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How The Mind Affects The Body Essay, Research Paper

The mind-body connection is a very powerful one. For every thought in the mind, the body has a reaction, regardless of whether it is real or imagined. For example, when someone has a nightmare they will usually wake up with their heart racing, sweating, and may be very agitated even though all they were doing was sleeping. But in their mind there was something bad going on and their body was reacting to it. This demonstrates how strong the mind-body connection can be.

Depression is the most common psychological disorder that affects the young and old, rich and poor, or even successful and unsuccessful people. Everyone is a target for depression. For these very ill people life is a hopeless prison sentence, and they themselves feel worthless and unloved (Luce, 1971, p.152). There are three main types of depression that affect many people nationwide. All three are mind disorders, which can cause major problems in the body.

The first is major depression. Major depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of despondency, worthlessness, and hopelessness leading to impair emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physical functioning. This disorder, which affects about 12 million Americans a year, stems from an overwhelming feeling of sadness. The individual may feel alone although surrounded by friends and family. They may cry for no reason, or suffer from low self-esteem. If not treated, the body begins to suffer. The individual begins to lose mental and physical energy, along with vague aches and pains. They may experience restlessness and anxiety, which are displayed through fidgeting and aimless pacing. Other changes include sleep disorder and varied eating habits resulting in weight loss or gain.

Another type of depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This mood disorder is brought on by changes in the weather. It will usually occur during the winter due to larger amounts of the hormone melatonin being released during cooler weather. People with SAD suffer from an imbalance of this hormone and will feel more of the effects. Physical effects may include less energy and a withdrawal from some activity. Fortunately for these people, the disorder usually stops around spring or summer.

A third type of depression is bipolar depression. Individuals that suffer from this type of disorder will alternate from incapacitating depression to extreme excitement. Mood swings go from one extreme to the next. Some may believe in an exaggerated opinion of themselves. Often the individual may be very loud and frenzied, jumping from one topic to another. They are usually unorganized because they try to perform many tasks simultaneously.

Adrenaline is both helpful and harmful. If the right amounts are produced, the individual will be able to get things done; however, too much can cause stress. Stress is a dangerous example of the mind-body connection. Physical problems are quicker to show and can lead to serious problems.

During stressful times the body is primed with adrenaline which gives a fight or flight response. The body is ready for action and is reacting with the fight emotions of anger, aggression, and hostility or the flight emotions of fear, anxiety, and nervousness. In nature this helps in a fight and the danger would have passed quickly.

Contrary to nature, in modern society the environment has changed. Instead of animals attacking, people are faced with financial, mental, emotional, and social problems. For example, if an employee were to get yelled at by their boss they couldn t fight or run because they may have financial obligations depending on that job. Instead the employee would have to sit there and listen. The problem is that the body s defenses have been activated for fight or flight, but they have not reacted either way.

Stress is caused by a sudden shock, trauma or from being in the fight or flight of the adrenaline cycle for long periods of time. The adrenaline cycle is a natural process to allow extra strength and stamina in times of threat and danger. If the individual stays switched in the adrenaline cycle for long periods of time, their health may be affected. They could suffer from fatigue, malnutrition, and nervousness.

Another problem with the adrenaline cycle is that it inhibits the immune system. People who are in constant strain or stress are more likely to become ill. They re the people who are more likely to get those common colds and flues going around. People who are relaxed are much healthier. The immune system changes the way it operates when it is primed with adrenaline; energy is diverted away from the immune system to be focused on the perceived threat. The immune cells are no longer able to pass through the capillary walls of the blood vessels, this inhibits their ability to destroy and remove harmful bacteria from the body. The more fatigued and malnourished the person is, the weaker the immune system becomes.

Also, the body s response speeds up the metabolism and quickly burns up reserved nutrients and energy. So, if this continues less resources are available to deal with life and the body starts to degenerate, compounding the situation and making the individual feel worse. While more of the nutrients are being consumed, more wastes and toxins are being produced. In nature there is immediate physical activity to all threats. However, in modern society the person may overlook the importance of physical activity as a necessary way to relieve stress.

Physical problems build up during stressful times. Those under stress age more quickly because of the higher rate and the closing down of the peripheral circulation. The blood is redirected to the large muscle groups away from the skin and other body organs, this deprives them of the nutrients necessary to repair and regenerate. Stress shuts down all non-essential processes like digestion, the immune system, and the peripheral circulation; allowing the mind to focus on the perceived threat. The mind-body connection starts to malfunction because of the constant tension, leading to fatigue, sleep deprivation, and malnutrition.

Another mind-body connection occurs during the unconscious hours of the day. Problems occurring at this time are called sleeping disorders. Some 100 disorders of sleeping and waking harm personal health and quality of life and endanger public safety (Lamberg, 1988, p.107). A common type of sleeping disorder called sleep apnea is where a person has problems breathing during sleep. Over 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea; however, it is not often treated because symptoms are thought to be depression, stress, or just loud snoring. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for at least ten seconds at a time; these short stops in breathing can happen up to 400 times every night. There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea is where something is actually blocking the windpipe. This may be the tongue, tonsils, uvula, or even a piece of fatty tissue in the windpipe. Nine out of ten patients suffer from this type of apnea. Central sleep apnea, which is rare, is named because of its relation to the central nervous system. During this type of apnea, specific muscles don t get the necessary signal to breathe. Either the brain isn t sending the signal or it is interrupted. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two. People suffering from this will have a pronounced snore with sudden, loud snorts. These gasps for air are usually a lifesaver when the mouth and throat muscles tense up to allow air back into the body. Most sleepers are totally unaware of this and will simply fall back asleep. Patients will occasionally fall asleep at inappropriate times. Other signs include morning headaches, memory difficulties, low energy levels, agitation, shortness of breath, or leg swelling. In some serious cases, the continuous oxygen deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, or even sudden death.

The mind causes many problems for the body. However, there is hope. There are ways to fight depression, stress, and sleeping disorders. Common cures are to relax and find an outlet for all worries. Physical activity helps minimize the anxiety brought on by everyday problems. Simple breathing exercises or meditation repeated has helped many people who suffer. Those suffering from sleeping disorders should try sleeping on their side, exercising regularly to regulate breathing, remain in shape, and stay away from alcohol and sleep medications. A new type of psychology deals with the power to heal through extrasensory abilities. Research has shown that basic energies can be controlled by mind or consciousness to cause changes in the body (Kettelkamp, 1978, p.115).

Despite all the negative effects of the mind-body connection, there are many good aspects to it. Without the adrenaline response to stress, people wouldn t be able to get things done or even perform everyday operations on a regular basis. Sometimes a mild depression can signal a need for a break from excessive activity. On the other hand it may determine a need to get out of a slump. Whatever the problem is, the mind is sure to let the body know.

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