Beneath the Surface: Exploring Mental Illness.

DSCN0356Mental illness, it’s invisible. There are no bandages, no casts, no crutches, no external wounds. How do you know someone is suffering from one? We, the afflicted, talk about feeling bad, talk about our depression and anxiety woes. You, our friends, look at us with bewildered eyes. You think to yourself “This person is all put together, she has makeup on, is dressed well, there are no signs of illness. I don’t understand.”

It’s not easy to explain mental illness to people who don’t have it. You can’t show them anything that is broken, or any flulike symptoms, or anything visible at all.

The key is listening, trying to understand where your mentally ill friend is coming from, what your mentally ill friend feels like, what they are trying to explain to you. And many will not even explain anything, because of the stigma, because they don’t want to appear “crazy” or abnormal.

Yes it’s confusing. I’ve had bipolar disorder since 1985, and sometimes it’s still confusing for me, so don’t anyone beat themselves over this. Basically the only empirical thing you have to gauge mental illness by is behavior. For example, in mania, people talk a lot, have very high energy, don’t sleep much, may have delusions of grandeur, may have a lot of anxiety. In depression, they have no energy, may sleep a lot, or not, are in a downcast mood, hopeless, and may also have a lot of anxiety. Paradoxically, in hypomania (the stage before going into full blown mania), we can actually get a lot accomplished, we are energetic, focused, not over the edge yet. This might be considered the “industrious” phase of bipolar disorder.

So the way your friend is behaving, a departure from their normal self, is a clue to their mental illness. What they are saying and how they’re saying it is as well. Are they being grandiose, talking non stop, switching from subject to subject (flight of ideas,) these are all clues.

In schizophrenia, people can have auditory hallucinations, where they hear voices, that’s definitely a clue, if they tell you, if they are aware that this is happening and admit to it… Yet most of the time, looking at a mentally ill person, you’d never know anything was wrong at all. It’s all below the surface, in their brain. Just like in a sea, where the water looks still and calm but a savage riptide is flowing under the surface.

Signs and signals, feelings and observations, those are clues to understanding mental illness. Just being an observant and understanding friend who listens and tries to comprehend what is being said and shown to them, that my friends is what is needed to understand the illusive nature of mental illness.

Blocking inflammation prevents cell death, improves memory in Alzheimer’s disease

 Once again, the immune system, specifically inflammation, plays a huge role in Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease. Mental illness, in some ways, is very close to a neurodegenerative disease. I wonder, I always wonder, what if it’s the immune system and inflammation that is responsible for diseases such as bipolar d/o or schizophrenia.

Using a drug compound created to treat cancer, University of California, Irvine (UCI) neurobiologists have disarmed the brain’s response to the distinctive beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Kim Green and colleagues with UCI’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders found that flushing away the abundant inflammatory cells produced in reaction to beta-amyloid plaques restored memory function in test mice. Their study showed that these microglia cells contribute to the neuronal and memory deficits seen in this neurodegenerative disease. Results appear in the journal Brain.

“Our findings demonstrate the critical role that inflammation plays in Alzheimer’s-related memory and cognitive losses,” said Green, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior. “While we were successful in removing the elevated microglia resulting from beta-amyloid, further research is required to better understand the link among beta-amyloid, inflammation and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s.”  

The neurobiologists treated Alzheimer’s disease model mice with a small-molecule inhibitor compound called pexidartinib, or PLX3397, which is currently being used in several phase 2 oncology studies and a phase 3 clinical trial to treat a benign neoplasm of the joints.
The inhibitor works by selectively blocking signaling of microglial surface receptors, known as colony-stimulating factor 1 receptors, which are necessary for microglial survival and proliferation in response to various stimuli, including beta-amyloid. This led to a dramatic reduction of these inflammatory cells, allowing for analysis of their role in Alzheimer’s. The researchers noted a lack of neuron death and improved memory and cognition in the pexidartinib-treated mice, along with renewed growth of dendritic spines that enable brain neurons to communicate.
Green said that although the compound swept away microglia, the beta-amyloid remained, raising new questions about the part these plaques play in Alzheimer’s neurodegenerative process.
In healthy tissue, microglia act as the first and main form of immune defense in the central nervous system. But in a disease state, such as Alzheimer’s, microglia appear to turn against the healthy tissue they were originally assigned to protect, causing inflammation in the brain. The beta-amyloid plaques in brain areas related to Alzheimer’s disease are rich with these rogue microglia, Green added.
“Our work is telling us that these cells may contribute to the disease process, and targeting them with such specific drugs is a promising new approach,” he said.

