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
The most prominent symptom of major depression is a severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair. The mood change can sometimes appear as irritability. Or the person suffering major depression may not be able to take pleasure in activities that usually are enjoyable.
Major depression is more than just a passing blue mood, a "bad day" or temporary sadness. The mood changes that occur in major depression are defined as lasting at least two weeks but usually they go on much longer — months or even years.
A variety of symptoms usually accompany the mood change, and the symptoms can vary significantly among different people.
Many people with depression also have anxiety. They may worry more than average about their physical health. They may have excessive conflict in their relationships and may function poorly at work. Sexual functioning may be a problem. People with depression are at more risk for abusing alcohol or other substances.
Depression probably involves changes in the areas of the brain that control mood. Nerve cells may be functioning poorly in certain regions of the brain. Communication between nerve cells or nerve circuits can make it harder for a person to regulate mood. These problems may be affected negatively by hormones. An individual's life experience affects these biological processes. And genetic makeup influences how vulnerable any of us is to breakdowns in these functions.
An episode of depression can be triggered by a stressful life event. But in many cases, depression does not appear to be related to a specific event.
Major depression may occur just once in a person's life or may return repeatedly. Some people who have many episodes of major depression also have a background pattern of a milder depressed mood called dysthymia.
Some people who have episodes of major depression also have episodes of relatively high energy or irritability. They may sleep far less than normal, and may dream up grand plans that could never be carried out. The person may develop thinking that is out of step with reality — psychotic symptoms — such as false beliefs (delusions) or false perceptions (hallucinations). The severe form of this is called "mania" or a manic episode. If a person has milder symptoms of mania and does not lose touch with reality, it is called "hypomania" or a hypomanic episode.
If a woman has a major depressive episode within the first two to three months after giving birth to a baby, it is called postpartum depression. Depression that occurs mainly during the winter months is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Episodes of depression can occur at any age. Depression is diagnosed in women twice as often as in men. People who have a family member with major depression are more likely to develop depression or drinking problems.
Nerve cells in the brain pass signals among themselves using both electrical current and chemicals. In a seizure, the brain's electricity is not passed in an organized way from one cell to the next, but spreads over a cluster of cells or the whole brain all at once. When only a portion of the brain is involved, the seizures are called partial seizures or focal seizures. These seizures vary tremendously in their effects on the person's movement, sensation or behavior depending on which area of brain is involved.
A seizure is a sudden change in the brain's normal electrical activity. During a seizure, brain cells "fire" uncontrollably at up to four times their normal rate, temporarily affecting the way a person behaves, moves, thinks or feels.
There are two major types of seizures:
Primary generalized seizures – The seizure affects the entire cerebral cortex, the outer portion of the brain that contains the majority of brain cells. In this type of seizure, the abnormal firing of brain cells occurs on both sides of the brain at about the same time.
Partial (focal) seizure – The abnormal firing of brain cells begins in one region of the brain and remains in that one region.
Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain. This inflammation usually is triggered by a viral infection, although sometimes it can be caused by a bacterial infection of the brain, such as Lyme disease. In some cases, symptoms are caused by direct infection of the brain. In other cases, the brain inflammation is caused by the immune system's response to the brain infection. Even if the immune system attack succeeds in eliminating the infection, it may injure the brain in the process. This is called post-infectious encephalitis.
Often, viruses that cause encephalitis also cause inflammation of the delicate tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord, which are called the meninges. This condition is meningitis. When encephalitis and meningitis occur together, it is called meningoencephalitis.
Of the many different viruses that can cause meningoencephalitis, enteroviruses (particularly coxsackievirus and echovirus) are the most common cause in the United States, particularly if the illness occurs in the summer or fall. Encephalitis also can be caused by the herpes simplex virus, which also causes cold sores and genital herpes. This type of encephalitis is less common but tends to be more severe. The mumps and measles viruses also can cause encephalitis, with mumps occurring most often in the winter or spring.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a recording of the brain's electrical activity. Metal electrodes attached to the skin on the outside of the head transform electrical activity into patterns, commonly called brain waves. A polygraph machine records the brain waves. In some cases, the waves are transmitted to a computer screen. A basic EEG takes about 45 minutes, with a range of 30 minutes to 90 minutes.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), usually first diagnosed in childhood, can appear in a variety of forms and has many possible causes. People with ADHD probably have an underlying genetic vulnerability to developing it, but the severity of the problem is also influenced by the environment. Conflict and stress tend to make it worse.
