Mind & Mood
Your mood and your mental health affect every aspect of your life, from how you feel about yourself to your relationships with others and your physical health. There's a strong link between good mental health and good physical health, and vice versa. In the other direction, depression and other mental health issues can contribute to digestive disorders, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, heart disease, and other health issues.
There are many ways to keep your mind and mood in optimal shape. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or mindfulness can keep your brain — and your body — in tip-top shape.
When mood and mental health slip, doing something about it as early as possible can keep the change from getting worse or becoming permanent. Treating conditions like depression and anxiety improve quality of life. Learning to manage stress makes for more satisfying and productive days.
Mind & Mood Articles
Giant cell arteritis, also called temporal arteritis, is a disease in which the medium-sized arteries that supply the eye, scalp and face become inflamed and narrowed. This disease can cause loss of vision, so it is essential that the problem be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Larger blood vessels, including the aorta and its branches, also may be involved, and can lead to the blood vessel weakening and even rupturing years later.
Strokes can damage brain tissue in the outer part of the brain (the cortex) or deeper structures in the brain underneath the cortex. A stroke in a deep area of the brain (for example, a stroke in the thalamus, the basal ganglia or pons) is called a lacunar stroke. These deeper structures receive their blood flow through a unique set of arteries. Because of the characteristics of these arteries, lacunar strokes happen a little bit differently from other strokes.
A lacunar stroke occurs when one of the arteries that provide blood to the brain's deep structures is blocked. These arteries are small, and are uniquely vulnerable. Unlike most arteries, which gradually taper to a smaller size, the arteries of a lacunar stroke branch directly off of a large, high-pressure, heavily muscled main artery. High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to lacunar strokes because it causes a pounding pulse. Since the arteries don't gradually taper down in their size, high blood pressure can directly damage these arteries. High blood pressure also can cause atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits (plaques) build up along the walls of blood vessels. When atherosclerosis is present, a clot can form inside of one of these small arteries, blocking blood flow in the artery.
Tay-Sachs disease is an inherited disease caused by an abnormal gene. People with this abnormal gene do not have an important enzyme called hexosaminidase A (HEXA) that helps to break down a fatty material called ganglioside GM2. This material builds up in the brain, and eventually damages nerve cells and causes neurological problems.
Infants usually begin to show signs of the disease between 3 months and 6 months of age. Children with Tay-Sachs disease can become deaf, blind and paralyzed, and usually die by the age of 5.
Tay-Sachs disease is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, meaning a child inherits one copy of the abnormal gene from each parent. The parents do not actually have the disease, but carry the Tay-Sachs gene and pass it on to the baby. If both parents have the abnormal Tay-Sachs gene, there is a one-in-four chance that their child will inherit the gene from both of them and have Tay-Sachs disease.
Tay-Sachs disease is most common in Ashkenazi Jews. About one in 30 people with this ancestry carry a copy of the gene. Some non-Jewish groups also have a higher chance of carrying the disease. They include people whose ancestors were French-Canadian, from the Louisiana bayou, or from Amish populations in Pennsylvania.
A concussion is a short-term disturbance in brain function caused by a head injury. A concussion causes:
Confusion, headache or dizziness
Loss of consciousness lasting less than 30 minutes or no loss of consciousness at all
Loss of memory (amnesia) lasting less than 24 hours
About half of all head injuries happen during motor vehicle accidents. Falls, sports and assaults cause the rest. Alcohol and drug use are major contributing factors.
Most head injuries result from direct trauma (for example, the head hitting the ground or the windshield of a car). In the elderly, serious head injuries can result from even minor falls. Injuries also can occur from rapid acceleration or deceleration, as may happen in a whiplash injury. People who injure their heads often injure their necks, too.
Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography (CT) scans of someone with a concussion rarely show obvious signs of brain injury. .
Occasionally, minor head trauma can trigger a more serious problem such as bruising of the brain tissue (brain contusion) or bleeding within the head (subdural hematoma or subarachnoid hemorrhage). Bleeding and other complications of minor head injuries appear to be more common in the elderly and in people taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, fatal brain disorder caused by prions. Prions are normal proteins that have changed their shape. Healthy proteins have a healthy shape, which allows them to function normally. The misshapen prion protein is unhealthy. Worse, the prion causes disease by making other proteins nearby change their healthy shape to the prion's unhealthy shape. In this way a prion makes more prions: it slowly turns healthy proteins into prions, too.
When symptoms eventually appear, CJD causes rapidly progressive dementia (mental decline) and involuntary jerking muscle movements called myoclonus. About 90% of people with CJD die within 1 year of diagnosis.
About 85-95% of cases of CJD are from sporadic mutations. The DNA in a brain cell is changed by the mutation, and makes an unhealthy prion protein. Less often, the mutation is hereditary (passed down from parent to child). Jewish people born in Czechoslovakia, Chile and Libya have a higher-than-average number of inherited cases of CJD. Inherited CJD does not cause symptoms until adulthood.
