Words Change Minds
May 20, 2015
Words are really persuasive little buggers.
Letters in text sects of meaning; these insects form swarms, and plague minds.
They jump off the page, buzz through the air, and splat onto your glassy shield.
From there, visual radiation waves wriggle through the cornea, like energy worms hoping to slither past the venus light trap of the iris.
They march in 2 tracks, being funneled into the black beetle of the pupil.
Your lens then barely has a chance to focus, before the centipedes streak away again, to dance in vitreous honey.
This is the eye’s sweet trick, and the semantic ants are lured close enough, to be incarcerated into binary.
The retina stops the special effects- terminating light and creating signal.
Live nerve wires of optic fibers, shoot pixel sparks, as fireflies flee.
What flame isn’t terrified, of embers doused forever; entombed in an epidermal sac, of mostly water?
But, we know the brain imprisons words, and the mug shot, of bug shock memories, become stored as cocoons of notions.
These fester in the lobes of the mind, encased for 20 years to life.
Most inmates mix well with the general syntax, and organize themselves into memes and causes. They exist to help YOU serve YOUR sentence, and explain motives to juries on both sides of the skin.
As helpful as words are in telling any story, we cannot forget how seductive language can be; shaping our opinions and prejudices, sometimes without our conscious consent.
Almost in slow notion, ideas gravitate together, and associations are born, sometimes unnoticed.
This process, gives your unconscious inner agenda more mass as we age.
And with life, comes space and time, often opening our eyes to new horizons.
And sometimes, we reject and deflect new information, hoping to protect what we know.
Our density, or perhaps inertia, holds old information close.
But, data vacuums only twist reality; closing loops eventually bend on themselves, distorting ideas into black holes.
These fragile bubbles are vacuums of fear, sucked in by misguided paradigms; expressed in the social layer of hate.
And every step away from sharing knowledge, or risking learning something new, is frightening. It inches society closer to the cliff of intolerance and stigma, and it seems so many have fallen already.
I mention this, because I would like to point out some interesting uses of words, and how they have changed our view of mental illnesses.
Terms used in medicine and society often reflect the technology of the time. Calling blood a humor is nothing to laugh at anymore, and the Humerus funny bone is probably the Ulna.
Mental illnesses sometimes occupy a certain position in the health care community due to the words they have been associated with.
These words dress up brain disorders into something less concerning, or optional, compared to heart disease.
It seems the illnesses we understand as diseases of the brain are medical, but the diseases of the mind, are the soul responsibility of the patient themselves.
Somewhere along the way, epilepsy, a disorder of the brain, characterized by abnormal spontaneous electrical charges, became known as an ‘organic brain’ disorder.
While, at the same time, post traumatic stress disorder, a condition of eventually low cortisol states and amygdala over activity, became known as a ‘functional disorder’.
Chronic abdominal pain, often accompanied by IBS, may sometimes be considered a functional disorder, but it is often labelled a pain disorder, and treated with pain medications.
At the same time, anxiety is called a psychological disorder, yet we all feel butterflies in the gut when nervous. At least 80% of your serotonin receptors, inner messengers sensitive to the chemicals of anxiety, actually reside in your abdomen, not your brain.
This is just one example of how treating anxiety can benefit your abdominal track; part of a web of anxiety neurons. That seems pretty organic to me.
Whether you call something organic, functional, or psychological, major mental illnesses clearly demonstrate measurable consequences in our physical reality.
And the words we see and use, have an incredible influence on our opinions and values.
There are some words and images, that will forever be linked with tragedy, and fear.
We now have many functional imaging studies, and other scientific techniques; to measure the changes that occur in the brain, for every major mental illness.
It is sometimes difficult to understand, with all the changes due to technology, that diseases once considered illnesses of the mind, have now been found in the brain.
But observations made more than 50 years ago, which saw that drugs increasing mesolimbic DOPAMINE, also caused psychosis, provide our current model for Schizophrenia.
This led to using medications which blocked dopamine in the brain, for the treatment of psychosis and schizophrenia.
You may know someone who uses cocaine, or methamphetamine, 2 drugs that temporarily increase brain dopamine.
It is obvious to see the ‘character’ changes; the panic and aggression of paranoia, or the fame and immortality of grandiosity.
In fact, abuse of meth has produced psychotic states resembling paranoid Schizophrenia, complete with auditory hallucinations, that can last for years after the last hit.
We are also recently learning that dopamine is likely not the only neurotransmitter involved.
Schizophrenic-like episodes are also seen when there are low levels of glutamate, or excessively blocked NMDA receptors. These side effects are witnessed when PCP and Ketamine, both potent NMDA blockers, are prescribed by the dealer.
Psychosis is often divided into a few different categories. We have already discussed illusions, as well as Hallucinations and Delusions.
It is divided in other ways, the first being Schizophrenia-like illnesses, then brief psychotic states, and other smaller categories. And then due to assaults on the brain, like trauma, tumors, seizures, drugs, medications, and a host of other reapers of sanity.
The next part will focus on Schizophrenia, its other specific symptoms, genetics, and risk of violence.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He was not referring to coffee that tastes like an Italian person.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at