My career in finance – spanning 7 countries in 9 years – came to an abrupt end due to an Autoimmune Disease, misdiagnosed as a Mental Illness due to the similarity of shared symptoms; debilitating anxiety, waves of depression and panic disorder that left me bedridden for 2 years.
In my search to overcome this, I spent 4 years following various psychiatric ‘routes to cure‘ to no avail, which inspired an intense, private study into neuroscience, psychology and emotive behaviour which enabled me to understand the following: why I had anxiety, depression and panic attacks, how these responses where created in the brain and how to cure it.
Now, a qualified therapist and NLP/EFT practitioner, I am now studying neuroscience in order to provide a unique plan of attack which proves exactly how I was able to cure my own mental illness and produce scientific and spiritual-based solutions that work, which, do not include counting to 10, touching every surface in sight, avoiding triggers and feeling drugged by ineffective SSRIs’ – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.
This article will answer why you may have anxiety and how to find the root cause of your mental illness by covering the following topics:
- Three main causes of mental illness.
- How the anxiety response, is created in the brain.
- How our brain creates emotion and predicts our responses.
- Why mental illness is not solely restricted to the mind; understanding the Gut-Heart-Brain Axis is key to finding the root cause of your mental illness.
- Questions to ask your health care professional before being prescribed any treatment plan so as to avoid misdiagnosis and further damage to the body.
Before we begin, I would like to preface this article by saying, your brain is a solution finder, which explains why many of us, including myself, have considered suicide. When the drugs and the coping mechanisms don’t work and you aren’t being provided with the answers you desperately need, the brain will search for a solution to end your suffering. However, it can only search through the information we have fed it, as a result, that solution is often death. We are taught death is finite and guarantees the end of this mental state, however,
The Three Main Causes of Mental Illness:
What I have found throughout my own research, are three generic causes for developing mental illness.
The first, is an unexpected traumatic experience, the second, an underlining health issue and the third, the consistent practice of an emotional reaction. All of which, shall be explained more thoroughly throughout this article.
Let me give you an example of an unexpected traumatic experience and how it impacts the brain, with the understanding that this too, applies to rape, being robbed, attacked, war and other, emotionally traumatic experiences.
If you were to walk into a kitchen and unexpectedly slip and fall, leaving you injured, feeling extreme pain and shock, the brain will automatically store the exact sensory perceptions of your environment into the subconscious mind, as triggers. Everything from what we taste, smell, see and hear is stored due to the strong emotional reaction of what happened, which is translated to the brain as something we need to be protected from in the future.
Therefore, if we were to walk into any kitchen in the world, and see, smell, taste, touch or hear anything that aligns with those stored triggers, we would experience ‘fight or flight‘ mode that tells us we are in danger.
Of course, the brains incredible skill is a double-edged sword, as we may become triggered by situations and environments that are not dangerous to us.
In other words, we could experience anxiety, depression and or panic attacks due to our emotionally stored triggers, formed by our past experiences, that are not appropriate to our new environments.
Which leads me to the subject of ‘practised emotional reactions‘ that are, in fact, habitual patterns of behaviour but what do I mean by this?
For this section, and for the sake of simplicity, let us think of our brain as two separate parts; the conscious brain and the subconscious brain.
The conscious brain is how we absorb information without necessarily storing it long-term. For example, we may read a book cover-to-cover and retain some of the storylines, however, we wouldn’t be able to recite the book, word for word.
The subconscious mind, however, is where we store all of the information that is beneficial to our day-to-day life and survival. Everything, from how we develop relationships, maintain those relationships, how we breathe, the way in which we walk, our routines and so on and so forth, are programmed into the subconscious mind. Meaning, we have practised utilising each skill – which includes emotional reactions – often enough, consciously.
The conscious mind will then signal to the subconscious mind ‘oh, this must be important; we do this a lot and therefore it must be something we need to remember.’ As a result, the neurons, in short, create a new alignment by forming a unique pattern to match that behaviour – also known as neuroplasticity.
If you would like to read more into habitual patterns of behaviour and how we form these emotional patterns in childhood, click on the link here.
