Mental Illnesses 101

Updated: May 11

Featuring stress, burnout, trauma, PTSD, depression, and addiction.

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In the past, mental illness was a taboo topic. If you have to see a therapist, people thought something was wrong with you. While that stigma isn’t completely gone yet, nowadays, mental health and illness are becoming talked about more and more. Just like how no one looks down on you if you go to the doctor for a physical illness, no one should look down on you for seeking help for a mental illness.

Mental illnesses are far and wide, and their causes and treatment and still being researched. This article will talk about four major mental illnesses:

  1. Stress and Burnout

  2. Trauma and PTSD

  3. Depression

  4. Addiction

The information in this article comes Medical Medium’s blog and two of his books: Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal and Life-Changing Foods.

1: Stress and Burnout

Stress has been deemed the health epidemic of the twenty-first century by The World Health Organization. According to the American Institute of stress, 73% of people say stress impacts their mental health, and 77% for physical health. Clearly, stress is a big and wide problem.

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Our Adrenal Addicted Culture

When we get stressed, our fight-or-flight response turns on, and our adrenal glands release adrenaline into the body, which prepares us for danger. This was useful in the past when humans were hunter gatherers. But in our modern age, we get triggered into stress by so many more things, whether it be the news, our unread messages, a mean colleague, or a fight with the spouse. As a result, the adrenal glands get worn out. The Medical Medium refers to this as adrenal fatigue.

Adrenaline is an addictive drug, and it’s made within our own bodies. Like other addictive drugs, our body can become numb to it over time. We get so used to this hormone being in our blood that we forget what a normal, healthy life feels like. The moment people get a chance to relax, they feel less “alive”, so then they go back to trying to be over-busy and overstimulated. They go back to their overflowing inboxes, never-ending to-do lists, and fears about their lives to get that adrenaline going again.

Adrenal to the brain is like lighter fluid to a fire. If you want to get a fire burning, lighter fluid will give it a boost. But as a result of the lighter fluid, the fire will burn really intensely and die out faster. The same is true for our brains. Adrenaline helps us accomplish more faster, but people are burning out faster too. All that constant adrenaline in the brain burns out neurotransmitters, electrical nerve impulses, and neurons before their limit. That’s a big reason why so many people are getting Alzheimer’s, brain fog, memory loss, depression, forgetfulness, insomnia, and dementia.

How do we deal with stress in a healthy way then? A critical step is to see stress as the great teacher, not as the enemy. The only way to protect ourselves from the dangers of our changing world is to change along with it.

Handling Stress

Different people have different coping methods, such as exercise, meditation, and prayer. These are all helpful. Someone people find ways to cut back on responsibilities and to-dos; that’s another great way. But many people cannot cut back on their responsibilities, and that’s where making friends with stress becomes critical.

You can learn to stop the adrenaline rush by viewing stress as a messenger. When you feel stress, ask yourself, “What is this stress trying to tell me?” Instead of trying to “manage” your stress, try to communicate with it. Maybe it’s trying to tell you that something in your life can be improved. Or it’s telling you that you are needed, that you have a purpose in this world.

Did you ever have a teacher in school who really pushed you, maybe even frustrated you, but now you look back on them as your best teacher? That’s what stress is like. View stress like a teacher. We can appreciate stress, because without it, where would we be? There would be no challenge to inspire us. And always remember impermanence: nothing stays the same. When you’re feeling stress pushing you to the max in this moment, remind yourself that this too will pass.

When we view stress as a messenger, friend, and teacher, it becomes less stressful. When we appreciate it and recognize its impermanence, it doesn’t send the same jolt of excess adrenaline.

Stress and Food

A lot of people reach for a snack when stressed. It’s not a bad instinct, but the key is to eat the right things. Don’t eat highly processed foods or high-protein and high-fat foods. These will only add more stress to the body. Instead, eat healing foods such as fruits and vegetables. Examples of great foods that support adrenal function are sprouts, asparagus, wild blueberries, bananas, garlic, broccoli, kale, raspberries, blackberries, lettuce, and red-skinned apples.

2: Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is when someone experiences the lingering of negative feelings that resulted from a difficult time in the past. These feelings include fear, doubt, insecurity, worry, panic, anger, defensiveness, sadness, frustration, resentment, shame, powerlessness, lack of self-worth, and distrust.

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Severe cases are commonly reported by soldiers who experienced war. But PTSD can also happen from things like

  • A child’s parents divorcing

  • A teenager who can’t find a prom date

  • Extremely turbulence on a plane

  • Getting fired from a job

  • Having a bad breakup

  • Illness

There are no limitations to what can cause PTSD.

