The Neuro-Physiological Roots Of Mental Illness
Updated: May 12
Why do some people suffer from mental disorders and do not?
“I became depressed following my divorce”
“I began getting panic attacks after a long-haul flight”
“I am obsessive compulsive because of my upbringing”
“I lack confidence because my parents were too critical…”
Do our circumstances really make us who we are? We all know of people who have experienced extreme traumas, yet who emerged unscathed or even strengthened. Why is this the case?
For the past 100 years, modern psychology has focused its efforts on unpicking the circumstantial history that leads to mental illness. However, we would propose that our mental stability is not solely governed by our conscious minds.
The conscious brain, the bit which converses with a psychotherapist, represents only 20% of our total brain mass. It is the other 80% which largely controls our drives, emotions, impulses and desires.
Known as ‘the Lizard Brain’, because it was the first part of the human brain to evolve, it controls many of the systems that we depend on to function.
We kid ourselves that our conscious minds are in control and often post-rationalise our behaviour, to fit with our cognitive idea of ourselves. However much as we like to think so, we are not really in the driving seat.
It is the health of our lizard brain, that ultimately governs our resilience to the stresses and strains of everyday life. What separates those who buckle from those who dust it off, is the balanced functioning of many automated, unconscious systems.
For example, an adult who suffers from Agoraphobia may in fact have distorted spatial awareness and balance skills.
A child labeled as Autistic - because they avoid social contact and interaction, may in fact, be suffering from hyper acute hearing, which makes it uncomfortable and even painful for them to talk and listen to others.
Many anxiety and panic disorders may be underpinned by a persisting infant survival reflex (the ‘Moro’) which makes people involuntarily overreact to any perceived threats in their environment.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, Dr Guy Bérard, an eminent French ENT doctor found that a specific distortion in the way in which one hears can aggravate the right brain hemisphere to the point of suicidal depression. Fix the hearing and the suicidal tendencies are often resolved.
Fortunately, it is possible to correct these underlying imbalances and give the Lizard Brain a ‘second chance’ to rewire itself back to a healthy state of normality. Successful interventions include a reflex integration program, Auditory Therapy, Cranial Osteopathy and very targeted nutritional/biomedical therapy.