How does the Mind control the Body ?
The Mind (Higher Brain.. the Cortex & Hypothalamus) controls the the Body through regulation of Autonomic Nervous System activity, Endocrinal Hormone secretions, Biological Rhythms, and Immune System functions etc.
What is Mind-Body Medicine?
The Mind and the Body interact with and influence each other all the time through the Neuro-Endocrine-Immune Axis. So, the disorders affecting the Mind can manifest through bodily symptoms, just like the Physical illnesses showing up through mental disturbances. Thus many chronic illnesses are Psycho-Somatic Illnesses. That’s why, we at the Mind-Body Clinic evaluate & treat an individual’s problem holistically with a Bio-Psycho-Social approach.
What is Mind ? How can medicines improve a person’s Mind and change his thoughts, emotions or behaviour?
Brain is a complex network of billions of nerve cells and their fibres, forming intricate circuits interconnecting its various lobes. The Higher Brain (Fronto-Temporal-Limbic Cortex), which has specialised centres for Thinking, Emotional Regulation, and Drives & Motivations for Behaviour is called the Mind. The information processing, signal transmission and communication in these circuits occurs mainly through biochemical molecules viz Dopamine, Noradrenaline, Serotonin, Acetyl Choline, GABA, Glycine, Glutamate, Aspartate etc. The Brain Biochemistry can become imbalanced at various stages of life due to multiple causes including Genetics/ Stress/ Personality Make-up. This excess or deficiency in these neuro-transmitter molecules leads to distorted, disorganised, chaotic, uncoordinated, unregulated, aberrant functioning of the circuits of the brain, leading to disturbances in thoughts/moods/behaviour of a person. The modern Psychotropic medicines correct these imbalances in the brain biochemistry, set right the functioning of the brain circuits and thus improve the person’s thoughts/ emotions/ behaviour.
Tell me Doctor, are these medicines safe to use?
The modern Psychotropic medicines are used all over the world in millions of patients. If suitably selected & judiciously prescribed for an individual patient by an expert Psychiatrist they are remarkably safe and effective. Most of them are not addictive. Most of their side effects are mild, transient/temporary/short-lasting and not dangerous. In fact they not only relieve the suffering / mental agony of the person, but also can positively improve his Functioning and Quality of Life.
Can’t Counselling or Psychotherapy alone set right these Psychological disorders, without medication?
Counselling or Psychotherapy alone can improve minor situational disturbances/ phase-of-life problems / relationship conflicts/ mild stress reactions. But for many other moderate-to-severe intensity Psychiatric disorders the best outcomes are obtained through a Combination of Medication + PsychoSocial Therapies. Medicines act quickly, effectively and reliably and reduce the risks of Suicide/ Aggression or Violence. Medicines and Counselling are not mutually competitive but complementary to each other and form integral parts of the overall Holistic Care of the individual.
How about religious rituals/prayer/meditation/yoga as treatment for the mental illnesses?
They all have their place and importance in the overall comprehensive management of the mental illnesses. But extreme & bizarre superstitious beliefs & rituals can be harmful and often worsen the mental illnesses by delaying the right treatment. For severe or serious mental illnesses Medicines are essential, along with PsychoSocial Therapies and Religious Practices, for the best results. As they say in Hindi, for the ailments of the human beings “Davaa aur Duvaa donon chahiye”. Even the world-renowned Godmen & Spiritual Gurus like Sri Satya Sai Baba and Mata Amritanandamayi have built up huge super-speciality hospitals of the Modern Mainstream Medicine and themselves access their services when required.
Are Mental illnesses curable?
Compared to the helpless situation 4-5 decades ago, the treatment for the mental illnesses has improved vastly today, due to rapid scientific advances. The proof is that the huge state mental asylums, where the mentally-ill patients were kept isolated for years, have been disbanded and most of the Psychiatric patients today are managed in the OPDs of the General Hospitals and Private Clinics and re-integrated into the mainstream of the society to function like anybody else.
Thus, with the currently available medicines & other therapies some mental illnesses are curable while many others are well-manageable. The scenario is much like the common chronic physical ailments like Diabetes/ Hypertension/Heart Disease, wherein one has to use multiple medicines almost lifelong. In fact, many mental illnesses are better manageable than these physical illnesses, with lesser number of medicines for lesser durations of only a few months to a few years.
Why do people in our country view mental illnesses so negatively, with so much of enigma, stigma and phobia?
Due largely to the illiteracy & ignorance, which have bred the widely-prevalent superstitious beliefs about mental illnesses being caused by demon/spirit possessions, curses, witchcraft, black magic, bad planetary positions, inauspicious times etc. If people take a positive/ broader scientific perspective they will easily realise that a person’s Mind does not exist in vacuum but functions out of the physical organ of the Higher Part of the Brain. So, Mind’s illnesses too happen due to the organic disturbances in the Higher Brain, though at subtle molecular biochemistry level. The causes of Mind’s illnesses can be many, just like that of the physical illnesses……… genetic vulnerability, early life influences, developmental aberrations, personality shape-up, nutritional deficiencies, infections, injury, degenerative changes, tumours, life events & stresses, drug abuse, and chaotic life style etc. In short, Mind’s illnesses happen due to the constant & dynamic interaction of Nature (internal Genetic endowment/composition) with Nurture (all the multiple external Environmental Influences & Stresses) in a given person at a given point of time. So, much like the physical illnesses, Mind’s illnesses too are amenable to rational & scientific ways of treatment, and there is nothing to fear or discriminate the psychiatric patients.