We can also develop a mental illness due to an underlining health issue such as infections, brain damage, autoimmune neurospychiatric disorder (PANDA), streptococcus bacteria, brain defects or injury, prenatal damage, substance abuse, poor nutrition and exposure to toxins such as lead poisoning.
For more examples of several health issues that can cause mental illness such as anxiety, depression and panic disorder, please refer to this link on WebMD.
How The Anxiety Response is Created in the Brain:
I have combined a few explanations from both
For a more detailed look into how our brain creates emotion, click on the link here.
We have two brain regions which are responsible for this response; the central amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis – BNST, which have been found to correspond with one another in order to generate both short-term and long-term responses to our perceived, life-threatening environment.
Furthermore, and this is important to note, the amygdala – of which, in fact, we have two – are both located near the hippocampus and contribute to both the formation and retrieval of any fear-based memories we have stored from past experiences.
Our ‘limbic system‘ – historically referred to as the ‘emotional-processing structure‘ of the brain – is made up of three parts; the limbic cortex, the insular cortex and the cingulate cortex. The limbic system is predominantly involved in motivation, emotion, learning, and memory.
‘The hippocampus is another limbic system structure; it has tonic inhibitory control over the hypothalamic stress-response system and plays a role in negative feedback for the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Hippocampal volume and neurogenesis (growth of new cells) in this structure have been implicated in stress sensitivity and resiliency in relation to mood and anxiety disorders.’Science Daily
Therefore, it is the combination of our central amygdala, the hippocampus, thalamus and hypothalamus regions of the brain, that provoke the anxiety/fear response.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand the reasons as to why the brain has stored certain triggers as life-threatening in the first place, is in direct relation to one of the three main causes of our mental illness, listed above.
How our brain creates emotion and predicts our responses:
Our feelings are formed by our emotions, meaning, the brain is constantly generating and receiving signals from the body, in order to establish what is happening within us.
The brain will process all of these signals into neural maps which is a sheet of neurons made up of properties relating to our external world and what actions we are taking in systematic order, which is then compiled into the somatosensory system;
The somatosensory system is part of the sensory system concerned with the conscious perception of touch, pressure, pain, temperature, position, movement and vibration, which arise from the muscles, joints, skin, and fascia.E Medicine
How we feel, is determined by how the brain reads our neural maps and can, therefore, establish if any emotional changes have been recorded. However, these emotions do not result solely from the body’s reaction to our external environment but also, the changes created by our neural maps and has the ability to ignore, extreme emotional reactions such as fear, physical pain and stress in order to protect itself.
Scientists now know, without doubt, that emotional disorders are at the root of most psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety, however, current medication such as SSRI’s are mostly ineffective because they are unable to target distinct, cellular and molecular systems that would influence the changes necessary to combat the emotional disorder.
60-80% of our brains’ energy is spent on prediction, which influences what emotional reaction we experience. Which prediction wins, is the one most fitting to our circumstances at the time, such as, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and stress.
Mental Illness Is Not Solely Restricted To The Brain: The Gut-Heart-Brain Axis:
The heart and the gut have their own nervous system and biochemical signalling, similar to our mind. They are also capable of doing a wide range of complex adaptive processes that allow them to store information, change their signalling and capable of adapting to their environment.
The heart and the gut can also learn, receive instructions from the brain and send instructions to the brain, independently.
According to Heart Math, the heart communicates with the brain in a variety of ways:
- Neurological communication – (nervous system)
- Biochemical communication – (hormones)
- Biophysical communication – (pulse wave)
- Energetic communication – (electromagnetic fields)
Over 20 years of research conducted by John and Beatrice Lacey and psychologist and researcher Walter Bradford Cannon, found that the heart diverged information from the direction of our autonomic nervous system activity and used that information to form its own logic.
The heart both receives and sends instructions to the mind through electrical activity which affects our perceptions, behaviours and overall well-being.
‘The heart-brain, as it is commonly called, or intrinsic cardiac nervous system, is an intricate network of complex ganglia, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, the same as those of the brain in the head. TheNeurocardiology
heart-brain’sneural circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain to learn, remember, make decisions and even feel and sense. Descending activity from the brain in the head via the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS is integrated into the heart’s intrinsic nervous system along with signals arising from sensory neurons in the heart that detect pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm and hormones.’
