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3 Triggers for Mental Health Disorders

Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness, — an open and noble temper.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my clinical life mental health disorders weigh heavy.  Each day a huge percentage of my daily practice centers on sorting through emotional issues and the havoc mental health disorders wreak on the human body.

Diagnostic considerations often  include depression, anxiety, and combination diagnoses like bipolar, eating, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

By far most of the cases stem from social, nutritional, and lifestyle choices–not some genetic inborn disorder.  

Social Triggers for Mental Health Disorders

  • Broken Homes:  Single parents, dual families, marital discord all factor into the development of conditions like depression and anxiety.  Instability in the home especially affects children.
  • Fast-Paced Lifestyle:  Work, school, church, friends, hobbies, sports, second jobs, and social media all compete with quiet personal time.  Saying yes to more and more activities can seriously erode natural emotional recovery. Mood disorders often stem from lack of “down-time.”

Nutritional Triggers for Mental Health Disorders

  • Sugar:  Soda, processed sugar, and high fructose corn syrup consume vast amounts of energy and cause cravings in the brain.  These cravings can lead to abnormal hunger, irritable mood, and compulsive behavior.  I have seen soda consumption cause depression.
  • Highly Processed Food:  Fast food, TV Dinners, pre-packaged microwave meals all tend to contain large amounts of preservatives.  Preservatives and processing typically rob the food of actual nutritional value.  “If” the food originally has any vitamin/mineral content initially, the processing methods steal away benefit.  I am shocked daily by how many cases of vitamin b, vitamin d, and fatty acid deficiencies I see in young “healthy” individuals with mood disorders.
  • Low fat Diet:  Low fat and low cholesterol diets stress our hormonal system. Cholesterol serves as the basic building block for nearly all brain structures and hormones in our body.  If you avoid consuming the building blocks of the endocrine (hormone) system then you develop imbalances.  This goes especially true for neurotransmitters and stress hormone production.  Fat is not bad for you.  Quality fat and cholesterol are needed for balanced emotions.

Lifestyle Triggers for Mental Health Disorders

  • Alcohol:  Alcohol has many of the negative nutritional effects of sugar but the additional effect of altering decision making.  Alcohol also directly affects mood.  Alcohol should NEVER be consumed by individual with mood conditions.  If you are treated with medications for depression, anxiety, etc, alcohol simply makes the situation worse.
  • Over-consumptive Behavior:  This may sound a bit preachy, but constantly striving for material gain triggers unnecessary frustrations.  “Keeping up with the Joneses” breeds discontent.  Overeating, drinking, sleeping, partying, etc all lead to imbalances that trigger mood disorders.
  • Media Consumption:  We live in the information age.  We have information flowing at us from every direction.  The sheer volume of ads, programs, news, emails, texts and images assaulting us everyday is staggering.  What we allow in our brain affects how it behaves.  What we allow in our brain affects our thought, health, and emotion.  Too much negative breeds negativity. Subjecting your brain to violent movies, pornography, disturbing images, caustic comments, or simply the repetitive news cycles of doom and gloom perpetuate negative emotion. I already mentioned food is important. Information and images are brain food…careful.  (Try Media Fasting for Mental Health)
  • Lack of physical Activity:  I frequently discuss the benefits of exercise because of the mountain of research suggesting just that.  Our brains are built in a body that optimally moves 12 miles a day.  (I know…most don’t…but that’s what it was designed to do!)  We function optimally, emotionally, with routine physical activity.  Like the NIKE ad says…just do it.  Anything helps, walk, gardening, stretching, yoga, Tai Chi, jogging, weight lifting, etc.  If you want better emotional health–MOVE IT.

Consider the above if mental health issues afflict you.  Take charge, make change. Improve your health!

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