Small Steps – Understanding The Neuro-physiological Roots of Mental Illness

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By Leo Meyer

Why do some people suffer from mental disorders and others 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 focusedit’s 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 yet it is the other 80% which largely controls our drives, emotions, impulses and desires.Known as‘the lizard brain’, because itwas the first part of the human brain to evolve it controls many of the systems that we depend on to function. As hunter-gatherers we would not have survived had our automatic unthinking reactions not been working fully. These include balance, coordination, listening skills, eye functioning, and our fight and flight responses.

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 for it is the health of our lizard brain, that ultimately governs our resilience to the stresses and strains of everyday life. It has also been shown, by an eminent French ENT doctor called Guy Bérard that even the way we hear has an impact on our behavior.

Our brains do not exist in pickled jars, isolated from our bodies.In order for our brains to function properly all support systems need to work properly. For example, blood needs to bring oxygen, our gut needs to make the right chemicals, and our liver and our kidneys must excrete the many toxins we are surrounded by.

What separates those who buckle under the stresses and strains of life from those who dust it off, is the balanced functioning of all these interdependent systems.

For example, an adult who suffers from agoraphobia may 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. There is also evidence of a specific distortion in the hearing pathwaywhich can aggravate the right brain hemisphere to the point of suicidal depression.

Fortunately, it is possible to help correct these underlying imbalances via a range of interventions aiming to normalize lower brain functions. These include a reflex integration program, Bérard Auditory Integration Training, Cranial Osteopathy and very targeted nutritional/biomedical therapy. The Key Clinic was established as a multi-disciplinary practice to help free individuals from the chains, which restrict their recovery, and in so doing, build up their resilience.


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