Thursday, August 7, 2008

When chemicals wreak havoc!

Yesterday, when i stopped for a red signal near Sarasbaug(Pune), i saw a 'mad' man. He crossed the road in front of me. His clothes were torn, skin blackened from lack of cleanliness, hair dishevelled and wet from rain, and was wearing no footwear. He was talking loudly to himself, making gestures in air. I felt pity for him. Seeing such people unexceptionally makes me feel that way. I would not feel that pity for a beggar; but, the commiseration is caused more by the fact that the mad man has lost even his senses in addition to whatever wealth he had. He is totally or partially oblivious of what is going around him.
Whenever i see such people, it makes me wonder what must have made them so ? Would it be the loss of a dear one ? loss of property ? Bollywood flicks have since long, depicted such sequences - people going mad because of mental/emotional shocks. But, it is very rare for such reasons to be the cause of madness.
Actually, i do not know the doctors' definition of 'madness'. At what point will doctors start calling a person 'mad' ? What are the precise symptoms ? I know not.
Another thing which always comes to my mind when i see such a person is - is he actually mad ? or, in other words, how far is he away from becoming sane ? We tend to think of madness as a serious, long-lasting and sometimes an incurable affliction. But, it might not always be that way. Many of those wandering on roads, tagged as 'mad' might not actually be insane.

Like Rishi Vashistha points out in 'Yoga Vashishta' - everything is in the mind. And mind is in the brain. So everything is in the brain. As long as the chemical and electrical processes in the brain are going well, everything seems well and good. Even a small abnormality in the brain can cause significant effects on the behaviour of that person. Each one of the billions of neurons in our brain depends on metallic ions for communicating with other neurons. Even a slight imbalance in concentration of these elements(primarily Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium) can wreak havoc with a human! Even the concentration of carbon-di-oxide in the blood is important for the brain. These things are so crucial that, a person with improper concentration of these chemicals will seem like 'mad' to people around him. In fact, he/she is faar away from madness in the real sense. It is only a temporary phase (a few weeks maybe) until things in the brain get fixed.

The effects are awful. The affected might see all kinds of immersive visions/hallucinations. They are so real for the patient that he/she will not believe if he is told about the actuality. The patient may ask you to look around and see how beautiful the garden and children playing in it look or to stop the car at the next crossing, so that he can get out or might ask you to get up to make place for the (non-existent)crowd that is arriving,... - all this, while he is on bed in his own room. Spatial and temporal perceptions are skewed. Noon might suddenly turn into morning for the patient, after he wakes up from a ten minute nap. Three people may be seen on a chair where only one will fit. The patient might hear noises, and converse with non-existent people. No amount of your trying to make the patient realize the actual situation will help. Logic and counter arguments will fall to the ground. Since the processor of logic i.e the brain itself has malfunctioned, how will any logic help ? I've seen a patient in such a condition, who, i thought was in a major problem. But, with proper medication, he became absolutely normal in about half a month. Some of the 'mad' people we see on streets might be victims of such an imbalance rather than chronic madness. Not a huge amount of treatment would be needed to bring them into sanity. They are unfortunate not to get it :(
I always tend to think - are such disorders a reminder of the fact that, we are nothing but a blob of chemicals ?

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1 comment:

Pearl said...

How interesting your insights are! I enjoyed -- enjoyed? -- reading your thoughts on this subject, as I have thought similar ones. To lose one's sanity? To not be able to trust your own brain? How horrible.

I hope all is well with you.

Best wishes,