The New Disease of the 21st Century

March 22nd, 2013

Maksym Bondarchuk, 123rf Stock Photo

Maksym Bondarchuk, 123rf Stock Photo

Over the years I have become a believer in all things technical. I firmly believe that all these newfangled gadgets have made our lives a little better. Well, almost all.

Those that have had a negative effect are very few. Let’s take medicine for instance. In the last few decades technological medicine has advanced in leaps and bounds, and the life expectancy of those with access to these modern devices has been greatly increased. These marvelous medical machines can electronically dissect the body into millimetric cross-sections and peer into the innermost reaches of the brain, magnetically speaking. There are no more hiding places for malignant and foreign growths within the dark confines of the human body.

We can take three-dimensional journeys into the hills and valleys of the brain. But there is one thing that we cannot do, and that is to take a peek into the human mind. Even if the technology were available to do that, I sincerely doubt that anyone would permit someone else to attempt such a thing.

Most all of us keep thoughts in our mind of the most private nature. We all have memories and experiences that we would feel quite reluctant to share.

There have been many attempts by many good people to decipher the working of the human brain. Through experimentation scientists may have learned that one area of the brain relates to language skills and another to memory and so forth. But they have yet to understand the working of the human mind.

The mind is the power behind the brain, just like the software is the power behind modern computers. And just like computer programs, the human mind can suffer from glitches that can affect the smooth operation of the brain.

There are many reasons given to account for the malfunctioning of the brain. Brain damage can cause all kinds of alteration of the functions expected from a reasoning person. But there are some alterations of behavior that cannot be traced to a damaged brain. Sometimes these alterations are attributed to a chemical imbalance or a post-traumatic stress disorder. The latter supposedly occurs when a person cannot deal with a traumatic situation, so they just flip out, and that takes the pressure off.

We used to call this a nervous breakdown. If it had anything to do with combat, we said the person was “shell-shocked.”

The new disease of the 21st century is stress. So far there is no machine that can root this out or even locate it in the great wells of the brain. Every complaint, every pain, every blemish, every pimple is blamed on stress, and everybody seems to be afflicted with this condition.

It is very hard to avoid stress, because there’s no physical way to measure stress. What may be a stressful situation for one person turns out not to be stressful for another.

Researchers recently discovered that the functioning of certain genes responsible for the production of serotonin can predispose a person to post-traumatic stress disorder. Serotonin is a brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep and alertness.

I have noticed that when a doctor can’t find anything wrong he tells the patient that their symptoms are caused by stress.

The one sure thing we know about stress is that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on medications to alleviate this malady that may well be a product of the mind.

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