The main features of this disorder are found in its name. Attention problems include daydreaming, difficulty focusing and being easily distracted. Hyperactivity refers to fidgeting or restlessness. A person with the disorder may be disruptive or impulsive, may have trouble in relationships and may be accident-prone. Hyperactivity and impulsiveness often improve as a person matures, but attention problems tend to last into adulthood.
Amyloidosis is a disease in which an abnormal protein called amyloid accumulates in body tissues and organs. The protein deposits can be in a single organ or dispersed throughout the body. The disease causes serious problems in the affected areas. As a result, people with amyloidosis in different body parts may experience different physical problems:
Brain - Dementia
Heart - Heart failure, an irregular or unstable heart rhythm, enlarged heart
Kidneys - Kidney failure, protein in the urine
Nervous system - Numbness, tingling or weakness from nerve disease
Digestive system - Intestinal bleeding, intestinal obstruction, poor nutrient absorption
Blood - Low blood counts, easy bruising or bleeding
Pancreas - Diabetes
Musculoskeletal system - Joint pain or swelling, weakness
Skin - Lumps or purple discoloration
No one knows what causes amyloidosis. To make matters more complex, amyloidosis is not a single disease, and there are many different types of amyloid protein's that can be involved. For example, Alzheimer's disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a rare cause of dementia linked to viruses living in livestock) are two distinct conditions characterized by amyloid deposits in the brain, but the proteins involved are different.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a loss of brain functions that worsens over time. It is a form of dementia.
Alzheimer's disease damages the brain's intellectual functions. Short term memory often is affected early. Gradually other intellectual functions deteriorate. Judgment becomes impaired. Most people with advanced AD lose their ability to do normal daily activities.
Alzheimer's usually begins after age 60. Occasionally, it affects younger people.
Scientists are uncertain about what causes the symptoms of AD. Alzheimer's patients develop excessive deposits of two proteins in their brains. Researchers believe that these proteins distort communication between brain cells.
A chemical called acetylcholine may also be involved. It helps transmit messages between brain cells. Levels of acetylcholine begin to drop in patients with AD. This may add to the communication problems between brain cells.
Eventually, brain cells themselves are affected. They begin to shrivel and die.
The following factors may increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease:
Age. Risk increases with age.
Family history. If members of your family, especially parents or siblings, have or had AD, your risk increases.
Genetic factors. Inheriting certain genes increases your risk.
Dementia is a pattern of mental decline caused by different diseases or conditions. Most commonly, dementia occurs when brain nerve cells (neurons) die, and connections between neurons are interrupted. These disruptions have a variety of causes and usually cannot be reversed.
Among the causes of dementia:
Alzheimer's disease causes about 40% to 45% of all dementias.
Vascular disease, such as stroke, causes about 20%.
Lewy body disease, which causes neurons in the brain to degenerate, causes another 20% of dementias.
The main symptom of the eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, is repetitive binge eating. During a binge, a person eats large quantities of food in a relatively short time, regardless of hunger. Binge eating is defined only in part by food quantity. A more important feature is the person's state of mind: During a binge, the person with bulimia feels out of control of the eating and cannot stop it.
By definition, bulimia is divided into a "purging" and "nonpurging" type, depending on what strategies the individual may use to try to control weight. Purging is vomiting self-induced immediately after a binge. In the nonpurging type of bulimia, a person may abuse laxatives, suppositories, enemas or diuretics, may go on an extended fast or start a period of strenuous exercise.
There is significant overlap between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, since those with bulimia may restrict food intake (a characteristic of anorexia) and people with anorexia may binge and purge. In both disorders, a person may be preoccupied with weight and be very self-conscious about body size and shape.