressive episode cause the chemical imbalance? Antidepressant medications manipulate the level of at least one of the three brain chemicals. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are called neurotransmitters. Considered mood brighteners, they are responsible for feelings of alertness and happiness. According to Western medical theory on depression, effectively increasing the levels of at least one of these biochemicals should resolve depression in a person. The value of pharmaceutical interventions to treat depression is currently being questioned by the scientiﬁc community. In a study done in the United Kingdom in 2008, antidepressants were shown to be only slightly more effective than taking a placebo. This can be interpreted to mean that people who take antidepressants get better because they believe the pills are helpful and they expect to get better. This placebo effect calls into question whether the antidepressants actually have inherent curative properties. In addition, many researchers are concerned about the negative side effects of the pills. For a variety of reasons, approximately 40 per cent of people discontinue their use in the ﬁrst month. That being said, some people who have experienced severe depression report feeling helped by the medications initially. Episodes of depression recur in 50 to 85 per cent of people who have had one episode. This terribly high recurrence rate has led some physicians to advocate that people who have been treated for major depression remain on antidepressant medication for life, as a preventative measure. Yet even then many individuals do not recover their zest for life, their physical and emotional vitality. In fact, it is reported that 70 per cent of people who take antidepressant medication continue to experience lingering symptoms of depression. In addition, lifelong use of medication may mean living with negative side effects such as dry mouth, rapid heart rate, constipation, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, jitteriness, blurred vision, and memory impairment and many more. In short, medications do not always cure what ails, and they can potentially trigger other problems. Why keep looking to ﬁnd a cure in a pill? At best, drug interventions simply soothe the depressive symptoms. This is because pills manipulate one’ s brain chemicals but do not treat the totality of one’ s being: body, mind, and spirit. Only a limited biochemical aspect of one’ s physiology is addressed, and only in a segregated area. When underlying causes are neglected, symptoms tend to eventually recur. However, relief from the darkness of depression must be sought, and antidepressants may, in some cases, provide a window of light. There is anecdotal evidence that this pharmaceutical technology has been helpful to many people. If you have chosen to take medication to relieve the symptoms of depression, you are not precluded from embarking on a holistic program. The two are compatible and additive in their effects. The whole purpose of this article is to show you how to kick- start your own self- healing mechanisms; to do more than simply
Healing Depression The Mind-Body Way
Address the symptoms of depression. We want to introduce you to a holistic way of treating depression that delves deep into the core of your physiology and sends symptoms scurrying away permanently. We want to offer you a fuller, more encompassing view of the problem, with natural solutions. There are natural ways of balancing brain chemistry that does not require popping a pill (synthetic or natural). Mind-body techniques are available that bring overall balance to one ’ s physiology and, consequently, affect brain chemistry deeply, safely, and holistically. The body is the best pharmacy, and this is where nature intends for you to go when you need medication. Treating depression with drugs alone is analogous to using aspirin to relieve a fever caused by an infection. Aspirin merely reduces fever and makes the patient feel more comfortable. It does not address the cause of the infection.
Brain Chemistry Gone Awry?
A recent study stating that antidepressant medications appear to help only severely depressed people and work no better than placebos in many patients has rocked the perception of the public. “ Although patients get better when they take antidepressants, they also get better when they take a placebo, and the difference in improvement is not very great. This means that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments, ” said Irving Kirsh of the University of Hull in England, the author of the study.
Dr Helen Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine, responded to the study by saying, “ This [depression] is about very sick people; there’s something wrong with their brains ” (italics added). Herein lies the problem, we think. Even dedicated and well-meaning psychiatrists tend to see depressed patients as cases of brain chemistry gone awry, rather than seeing them as a complex system whose body, mind and spirit have gone awry.
