Eureka……. perhaps.

So, I’m laying in bed, chewing over the thoughts from my previous post a couple of hours ago….

If warm weather and antidepressants are having a smilar effect on creating manic or anxiety states in people who may be genetically or environmentally predisposed (see some earlier nonsense I posted under “Rushed earlier thoughts”  for possible causes of this predisposition…  I’ll try to recap at the end of this post), it may, in part, help to explain at least my own experience with the onset of mental illness, as I remember it.

For the time being, I’m thinking that somehow an abnormality in the vascular system whereby vessels are more prone to fluctuation in their state of constriction or dilation has a correlation with mood ans excitability.

It was late May 1998, and I had quit smoking the previous month. I was about to buy my first house, so my anxiety levels at the time were somewhat higher than usual. I headed off to sunny Spain for a couple of weeks in the hot weather.

So… at roughly the same time, three separate events which could have had an effect on the level of dilation of my blood vessels (quitting smoking; hot weather; relaxation following a period of stress (adrenaline levels lowering) occurred at the beginning of that holiday. Perhaps what ensued was a manic state, I have no idea, but almost immediately I began to feel on edge. I don’t think I slept at all for the whole two weeks, and some days in became convinced that electric cables in the walls behind my bed were somehow creating a field which was disrupting my thoughts and preventing me sleeping; I took to sleeping upside down, which made no difference. What I have come to have been accustomed to describing as other “symptoms” appeared, which are of no relevance at this time.

So, my question is: Is it at all possible that many mental illnesses occur as a result of a disruption in the normal functioning of blood vessels in the brain, for whatever reason? Do mood swings which occur in the general population, albeit at a milder level, depend on dietry, environmental, genetic, substance related or whatever,  changes, but in those susceptible these changes can make a profound difference; either mania, depression or swings between the two?

Is the entire way mental illness has been understood until now completely wrong?

I’m even beginning to think that this mechanism may have a role to play in addictions – the brain trying to maintain a steady state in the vascular system in whichever direction, just an attempt to avoid an overcorrection.

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts, and I’d welcome being put right if it seems complete nonsense.

* * *

** I’ve pasted below the piece from the earlier post I made which is referred to above **

Before I continue with some arguments which I think show that cerebral vascular insufficiency can lead to both psychosis and depression, I’ll look at some of the hypotheses which have been postulated so far for the development of mental illness.

One problem which has dogged the investigations into the causes of mental illness so far has been that any one cause postulated is dismissed when evidence suggests that the pattern is not consistent. For example, a viral route to the mechanism is dismissed, because a large percentage of the subject group do not conform to expected results. Rather, we should look at a range of risk factors, which may be implicit on their own, or in conjunction with other risk factors. Each of the risk factors does not determine on its own whether mental illness will result, but may add to susceptibility given certain conditions.

1                     Genetic susceptibility.

Essentially, an inherited abnormality or underdevelopment of the vascular system.

2                     Month of birth.

In the northern hemisphere, there have been anecdotal links between winter or spring births and an increase in prevalence of mental illness. Peripheral   vasoconstriction is an autonomous response to cold weather.  Blood leaves the extremities to reduce heat loss and maintain a core temperature (which is why hands, feet, ears and nose suffer the most in cold weather).  Brain development in the unborn foetus mainly takes place in the last trimester of pregnancy, which with winter births in the northern hemisphere coincides with the return of cold weather. Historically, a high infant mortality rate for humans mean that multiple pregnancies and births were common. It is not beyond the realms of the imagination to expect that an autonomous reaction to cold weather during pregnancy would be to protect the “host” rather than the unborn child, to further the chances of procreation in the future. This could mean that blood containing nutrients, hormones and growth factors is diverted to the core of the mother, perhaps resulting in an underdeveloped or abnormal cerebral vascular system in the unborn child.

3                     Substance abuse.

Well documented are the effects of amphetamine (on which the dopamine hypothesis of psychosis is based) and cocaine on the vascular system. Each cause vasoconstriction and an increase in blood pressure. Less well known, but documented, is the effect of cannabis on the circulatory system. It too causes cerebral vasoconstriction, albeit via a different mechanism.

4                     Stress/trauma.

Stress and trauma both release norepinephrine into the bloodstream (part of fight or flight syndrome) which serves to constrict the blood vessels and increase blood pressure, along with many other physiological changes.

5                     Viral/bacterial.

Often ridiculed is the idea postulated by E Fuller Torrey, the author of Surviving Schizophrenia, that there may be a viral route to the development of Schizophrenia. People laugh it off, “best stay away from cat litter!”, and telling one and all that they either did or didn’t grow up with a cat, and did or didn’t develop schizophrenia. Whatever. Viral or bacterial causes of tissue inflammation are very common, and it’s not difficult to imagine that even slight inflammation of brain tissue, or inflammation of the endothelial cells which line the very narrow blood vessels serving the structures of the brain, some of which are only the diameter of a single blood cell, can have a negative impact on the capacity of the vessel to deliver blood and oxygen efficiently.

6                     Diet/malnutrition.

The science of the study of vascular health is relatively recent. In fact, it’s a recently as 1999 that the significance of endothelial cells has been discovered. The endothelium lines the blood vessel walls, and is responsible for the elasticity of those vessels. It produces, uses and stores nitric oxide, which is important for relaxing vessels and maintaining a stable blood pressure, and ultimately protecting the heart. Many things can contribute to a healthy or unhealthy endothelium, probably best to google it if you want to know more. Suffice to say, it’s now regarded as the number one preserver of health, far more important than, and related to, the function of the heart.

Imagine if you can, the tiny blood vessels supplying oxygen to the billions of structures within your brain. If they are flexible and healthy, they can adjust to variations in blood volume and pressure – they are elastic, and soon return to their original shape following a period of dilation. Now imagine that one of those blood vessels, only the diameter of one blood cell, has an unhealthy lining, stiff and not elastic. If stretched during a period of stress (via any of the mechanisms described previously), once the stressor has gone, the vessel would just collapse, denying normal blood flow.

If you research the things which contribute to a healthy endothelium, you’ll see a remarkable link with dietary supplements and vitamins which have been anecdotally linked with a reduction in psychiatric symptoms. Fish oil, for example, is essential for endothelial health, as it destroys the saturated fat which can block and plaque blood vessels. L-arginine, which promotes our manufacture of nitric oxide, does a great job of reversing the damage caused to our vessels by environmental factors; note though, that nicotine interferes with the ability to use L-arginine to produce NO.


~ by funnyinthehead on September 13, 2011.

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