BIOLOGY

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Created by: Emma Rodner-Tims

Mental Health and the Brain

The brain is the control center of the human body. From walking and talking to blinking and dreaming, it controls every single thing that a person does. A person's response to others as well as the events and environments that they encounter throughout their lives. This includes how a person responds to other people and the events and environments that they encounter throughout their lives.

Some people might make us feel happy and energized, some events might make us feel very sad, and some environments might make a person feel very stressed or like they are going “crazy.”

But what happens when a person's thinking, feelings or behavior are changed? What happens when a person feels consistently distressed and has difficulty functioning in their day-to-day life?

The answer: Their mental health may begin to feel strained.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a mental illness can be defined as “a health condition that changes a person's thinking, feelings, or behavior, or all three.” In other words, a mental illness goes beyond feeling the normal human emotions of happy, sad or stressed.

Take stress for example. one of the most typical responses that the brain encounters in a person’s day to day life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is defined as, “the brain’s response to any demand.” This means that, not all stress is bad, or even harmful; despite the stigma of “stress” almost always being related some form of negativity.

While most can learn to manage their stress with simple tactics such as meditation, exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep, those with mental illness’ may have to work a bit harder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “stress can contribute to worsening symptoms of a mental illness.”

Take an individual that lives with the mental illness of bipolar disorder, for example.

The average stressed out person may feel unmotivated or down in the dumps; but when an individual living with bipolar disorder encounters stress, they may experience a depressive or manic mood state, or have a longer, more intense mood episode. This is because an individual living with bipolar disorder goes day to day, living a life where their emotions have too much power over their behavior.

According to the Organization of Psychiatric Education, this is because there is too much activity in emotional centers of the brain, and too little in the frontal lobes, which are supposed to be able to inhibit action. These differences are present even when no symptoms are present.

The first step to take in order to properly cope with stress, whether one is living with a mental illness or not, is to become aware of which situations in their daily life are triggering it. Then, an individual can create a unique plan of action that includes different coping strategies that work best for them, to better manage their stress.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, developing a personalized approach to reducing stress can not only help one manage your mental health condition but also improve their overall quality of life.

Some things the National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests are learning how to cope with situations that make a person feel triggered, making a day-to-day schedule to live by and talking to family, friends, a counselor or a support group.

Written by: Angelina Miller

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