What’s Mental Illness Got to Do With Success?

 You can read the whole article if you click on the link below. For me the most important thing in the article is what I have put in quotes below. And the sentence I’ve made bold is what I’m trying to achieve, and therefore it talks loudly to me. It’s not easy to recognize why you do the things you do, and keep on doing even when they are counterproductive. It’s only when you stop and examine your behavior, that’s when you realize the source of your behavior. And when you can pin it down, then you are able to change it. So that’s what I’ve been doing examining some things, some behaviors, actions, trying to understand where they come from and  once understood then I can stop engaging in those behaviors. And that is true change. To start out with being oblivious as to why you are doing certain things, that’s where you start, then you go onto trying to understand why you’re doing something, then you get some understanding and then you make a change. That is pretty revolutionary! I would say that is pretty inspirational, that you can change something, a behavior based on childhood trauma, (let’s say abandonment by your father or abuse by your mother.) That is the change I am capable of, it is the change we are all capable of! And that is success!

“The challenge, then, is twofold. The first part: Helping those suffering from mental illness learn to recognize, and then harness, their illness to their benefit. The second: To encourage an open dialogue that’ll encourage those who suffer to talk about their struggles in a way that encourages others to get the help they need if and when they need it. Certainly, these are minds that have the capability of imparting real change, both in themselves and in others.”

Another link between inflammation and mental illness! “Could a runny nose make you depressed? Hay fever sufferers may be four times more likely to develop the mental illness.”

I have horrible seasonal allergies, I have food sensitivities, I have manic depression, aka bipolar disorder. My grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis, my mother had RA and elements of lupus. My brother had bad seasonal allergies. A case study in inflammation, immune and autoimmune responses and mental illnesses in the same individuals!  And here is yet another link between inflammation and mental illness! Hay fever sufferers may be much more likely to develop depression. Hay fever peaks during spring, the rates of suicide also peak in Springtime all over the world. There may be a simple cure for allergies, as simple as Ibuprofen, a non steroidal anti inflammatory (NSAID). Hope scientists     figure out the link between inflammation and mental illness, it could save many, many lives.

Could a runny nose make you depressed? Hay fever sufferers may be four times more likely to develop the mental illness.

Hay fever sufferers may be four times more likely to develop severe depression, according to new research. But it’s not just a runny nose and itchy eyes that triggers mood slumps.

Scientists think inflammation in blood vessels and tissues throughout the body caused by an allergic reaction to pollen has a long-lasting harmful effect on the brain.

This inflammatory response – the cause of typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing – is the body’s way of trying to get rid of an allergy trigger, such as pollen. But there is a growing body of evidence that sustained exposure to low-level inflammation for several months, such as during the hay fever season, could have serious psychiatric effects later in life. However, treatment such as simple ibuprofen could help.

Around ten million people a year in Britain suffer during the hay fever season, which peaks during the late spring and summer. Researchers are investigating whether inflammation can trigger depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

In the latest study, scientists at the National Yang-Ming University of Taiwan looked at nearly 10,000 teenagers with hay fever and 30,000 without it.

They monitored both groups for almost a decade and recorded how many went on to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder – a condition characterised by periods of mania (when people appear over-excited and have an inability to concentrate or sleep) followed by deep depression. The results, in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, showed that adolescents with hay fever were four times more likely to be diagnosed as bipolar as adults.

An earlier Danish study, in 2010, discovered people with allergies such as hay fever had a 30 per cent higher risk of suicide than those who were allergy-free.

Researchers from Aarhus University came up with the findings after comparing allergy rates among suicide victims with those of a group of healthy people.

But how could something as innocuous as a runny nose be linked to mental illness?

Scientists are not completely sure, but it’s already known that during any allergic reaction, the brain churns out substances called pro-inflammatory cytokines.

