Tag Archives: Dementia

Stress and what it does to you and your body !!!


Let’s start at the top; the brain. First, let’s differentiate good stress from bad stress. Typically, there are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is a reaction to an immediate threat. That threat can feel like a physical or an emotional threat. It causes our brain to go into flight, fight or freeze mode. Once the threat passes, our stress hormones return to normal and we feel okay. Sometimes acute stress revs up the brain to perform at a peak level, kind of like revving an engine before the start of a race.

Chronic stress, the kind we face daily, is what tends to cause the real damage. According to an article by Deane Alban, 90 percent of doctors’ visits are for stress-related health complaints. Chronic stress makes you more vulnerable to anything ranging from the common cold to cancer. The article goes on to say that “the non-stop elevation of stress hormones not only makes your body sick, it negatively impacts your brain as well.”

Stress has many hidden negative consequences, because it affects the brain: High chronic stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, which creates a surplus of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate creates free radicals that attack brain cells in a similar way that oxygen attacks metal and creates rust.

Stress can also decrease or stop the production of new brain cells. The brain cell activity described is not what we can see so we are clueless to some of these damaging affects until we start to experience the signs and symptoms such as increased depression, cycles of anxiety and worry, increased risk of all kinds of mental illnesses, emotional dysregulation (when we feel we can cry at the drop of a hat or be fine one minute, enraged the next), increased forgetfulness, and/or basically feeling stupid.

A stressed woman biting her first.

Untitled by Serena West

Stress literally allows toxins into the brain that can shrink our brain, it can lead to higher risk of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. Yet, according to Alban, Alzheimer’s disease is the number one health fear of American adults and the sixth leading cause of death. Stress leads to premature aging on a cellular level. As a psychologist who specializes in trauma, I’m especially interested in the part of the brain called the amygdala. It’s the area in the brain where we lose the ability to be present, and we are in fight, flight or freeze mode.

According to an article by Carolyn Gregoire from the Huffington Post, increased cortisol hampers the activity of the hippocampus (an area of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion), and it increases the size and activity of the amygdala, the brains center where we hold our unprocessed emotions, thoughts and body sensations. If stress increases the activity in this part of the brain, then that could mean we are in a heightened state of reactivity to a perceived threat. This increases our emotional reactions and decreases the ability to have rational thoughts and take in new information. It takes a lot more energy for the brain to be in flight, fight or freeze mode then to be calm and relaxed. As stated earlier, the ways in which stress affects the brain is extensive. We could go more in depth, but these are some of the common ways stress affects the brain and therefore, affects our daily lives and journey of healing.

There is no way to make recommendations as to how to manage stress and decrease the negative effects on the brain without taking in the entire mind, body, spirit approach to wellness. I will be going much more in depth in the next two parts of this blog; for now, a good place to start would be to:

  1. Reconnect to your spiritual life and belief system.
  2. Incorporate yoga and/or meditation to your exercise regime.
  3. Consult with a nutritionist who can advise you on proper nutrition and appropriate goals for mindful eating.
  4. Consult with a doctor (my preference would be an Ayurveda specialist or Naturopathic Doctor) who can/will go more in depth with proper testing and recommendations for managing stress. Checking your adrenals and cortisol levels will be important in the process of decreasing the effects of stress on the brain and body.
  5. Consult with a professional counselor who can work with you on identifying and managing your stress.
  6. Engage in a healing process that can benefit you inside and out.

As we are all on our journey of healing, we face a variety of challenges consisting of health, family, relational, financial, spiritual, and emotional experiences.


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Just what is a invisible illness?

