The Environment and Mental Health: A Guide for Clinicians

By Ante Lundberg | Go to book overview

so on. Subjects who feel in control and have stable social support may react with preponderantly the limbic-catecholaminergic system, whereas subjects who perceive a lack of control react with frustration and the hippocampalhypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal-cortical axis ( Henry, 1993). Subjects under increased stress, either originating in the psychosocial or physical/chemical environment or from increased sensitivity and/or awareness of the external environment, are more likely to develop a chronic change in the limbic system. The elevated arousal level, which could be described as a changed signal-to-noise level in the hypothalamus-pituitary system, results in increased sensitivity to signals from peripheral receptors, more afferent input to the central nervous systems and increased awareness ( Gramling, Clawson, & McDonald, 1996). The cascade of neurohormonal changes as well as immunological changes that follow, have fundamental physiological consequences. Immunocompetence can also be modified by the brain. Each of the anterior pituitary hormones is under netiroendocrine control of the hypothalamus, and their secretion can be influenced by suprahypothalamic stimuli, such as environmental, physical, and emotional stressors ( Reichlin, 1993). Activation of cytokines in the central nervous system can lead to profound changes in neural function, including behavioral disturbances, fatigue, and other symptoms found in EI. Thus, peripheral cells, immunoactive cells, are not only sensitive to central nervous system input, but to emotional and behavioral factors as well ( Ader & Cohen, 1993).


Conclusion

The mind-body interaction has not been sufficiently recognized in dealing with environmental illness. Studies have mainly focused on pure physical/chemical factors, while the mental/mind aspect of new age disorders has been relegated to second place. Patients are hesitant to seek help because of society's view of mental illness. Psychiatrists and psychologists are in a position to offer help, and to support people in their attempts to cope with disorders of unknown origin. There is ample opportunity to enhance our understanding of environmental illness if we take a multidisciplinary approach involving psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, and industrial hygienists. Controlled intervention studies should be encouraged and efforts made to develop a theoretical concept concerning the etiology of environmental illness.


REFERENCES

Ader R., & Cohen N. ( 1993). "Psychoneuroimmunology: Conditioning and stress". Annual Review of Psychology, 44, 53-85.

American Psychiatric Association. ( 1994). "Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders" ( 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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