These are proteins that then trigger inflammation and the release of chemicals in the blood in a bid to flush out foreign ‘invaders’, such as pollen. Inflammation develops in order to alert the immune system that the body is under attack. Normally, it subsides once the threat has been eliminated and the inflamed tissue heals. But problems develop when the inflammation does not dampen down.

More recent research also suggests cytokines can cause a dip in the brain’s levels of serotonin, the so-called happiness chemical, low levels of which can lead to depression.

This could be a vital clue to why allergy-induced inflammation leads to psychiatric illness.

Now, researchers are investigating whether anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, could treat depression.

Earlier this year, King’s College London began the largest ever investigation into inflammation in depressed patients by scanning their brains.

In the past, inflammatory markers have been found in the blood of depressed patients, but this does not prove that inflammation is also present in the brain, which is what is thought could cause depressive symptoms.

The scientists will now test if anti-inflammatory drugs can help patients who have not responded to antidepressants by improving levels of serotonin.

Dr Valeria Mondelli, one of the researchers, said that because inflammation is a natural response, up to a certain level it can protect the brain against infection. ‘But if it is chronic, then it appears to start to damage brain cells,’ she says.

Here’s a link to a video that talks about Immunotherapy to treat allergies:

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Must be the season

This blogpost, posted by Hannah Crowley on, took the words right out of my mouth! Feel like a fraud, feel like I am not good enough, all that is spot on. Now just waiting for the recovery after the relapse. How can this happen to me over and over again? And yet, each time it happens, it feels like it will never end, It feels like I’ll never get better, the hopelessness, the shame, the self blame and recrimination, the gut wrenching heartbreak, not pretty. Just waiting it out, don’t feel good enough to do much else. Tomorrow, I will go to the gym, tomorrow, I will feel better, tomorrow, I will be me, I promise.

Is Mental Illness Relapse a Part of Recovery?
A mental illness relapse tricked me into thinking I was a fraud. As the author of the blog entitled Getting Through Tough Times, I am required — by the very delineation of the phrase — to speak about my own tough times. It’s my job to share obstacles I have overcome and urge other people to do the same (Mental Health 101: Developing Coping Strategies). But recently I’ve felt like a fake, a fraud. I’ve sat in front of a computer screen with my fingers poised above the keys, ready to type a stream of words that sound fancy and wise, and I’ve stood in front of a camera with a bunch of rehearsed clichés, prepared to spout them out robotically.

But I could never go through with it because I was struggling with my own form of mental illness relapse. And for those with a history of mental illness, that is what struggling so frequently means (Anatomy Of A Mental Illness Relapse).

I Felt My Mental Illness Relapse Coming On

Mental illness relapse is probably the origin of the phrase one step forward, two steps back. How can we handle a scary mental illness relapse? Read this.Over the last few weeks, I’ve gone through a series of “tough times” that have left me reeling. Somehow I’d trained myself to believe that I was invincible; that I was no longer drastically affected by pithy little “bumps in the road” or any type of mental illness relapse. As an individual designated to helping others, I felt that I wasn’t allowed to struggle. That somehow struggling made me a counterfeit blogger (Denial Keeps Those With A Mental Illness From Getting Better).

But I was wrong. Every individual is not only entitled to face adversity, but we should expect it — and if we can, we should embrace it. Breaking away from the passé injustice of life, I believe that hardship only highlights our strengths. Instead of retracting into an introverted mass of reticence and self-flagellation, we can take comfort from the age old idiom that where there is life, there is hope.

Mental Illness Relapse Is a Part of Recovery

Mental illness relapse doesn’t have to manifest itself physically, or drastically. It can be a series of distorted thoughts, a heightening of anxiety or the brutally incessant urge to cut. It can even just be that dark, destructive thought that “I am not good enough for this.”

But I am good enough. And today I am going to take my own advice. I’m going to toss aside the masochism and work through the darkness. And if I can get through to just one individual — this will all be worth it. Because “every wound leaves a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says I have survived.”

Why Inflammation is good and bad…


We read about it all the time, diseases caused by inflammation, auto immune diseases, allergies, ulcers, and a host of other diseases (including mental illnesses) are thought to have the involvement of inflammation in their development!