When someone experiences a traumatic event, their brain has a chemical imbalance. If the brain doesn’t have enough glucose (sugar) reserves, then that trauma can have a lasting effect on the brain. Glucose is a protective biochemical for our brain’s tissue. It neutralizes the acidity of adrenaline and cortisol, which get released from feelings of stress, anger, fear, frustration, and hopelessness. It also neutralizes the electrical storms that happen in the brain during a traumatic event.

If glucose were compared to money, then a traumatic event would be like buying a new car. And a long-term trauma, like an abusive relationship, could have the same effect on your glucose reserves as buying a new house.

Humans intuitively understand sugar as a calming device. It’s why the doctor gives a child a lollipop as a reward for sticking through a needle shot. The problem is, our society is full of bad sugar with no nutritional value.

Healing PTSD

One of the most powerful ways to heal PTSD is to create new experiences that serve as positive reference points in your life. When you accumulate positive experiences, it will help you put the negative ones behind.

These positive experiences don’t have to be big. It can be a nice peaceful walk in the park. The important thing is how you perceive each new adventure. For example, did you see any birds on your walk? Was it sunny? How did you feel? Keep a journal to record all your new positive experiences. Journaling will help you become aware of all the goodness life brings even when you’re not looking for it, and it will help your mind put the negative experiences behind.

Think of your mind as a garden. Those negative experiences are weeds. Every time you recognize a positive experience and journal about it, it’s like plucking out a weed and planting a seed. It can take three to four months of doing this to feel like yourself again, so patience is key.

We can also eat healing foods to restore glucose to the brain and build up our glucose reserves. Some great foods are wild blueberries, melons, beets, bananas, persimmons, papayas, sweet potatoes, figs, oranges, mangoes, apples, and dates.

3: Depression

Real clinical depression is completely different from just feeling down or low in energy. Telling someone with depression to just “cheer up” isn’t helpful. A person with depression told the Medical Medium that depression felt like someone dropped her off a train in the middle of nowhere, then the train left her all alone, with no way home.

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Someone who is clinically depressed may have symptoms such as

  • Sadness

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to provide pleasure

  • Slow thinking, speaking, or movement

  • Thoughts of self-harm

Depression can be caused emotionally or physically. From an emotional perspective, depression might get caused by traumatic loss and long-term stress. From a physical perspective, depression might get caused by heavy metals and the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).

Traumatic Loss

Traumatic loss is the most obvious reason for depression

  • Loss of a loved one: The death of a family member or other loved one

  • Loss of trust and close relationship: Finding out your spouse cheated on you

  • Loss of security and identity: Getting fired from a job that was the center of your life

  • Loss of faith: Suffering a huge injustice that makes you decide the universe is cruel

  • Loss of your future: Having reason to believe you will die soon (loss of your future)

These traumatic emotions can create micro-strokes in the brain, which scar the brain tissue on a level so small that current brain scans cannot detect them. The news of a traumatic loss makes our brain shut down the emotional center as a way to protect us from too much pain at once. It’s kind of like putting up a wall against an attack. This is why depressed people also feel numb and pessimistic. The good news though is that we can rebuild our mental resources and heal our depression.

Traumatic Stress

Another major cause of depression is severe stress sustained over long periods of time. Examples include:

  • Being unemployed for many months and constantly worrying about how you will pay the bills

  • Going through a combative divorce

  • Enduring a major illness that makes you feel afraid and helpless

Well-intentioned people might tell to a depressed person “have perspective”. For example, they might tell you that there are starving children in Arica, or that at least you still have your arms and legs. But logic like this doesn’t always help with our emotional experience of a situation.

These stressful events trigger the fight-or-flight response in our body, which sets our adrenal glands to flood the blood with adrenaline. That would be good if you had to run away from a tiger, but when we are constantly stressed and unable to turn off those adrenal glands, then our blood gets saturated with adrenaline. Too much adrenaline in the blood damages our organs, especially the brain. The adrenaline destroys neurotransmitters and lowers melatonin production, which makes you feel depressed and lost.

Heavy Metals and Other Toxins

Another type of depression happens to people where it seems like everything is perfect. They have a loving family, a great job, a beautiful house, and they feel gratitude for all of it. Yet, somehow, an unexplainable cloud of depression arrives and looms over everything. It makes them feel like something is missing, and they feel unable to get out of bed.