Mental Illness Not All in the Mind

30 August, 2011 at 21:40 | Posted in Body & Mind | Leave a comment
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By Dr. John Briffa

Psychiatry is a profession supposedly there to help people with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. That’s the idea anyway.

I say this because psychiatry is not the most effective of disciplines. The drugs often don’t work too well and usually come with significant side effects. There’s no way I would choose to be a conventionally practicing psychiatrist.

One of the major deficiencies of psychiatry is how it views almost all mental illness as a problem that originates in the brain. The psychiatric model of illness is generally based on the idea that brain function goes awry when brain chemicals (neurochemicals) become imbalanced.

For example, depression is seen very often as a result of not having enough serotonin. Drugs that elevate levels of serotonin then become the mainstay treatment for depression.

Over the years, I’ve seen quite a lot of people who have been formally diagnosed with some form of mental illness who actually turn out to have their problems rooted in issues that fall outside the brain. Here are a few examples:

• Mood swings caused by fluctuation in blood sugar levels
• Depression along with low thyroid function
• Depression along with iron deficiency or anemia
• Low-level depression coupled with weakened adrenal gland function
• Depression as a result of food sensitivity issues (often wheat)
• Symptoms of bulimia nervosa (binging and purging) as a result of blood sugar fluctuation
• Anxiety-depression as a result of a deficiency in omega-3 fats
• Anxiety-insomnia as a result of low levels of magnesium

The important thing is that when the underlying nature of these issues is rectified, the mental state of individuals usually takes on a completely different complexion.

Most psychiatrists will generally not entertain such thoughts. This is a product of their schooling. If every psychiatric journal and psychiatry conference bangs on about the neurochemical basis of mental illness, it’s perhaps no surprise that many psychiatrists will not look further and deeper than this. However, not all psychiatrists are of this persuasion.

“Confusing Medical Ailments With Mental Illness” was published online in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 9. The article is about the book “Unmasking Psychological Symptoms: How Therapists Can Learn to Recognize the Psychological Presentation of Medical Disorders,” by U.S. psychiatrist Barbara Schildkrout.

The book is not out yet, so I haven’t read it. But even without the detail, I wholeheartedly support the sentiment of the book. It’s essentially urging psychological therapists to be aware of the fact that their patients may have mental symptoms as a result of pathology, the origin of which is not the brain but the body.

I think it should be compulsory reading for all psychiatrists who wish to do the best for their patients.

via Mental Illness Not All in the Mind | Health | Epoch Times


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