Well, if inflammation is so bad, if it is involved in the causation of so many illnesses, then why does it exist?

Inflammation in and of it self is not bad. It is a process that our white blood cells carry out to protect our bodies from foreign invaders and repair our bodies after injury. If our immune system didn’t function, we would all have to live in a bubble like the “bubble boy” who had no immune system and therefore could not fight off any infections or repair the smallest of injuries.

When we cut our finger, our white blood cells rush there, an enzyme called Bradykinin actually opens up holes in the blood vessels in the cut’s vicinity so that immune cells can get to the site of the cut!!! Bradykinin binds to mast cells (another of our immune cells) that have just come to the site of infection from the opened blood vessel. It is these mast cells that release the mediators of inflammation such as histamine, heparin, prostaglandins, leukotriene and other compounds. All these molecules are needed in the process of repairing the cut finger. If this process wasn’t functioning well or at all, we would not be able to repair damage to out own bodies.

Also when we have a viral or bacterial infection, our immune system again fights off the virus or bacteria. We have macrophages in our immune cells that will phagocytize (ingest) the bacteria or the cells that have been infected by viruses. Neutrophils and leukocytes are also involved here.

Also the immune system can recognize cancer cells that arise in your body. Yes, the immune system recognizes and destroys cancer cells. But cancer cells are wily, they use cloaking devices to hide from our immune system, so they can establish themselves and grow. But our immune system kills many, many cancer cells before one cell escapes it and becomes a tumor.

So the above is an extremely abbreviated description of what inflammation is and what it does. Inflammation is carried out by our immune cells, which are the armed forces of our body.

It is when these armed forces turn the ammunition against us, rather then against invading bacteria and marauding viruses, that the trouble with inflammation starts.

Take allergies, they happen when your immune system erroneously thinks that, for example, tree pollen is a dangerous invader and reacts against it like it would against Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague. The tree pollen in and of itself is not a problem, what is a problem is your immune system reacting against it as if it is something dangerous. The runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, sinus headaches/infections are the direct result of your immune system’s mistaken and hypervigilance.

Even more dangerous are the deadly nut allergies so frequently seen these days. For example, peanut allergies. In this, our immune system sees peanuts and thinks danger! All systems go, the production of histamine happens at such a high level that it closes up out breathing passages and throat. This is anaphylaxis. You can’t breathe, and unless you get an epinephrine shot, which will cause vasoconstriction, an elevated heart rate and bring you out of anaphylaxis, you will die! Steroids will also help, but they have to be administered before the anaphylaxis reaction starts.

Now to autoimmune illnesses, here the immune system finds something in your body, such as in your joints in rheumatoid arthritis, that it thinks is foreign. So perhaps a protein in your joints looks like an invader to your immune system, so it unleashes its full deadly response against this protein. The trouble is that it is not an invader, it is a protein in your joint, and your own immune system is destroying your own body! In rheumatoid arthritis it is joints and connective tissue. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, your immune system is attacking your thyroid. In autoimmune diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells of the pancreas. And there are many, many more autoimmune diseases, where your own body is erroneously attacked by your own immune system.

All the reports I see and post about steroids being able to stop the development of mental illnesses, of the immune system’s involvement in mental illness… who knows, we may ultimately find the immune system is intimately involved in the manifestation, and the development of mental illness.

In summary, inflammation is a critical process that is needed to protect and rebuild from pathological invasion and injury. When this inflammatory response us turned against ourselves, autoimmunity, that is when the trouble starts.

What we have to do is somehow stop our immune system from turning upon our own bodies. Why is it happening more and more these days? Peanut allergies were unheard of not so many years ago! Is it the chemicals with which we douse our food? Chemicals in the air, in our water? If our immune system sees a poison sprayed on an apple as we are eating this apple, and it reacts against the poison in conjunction with the apple, then when we eat only an apple (no poison spray), will our immune system then react to the apple as well? Is that perhaps how all these food allergies started? Possibly. More ideas, more thinking and more research is needed.