Talk Therapy: Words and Nurturance
Going to therapy can be extremely helpful for a depressed person. The most common recommendation is to attend talk therapy and take our pills. How effective is talk therapy? In some studies, therapy has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression as signiﬁcantly as medication. These studies have focused primarily on cognitive- behavioural therapy, which strives to bring cognitive awareness to the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. There is no doubt that awareness can be a powerful tool for positive change. The hope is that by actualizing personal awareness or insights, people will eventually set themselves free of the same old situations and the same old negative feelings. There is enormous healing power behind the changes in cognition, behaviour, and relationships that are brought on by talk therapy. Everything affects brain chemistry and our overall physiology. If we sit and look at a photograph album and remember the past through the pictures, our body chemistry is altered. If we get caught in a trafﬁc jam, our physiology is changed. If we are stressed because of a family conﬂict or concerns at work, our internal environment is thrown out of balance. Likewise, beneﬁcial changes in the way we perceive ourselves,
Approximately 118 million antidepressant prescriptions are issued in the United States alone each year. Do we really believe that millions of U.S. citizens are walking around with something wrong with their brains that a pill can cure?
Not even a decade ago, physicians treated heart disease by focusing on the organ of the heart, rather than focusing on the person experiencing the disease. Nowadays, no cardiologist would think to give a pill for heart disease without simultaneously discussing the impact of lifestyle on heart health. It is our hope that very soon the psychiatric and psychological communities will shift their current paradigm and begin to think of depression in a holistic manner rather than simply as brain chemistry gone awry.
which can be brought on by talk therapy, are a powerful means to alter physiological chemistry. Effective psychotherapy can be an aid for overall health as well as a treatment for depression. Improved relationships that result from an increased awareness of our thoughts, actions, and emotions can induce positive changes in our being. However, although therapy certainly offers insight into many of life’ s problems, by itself it is not a cure for depression, especially major depression. Mild depression is more likely to be treated effectively by therapy. This type of depression is usually time-limited, and increasing self – awareness and experiencing a therapeutic relationship can be very helpful in ending the depression sooner rather than later. The foundation of talk therapy is the belief that insight leads to change. Talking about life issues is indeed good and helpful. We believe, however, that this is putting the cart before the horse. Improvements in the overall health of the individual — body, mind, and spirit— must also take place if changes in perception (insight) and alterations in feelings are to become permanent. The internal world must move into an overall healthier state. After this psychophysiological shift occurs, insight engendered in the context of a positive relationship can be of great assistance in promoting continuing change. Mental and physical exhaustion also limits the effectiveness of talk therapy. All too often, a depressed person lacks the mental, emotional, and physical energy to turn insight into action. It is entirely possible to have an intellectual understanding of the connections among thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and still not be able to make changes. It is not uncommon to hear people say, “ I know what I should do, I just can’t do it ” or “ I know I shouldn’t think as I do— it doesn’t help me, but I am unable to change the way I am.” Perhaps you have said similar words yourself. Depression depletes our energy. This emotional malaise (lack of ease) affects every aspect of our being. The talking cure is limited because words are abstract building blocks. They are not practical interventions that are needed to rise from deep sadness. Talk therapy does not give the necessary physical, mental, and emotional strength to put insight into action. For this — the project of restructuring body, mind, and spirit — we need practical techniques that help us to build ourselves up from the inside out. To ﬁx a crumbling house, the builder starts at the foundation, not the roof. We must do the same.
The condition of depression is all-encompassing. Depression is a physical problem that is beyond the reach of pills, it is a mental problem that is beyond the reach of words, and it is a spiritual problem that requires techniques to help us connect with the abstract qualities of life. Talk is good. It can be exceedingly helpful, but it does not reach the deep physical roots of depression. It affects perceptions and viewpoints and helps us to change the way we relate to ourselves and others. This is wonderful, but it is often not enough. Fortunately, many practical techniques exist that positively affect our whole being. These work on a totally different spectrum than talk therapy does. When our overall health is improved and our inner source of healing is activated, then talk therapy can become increasingly helpful. (And hopefully, you never again need say, “ Coulda, woulda, shoulda. ” )
To be continued…..