Prions also can be passed from an animal to a person, or from one person to another. Fortunately, it is hard to catch prion diseases. A type of CJD called "variant CJD" shows somewhat slower progression of brain injury and more psychiatric symptoms, and it tends to affect younger people. This type of CJD has been linked to eating beef from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also called "mad cow disease." BSE is caused by prions.
In the 1990's, a small outbreak of variant CJD was described in the United Kingdom. It was caused by people eating beef infected with prions. Since then, changes in beef farming and processing practices have helped to limit the number of new cases.
It is extremely uncommon for CJD to spread from one person to another. However, in very rare cases CJD has been transmitted by a blood transfusion, by a medical procedure (because of contaminated equipment), by contaminated tissue (such as corneas that are used for transplant) or by injections of hormones extracted from human tissues.
Epilepsy is a nervous system condition. It causes repeated, sudden, brief changes in the brain's electrical activity. These changes cause various types of symptoms.
Epileptic episodes are called seizures or convulsions. During a seizure, brain cells fire uncontrollably at up to four times their normal rate. Seizures temporarily affect the way a person behaves, moves, thinks or feels.
There are two main types of seizures:
A primary generalized seizure involves the entire brain.
A partial seizure begins in one brain area. It affects only part of the brain. However, a partial seizure can turn into a generalized seizure.
Many conditions can affect the brain and trigger epilepsy. These include:
Brain injury, either before or after birth
Infections, especially meningitis and encephalitis
Abnormal blood vessels in the brain
Huntington's disease causes nerve cells in the brain to stop working properly. It leads to mental deterioration and loss of control over major muscle movements.
Huntington's disease worsens over time. It is an inherited (genetic) disease. Each child of a parent with Huntington's disease has a 50% chance of inheriting the illness.
Huntington's disease is relatively uncommon. It affects people from all ethnic groups. The disease affects males and females equally.
A fever is an increase in body temperature above the normal range. However, body temperature varies between people, with different levels of activity and at different times of the day. Medical textbooks differ in their definition of the highest normal body temperature. Fever generally can be defined as an early morning temperature higher than 99 degrees Fahrenheit or a temperature higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit at any time of the day.
The brain's nerve cells (neurons) communicate by firing tiny electric signals. During a seizure (convulsion), the firing pattern of these electric signals suddenly changes. It becomes unusually intense and abnormal.
A seizure can affect a small area of the brain. Or it can affect the entire brain. If the whole brain is involved, it is called a generalized seizure.
Schizophrenia is a chronic (long-lasting) brain disorder that is easily misunderstood. Although symptoms may vary widely, people with schizophrenia frequently have a hard time recognizing reality, thinking logically and behaving naturally in social situations. Schizophrenia is surprisingly common, affecting 1 in every 100 people worldwide.
Experts believe schizophrenia results from a combination of genetic and environmental causes. The chance of having schizophrenia is 10% if an immediate family member (a parent or sibling) has the illness. The risk is as high as 65% for those who have an identical twin with schizophrenia.
Scientists have identified several genes that increase the risk of getting this illness. In fact, so many problem genes have been investigated that schizophrenia can be seen as several illnesses rather than one. These genes probably affect the way the brain develops and how nerve cells communicate with one another. In a vulnerable person, a stress (such as a toxin, an infection or a nutritional deficiency) may trigger the illness during critical periods of brain development.
Schizophrenia may start as early as childhood and last throughout life. People with this illness periodically have difficulty with their thoughts and their perceptions. They may withdraw from social contacts. Without treatment, symptoms get worse.
Schizophrenia is one of several "psychotic" disorders. Psychosis can be defined as the inability to recognize reality. It may include such symptoms as delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (false perceptions), and disorganized speech or behavior. Psychosis is a symptom of many mental disorders. In other words, having a psychotic symptom does not necessarily mean a person has schizophrenia.
Symptoms in schizophrenia are described as either "positive" or "negative." Positive symptoms are psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations and disorganized behavior. Negative symptoms are the tendency toward restricted emotions, flat affect (diminished emotional expressiveness), and the inability to start or continue productive activity.
In addition to positive and negative symptoms, many people with schizophrenia also have cognitive symptoms (problems with their intellectual functioning). They may have trouble with "working memory." That is, they have trouble keeping information in mind in order to use it, for example, remembering a phone number that they have just heard. These problems can be very subtle, but in many cases may account for why a person with schizophrenia has such a hard time managing day-to-day life.
Schizophrenia can be marked by a steady deterioration of logical thinking, social skills and behavior. These problems can interfere with personal relationships or functioning at work. Self-care can also suffer.
As people with schizophrenia realize what it means to have the disease, they may become depressed. People with schizophrenia are therefore at greater than average risk of committing suicide. Family members and health care professionals need to stay alert to this possibility.
People with schizophrenia are also at more risk for developing substance abuse problems. People who drink and use substances have a harder time adhering to treatment. People with schizophrenia smoke more than people in the general population. The smoking leads to more health problems.
Anyone with serious and chronic mental illness is at greater risk for developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure and abnormal lipid levels in the bloodstream.
Schizophrenia has historically been divided into several subtypes, but researchers in the last several years have determined that these divisions are probably not clinically useful.