The heart is a hormonal gland; communicating with the brain and our bodies biochemically and has the ability to manufacture and produce hormones and neurotransmitters, which have a wide-ranging impact on the body as a whole.
Our gastrointestinal tract is very sensitive to emotion and recent studies show that an estimated 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract.
The gut can also send signals to our mind which carry both ‘good’ gut bacteria and ‘bad’ gut bacteria, meaning, if our gut is predominantly filled with bad gut bacteria, then those messages will be carrying bad bacteria to the brain which can cause emotional imbalances and other, autoimmune-related illnesses.
Most of what we deem today as ‘Mental Illness’ stems from the gut, heart and mind axis and maintaining the health of all three is integral to maintaining a healthy mind and reversing any possible damage that may have caused mental illness in the first place.
According to Food Renegade, there is conclusive evidence that the balance of good and bad bacteria in our Gut, has more effect on our mental state than we originally thought.
Researchers at McMaster University, show that there is a direct connection between the state of our Gut and the state of our mind, whether that results in Anxiety disorders, Depression, or even Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
‘Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles believes that the microflora inhabiting a child’s gut actually influences the developing structures in his brain as the child grows up and that those brain structures can then influence that child’s feelings, thoughts emotions and mental health throughout his later life. Dr Mayer has taken MRI scans of the brains of thousands of volunteers while collecting samples of their gut bacteria. He has found that the connections formed between the regions in a person’s brain differ depending on what type of bacteria predominate in each individual’s gut. It seems incredible that our gut bugs can affect our physical brain in such a profound way. A conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that colonization by certain kinds of bacteria may lead to particular brain structures or wiring that makes someone more susceptible to anxiety that might exist in another person whose gut was colonized by different bacteria.’
Questions To Ask Your Health Care Professional Before Receiving Treatment:
From experience, it is vitally important to avoid a misdiagnosis at all cost. Anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even PTSD can often be misdiagnosed as these symptoms may be due to an underlying illness.
Finding the root cause of any issue you have, especially when it comes to mental illness, is especially important as it will drastically change your treatment plan.
- Notify your health care professional of any past or current, cycle(s) of prescribed antibiotics – antibiotics kill off ALL bacteria, and not just ‘bad’ gut bacteria; even completing one course of antibiotics, can cause havoc on your health because of their profound impact on your gut.
- Note how many colds or flu-like symptoms you have experienced in your life-time and more notably if you have noticed an increase in the occurrence of any anxiety/panic attacks and or feelings of depression after taking antibiotics.
- Bring a diet diary; an honest one. For all doctors in training spend less than 60 hours on nutrition, it is still useful information for them.
- List any heart issues you may have – past and present – inclusive of any notable changes to the rhythm of your heartbeat, pain or aches.
- Discuss any notable changes to your weight over the past year.
- Provide your health care professional with any changes to your skin, hair and nails; sudden folliculitis, adult acne, flakey scalp, itching, numbness, red spots, veins, moles and so on and so forth. Mention ridged, weak or easily broken nails – if this applies – and any hair loss or thinning.
- Insist on kidney, liver and thyroid checks, including allergy testing and immune system tests.
If for whatever reason you feel your request for these checks is not well-received, do not be afraid to seek a second, third or even fourth opinion. Personally, I have seen numerous health care professionals over the years who were unable to diagnose me correctly and this happens often so be patient.
These questions and suggestions are something I wish I was aware of when my own symptoms became more debilitating. If I had been checked thoroughly and not had everything dismissed as a symptom of mental illness, then I would not have undergone a 6-year struggle with health issues that turned out to be a severe autoimmune disease. A disease which caused by numerous and unnecessary cycles of antibiotics; seriously harming my gut, kidney and liver. I spent many years dealing with adult acne, folliculitis, heart murmurs, thinning hair and coughing up blood before a dermatologist in Italy, realised I had been misdiagnosed and my anxiety, depression and panic disorder was actually a result of an autoimmune disease.
This article is an accumulation of various articles I have written on the topic, in order to answer a more direct question I have been asked on social media and via email. All of this information can be found under the Mental Health section of my website.
If you found this article informative, you can support me and this type of research by sharing, subscribing and following me on social media. @worldoffrances
Sending you all love and light,