The 2nd Amendment

2nd Amendment

Mental illness and violence

I have two points to make:

1) I understand people who have mental illness can have dark impulses, especially people with schizophrenia, like James Holmes, Adam Lanza, and the Oregon shooter. But the incidence of all mental illness around the world is the same. The same, I say. So why are mass shootings so much more common in the USA? Could it have anything to do with our lax gun laws? Anything to do with the 2nd amendment nutjobs?
2) Here’s a revelation: “If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about four percent,” Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke, told ProPublica last year. He notes a 2001 study of mass shooters that found three out of four had no psychiatric history.” This is from:
So although some people with mental illness do commit violent acts, the majority of them don’t. And stricter gun laws, hello NRA, would nip mass shootings right in the bud. When are we going to wake up to these much too numerous, tragic, wake up calls?

Mental illness and violence

I have two points to make:

1) I understand people who have mental illness can have dark impulses, especially people with schizophrenia, like James Holmes, Adam Lanza, and the Oregon shooter. But the incidence of all mental illness around the world is the same. The same, I say. So why are mass shootings so much more common in the USA? Could it have anything to do with our lax gun laws? Anything to do with the 2nd amendment nutjobs?
2) Here’s a revelation: “If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about four percent,” Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke, told ProPublica last year. He notes a 2001 study of mass shooters that found three out of four had no psychiatric history.” This is from:
So although some people with mental illness do commit violent acts, the majority of them don’t. And stricter gun laws, hello NRA, would stop mass shootings right in the bud. When are we going to wake up to these much too numerous, tragic, wake up calls?

Disruption of Communication Between Two Regions of the Brain Contributes to Symptoms of Psychiatric Illnesses

Basically, when the synaptic transmission between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex is disrupted, symptoms of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are seen. This has been known for a long time. What wasn’t known was how is this communication between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex disrupted? That is, what are the mechanisms responsible for the disruption of communication between these two regions of the brain? Well, in this paper below, they show over activation of the D2-like Dopamine receptors leads to a decrease in another type of receptor called the NMDA receptor. This leads to a marked disruption of synaptic transmission between the two brain regions. This newly discovered relationship between the Dopamine and NMDA receptors may lead to treatment options for people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

“Synaptic transmission between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex is required for many executive cognitive functions. It is believed that disruption of this communication contributes to symptoms observed in psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia. Hyperdopaminergic tone and hypofunction of NMDA receptor-mediated glutamate transmission are distinctive elements of schizophrenia. Here we demonstrate that activation of low-affinity D2-like dopamine receptors leads to a lasting depression of NMDA receptors at the hippocampal– prefrontal projection of juvenile rats, leading to a marked disruption of synaptic transmission. These data demonstrate a link between dopamine and hypofunction of NMDA receptormediated transmission with potential implications for psychiatric disease.”

“New research has identified the mechanisms that trigger disruption in the brain’s communication channels linked to symptoms in psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia. The University of Bristol study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, could have important implications for treating symptoms of brain disorders.

Many of our everyday cognitive functions such as learning and memory rely on normal communication between the two regions of the brain – the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. While previous studies have identified disruption to communication channels in these two areas of the brain contribute to symptoms in psychiatric disorders, the mechanisms that lead to these disturbances have been largely unknown, until now.

In this study, led by Professor Zafar Bashir from Bristol’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, the researchers studied the neurotransmitters glutamate and dopamine, which work together in controlling normal transmission between these brain regions by communicating chemical information throughout our brain and are disrupted in schizophrenics.

The team found that subtle changes in the interplay of these transmitters completely altered the flow of information from the hippocampus to prefrontal cortex. Over-activation of the D2 class of dopamine receptors led to suppression of the function of NMDA receptors, which are activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate, at the synaptic connection between hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. This in turn leads to a marked disruption of communication between these brain regions.

Dr Paul Banks, one of the researchers, said: “Our findings demonstrate a mechanism for how dopamine neurotransmission can influence NMDA receptor function at a connection in the brain needed for complex mental tasks which are disrupted in schizophrenic patients. It has been known for some time that dopamine and NMDA receptor function are altered in schizophrenic patients – our data mirror the direction of these changes and therefore might give insight into how these changes come about mechanistically.”