What are Invisible Disabilities?
Invisible Disability, or hidden disability, is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature. Invisible disability, or hidden disability, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent. Some people with visual or auditory disabilities who do not wear glasses or hearing aids, or discreet hearing aids, may not be obviously disabled. Some people who have vision loss may wear contacts. A sitting disability is another category of invisible impairments; sitting problems are usually caused by chronic back pain. Those with joint problems or chronic pain may not use mobility aids on some days, or at all. Although the disability creates a challenge for the person who has it, the reality of the disability can be difficult for others to recognize or acknowledge. Others may not understand the cause of the problem, if they cannot see evidence of it in a visible way.
People with some kinds of invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain or some kind of sleep disorder, are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities. These symptoms can occur due to chronic illness, chronic pain, injury, birth disorders, etc. and are not always obvious to the onlooker.
Invisible Disabilities are certain kinds of disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others. It is estimated that 10% of people in the U.S. have a medical condition which could be considered a type of invisible disability.
Nearly one in two people in the U.S. has a chronic medical condition of one kind or another, but most of these people are not considered to be disabled, as their medical conditions do not impair their normal everyday activities. These people do not use an assistive device and most look and act perfectly healthy.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.
About This Image: Woman with migraine sitting on a bed holding a white mug with her head resting on her hands and knees.
Generally seeing a person in a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or carrying a white cane tells us a person may be disabled. But what about invisible disabilities that make daily living a bit more difficult for many people worldwide
Invisible disabilities can include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living.
For example there are people with visual or auditory impairments who do not wear hearing aids or eye glasses so they may not seem to be obviously impaired. Those with joint conditions or problems who suffer chronic pain may not use any type of mobility aids on good days, or ever.
Another example is Fibromyalgia which is now understood to be the most common cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Sources estimate between 3 and 26 million Americans suffer from this hidden condition.
Other Types of Invisible Disabilities
Chronic Pain: A variety of conditions may cause chronic pain. A few of those reasons may be back problems, bone disease, physical injuries, and any number of other reasons. Chronic pain may not be noticeable to people who do not understand the victims specific medical condition.
Chronic Fatigue: This type of disability refers to an individual who constantly feels tired. This can be extremely debilitating and affect every aspect of a persons every day life.
Mental Illness: There are many mental illnesses that do qualify for disability benefits. Some examples are depression, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, and many others. These diseases can also be completely debilitating to the victim, and can make performing everyday tasks extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Chronic Dizziness: Often associated with problems of the inner ear, chronic dizziness can lead to impairment when walking, driving, working, sleeping, and other common tasks.
People with psychiatric disabilities make up a large segment of the invisibly-disabled population covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Invisible disabilities can also include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living. If a medical condition does not impair normal activities, then it is not considered a disability.
96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that is invisible.
Many people living with a hidden physical disability or mental challenge are still able to be active in their hobbies, work and be active in sports. On the other hand, some struggle just to get through their day at work and some cannot work at all.

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When someone is changing right in front of your eyes !!!!!

When you have a loved one and you start to notice different behaviors such as if they are usually easy going, kind hearted, gentle, would never hurt you mentally and or physically, then in a fast amount of time they become angry, mean, temper tantrums, violent mentally, You cant put your finger on it but you know something is wrong, They normally were right on top of everything bills, what ever needed to be done and instead even items on a grocery list are not there, bills not getting paid, loosing important papers, loosing medications just picked up at the pharmacy.

When asking what’s going on, You receive a very defensive person, they may kick you out of the house, or their bedroom, they become isolated, I feel this is out of depression and fear of what is happening to them. They know something is not right, they may sleep more, drink more, have more pain specially in the head, emotional episodes that were confusing . Behavior that makes them not appropriate in public, They fight you on everything,

Finally they may if a strong person may come to you and cry, like a baby, admitting they need help, they don’t know what is wrong, but they are forgetting things, not just normal age type things, like where they are, where they are going, after you give directions you still end up at the wrong place, they learn to adapt and how to cover up what’s happening. But still defensive, they can become paranoid, pace the floor, urinate in their pants and can’t hold it anymore, accuse you of things out of paranoia.

Their eating habits may change, they may eat more or less, or in this situation eat more, hide food, keep it in their car or locked in their room. You ask, they don’t have any, a full box of donuts gone no one else had any, almost like they don’t realize there doing it and deny it.

Even if they trust you enough to ask for help, its very important to their self esteem you don’t put them down and let them know you will always be there with them and won’t leave them. But then the next day they can transfer money out of the bank, take your keys, anything to remain in control over there life that they so eagerly want to hold on to.

If you feel well maybe it’s just me, or a phase, but other family members say things like, is so and so ok? Why? He is looking like he’s not here with us at the table, like vacant. Or I saw this person sitting on a stool starring off into space and wasn’t really there. Or finding them doing odd things like falling asleep sitting straight up like they were awake but asleep, or watering the pavement saying they are watering the grass.

It could be numerous things, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, a Traumatic brain injury, stroke, TIA’s, personality disorder, medications, so you must offer support the biggest fear they have is being alone, so you must reassure them you can be trusted and are their for them no matter what, other wise they won’t tell the truth of what’s going on. Brain Atrophy and alcohol and or past alcohol can escalade these symptoms, Smoking pot can also escalate these symptoms specially if used along length of time.

So If you notice anything of these symptoms, Please with out putting someone down, or making them feel bad, Be there, be strong for them even if you cry in another room.

If you notice these changes and happens in a quick amount of time like 6 months, you need to get them into a Neurologist, get a MRI, have cognitive thinking testing, and if it a reputable place they will ask the loved ones what they have noticed because they will not indulge the information to the Dr out of fear of a diagnosis. You have to be the person who steps up and recognizes there is something wrong, you can’t still your head in the sand. The sooner for a diagnosis, sooner for treatment and some Brain issues can be reversed or slowed down. So it’s not a time to take lightly.

If a accurate diagnosis is made its important how you and your loved ones can find out what you can do to help this person to keep them at their best, if they are tired, let them sleep, if they can’t get something done, oh well, learn to make small things just that! But also helping your loved one is the best gift you can give them.

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