Addiction & Mental Illnesses: Genesis & Causes

There are many definitions of the soul or psyche: our being, thinking, consciousness, life breathing or spiritual principle. It is clear that the psyche can fall ill as any other organ also: addiction, depression, obsessions or panic attacks are the result.

What is the psyche?

If one wants to define the concepts of soul and psyche, one gets into swimming: the breath of life or the union of will, mind and spirit are only two of the various definitions.

In medicine, one judges the various components of mental health and defines the state of the psyche based on these components. This includes:

  • Consciousness and the ego-consciousness
  • orientation
  • attention
  • memory
  • formal and substantive thinking
  • perception
  • drive
  • psychomotor
  • affect

Consciousness can be deliberately switched off - during surgery, people make use of this with anesthesia.

The psyche affects the body

How important is the awareness of our personality, you can see in people who are in the vegetative state. Meanwhile, we know that the psyche is able to boost our defenses.

Psychoneuroimmunology deals with the interaction of soul and body. Our mental health depends on many external factors - deep, restorative sleep, life after the biorhythm, relaxation phases after stress situations or a sufficient social embedding are important, so that we feel well.

For example, if a child receives too little attention, it develops a type of hospitalism: the hallmarks are behaviors such as restless movement or swings with the body.

Mental illness

Many areas of the psyche can get sick:

  • A mild disturbance of consciousness is the drowsiness (after a traffic accident), a severe form of coma (unconsciousness), even the delirium (for example, after excessive alcohol consumption) is a disturbance of consciousness.
  • The ego-consciousness is ill with schizophrenia - "being alien to oneself", this feeling can also occur with LSD-taking.
  • If the orientation is disturbed, the person concerned no longer knows exactly where he is, which day is right or what his name is.
  • In attention disorders simple arithmetic tasks are no longer possible.
  • In memory disorders, the ultra-short-term or short-term memory is often limited, the long-term memory is usually retained long (typically in dementia).
  • Slow thinking is just as much a part of the disturbances of thought as pondering, lethargy, breaking off thoughts or chasing thoughts - and delusion and the various constraints.
  • Hallucinations (as they also occur in alcohol delirium) belong to the perceptual disorders.
  • The drive is reduced in depression and drug-inhibited.
  • Fears and phobias are disturbances of the affect; the term affectivity denotes the entire emotional life of a person. There may be too much or too little feeling, the mood can fluctuate unstably - especially depression and mania are characterized by affect disorders.

How does an addiction come about?

On a day when everything goes wrong and the mood is low, you "treat yourself" to something special - a sip of alcohol, a good meal or a shopping spree. This action improves the mood, but as soon as the effect wears off, it urges a repetition.

This is not yet questionable - only when the urge for repetition becomes uncontrollable, the first step to addiction is done. Addiction is a disease in which a remedy or an action leads to overuse and then abuse to dependency.

Diagnosis of addiction

If there is a suspicion of addiction or other mental illness, the patient first takes the medical history (ask for a medical history). The extent of the mental impairment manifests itself during a detailed conversation between the doctor / therapist and the person affected.

The collection of the psychopathological findings, in which all psychological elements are tested, is the most important investigation measure, on the basis of which the doctor determines the further course of action. Usually the conversation is conducted in several stages with different emphases (family history, previous illnesses, special features). Psychological tests such as the Rorschach test are only sometimes used.

Also, organ examinations belong to the diagnosis, because in addiction patients with suspected organ damage additional investigations are carried out. Thus, in alcohol abuse next to the liver, the nerves for damage must be examined and in smokers the lungs.

Patients who are suspected of having organ damage as a cause of the mental illness are being used for blood tests, x-rays or other imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging.

Typical symptoms of mental illness

Common symptoms of a mental illness are fears and phobias, sleep disorders and depressive moods. For many mental disorders, it must be investigated whether there is not an organic cause for the symptoms - a brain hemorrhage or a stroke, poisoning or a low-vitamin B diet in alcohol abuse can lead to mental changes.

But also striking skin diseases such as severe atopic dermatitis, conspicuous nerve slips such as Tourette's syndrome or headaches can restrict the sufferer so that he also mentally ill and develops, for example, depression.

Some diseases are characterized by typical symptoms:

  • In chronic fatigue syndrome, the person feels constantly exhausted and could always sleep - the cause is still unclear.
  • In sleeping sickness, however, it is known that parasites are responsible for the increasing loss of consciousness.
  • The dementias - the most well-known is the Alzheimer's dementia - are characterized by an increasing memory loss of the person concerned: a process that also heavily incriminates the relatives.
  • Bullying, burnout syndrome or ongoing stress often results in a psyche response. In addition to depressive moods and listlessness can also occur thinking disorders or hyperventilation attacks. Also an allergic reaction is possible.
  • The Munchausen syndrome is a rare disease that can be a special form of child maltreatment.

Even in children, mental disorders occur. In addition to the already mentioned hospitalism, autism as extreme contact disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are particularly noteworthy. The urge to self-injury indicates a disturbed personality.

What addictions are there?

The most common addictions are certainly alcohol and nicotine addiction. But the addictive options range from substance-related addictions to drugs, medicines or food to addictions that focus on one action: starvation (in anorexia nervosa), eating (in food addiction), buying, exercising (in fitness addiction), gambling addiction or surfing the internet!

How to prevent?

Mental illness is only partially preventable. All stress-related components should be reduced to a reasonable level so that relaxation exercises, autogenic training, massages and a bit of sun can actually work.

Once a behavioral change occurs in the elderly, you should act quickly to stop dementia. With brain jogging and memory training you keep the gray cells fit - so you can start in the office!

The most important measure to counteract depression and, above all, addictions is to provide the population with comprehensive information about the disease and the addictive potential of substances or actions. Only informed people can perceive the first signs of illness and then seek help early.

What therapeutic measures are there?

Mental illnesses are usually treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. In addition to St. John's wort and psychotropic drugs, placebo is sometimes used. Behavioral therapy is the drug of choice for ADHD or anxiety attacks. Especially with children, a cautious approach is needed. Sleep disorders can be countered with proper nutrition and depression with magnetic therapy.

Tips to stop smoking, there are many - whether you always help, is another matter. Here, too, an accompanying psychotherapy can help - especially with the ever earlier contact of adolescents to drugs.

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