Brain on Fire .Opinion by Suhaib Ashraf Bhat, 15 February 2021 issue .

                                  Brain on fire.

Suhaib Ashraf BhatOn average, an adult brain weighs between 1.0 kg – 1.5 kg.  It is mainly composed of neurons – the fundamental unit of the brain and nervous system. Recent estimates have suggested that the brain contains anywhere between 86 billion to 100 billion neurons. The brain, along with the spinal cord, constitutes the central nervous system. It is responsible for thoughts, interpretation and origin of control for body movements. Brain on fire is a theory that proposes a relationship between inflammation and depression. Numerous studies show that many people diagnosed with depression have elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which affect brain function and mood. Some people believe that depression could be linked to lifestyle, diet, or even environmental pollution. Other experts believe it’s a physical response to environmental stressors or worries. According to the brain on fire theory, there is a physiological response to a supposed threat. That’s where the inflammatory and immune system response comes from. In this case, it acts like your worst enemy and weakens you instead of protecting you. According to the brain on fire theory, when the brain perceives a stressor, it releases cortisol. This hormone triggers the production of cytokines, vasoactive amines, nitric oxide, and glucocorticoids. When your body detects the presence of a virus, it triggers an immune response with the goal of fighting the enemy. The immune response is inflammation. The brain on fire theory states that our bodies trigger this same immune response when we experience pressure, stress, fear, or anxiety.First of all, let me clarify something important. Not all depression is created equal, and not all depression is caused by inflammation. The brain on fire theory comes into play for individuals who have tried psychological therapy and medication and have seen no improvement.Depression is a mood disorder that effects millions of people around the world. Fortunately, depression has been studied for decades and there is a wealth of information available for people who have depressive symptoms. Many treatments for depression are highly effective and can provide relief in just a few weeks. If you have a mood disorder, your general emotional state or mood is distorted or inconsistent with your circumstances and interferes with your ability to function. You may be extremely sad, empty or irritable (depressed), or you may have periods of depression alternating with being excessively happy (mania). Anxiety disorders can also affect your mood and often occur along with depression. Mood disorders may increase your risk of suicide.Some examples of mood disorders include:Major depressive disorder — prolonged and persistent periods of extreme sadnessBipolar disorder — also called manic depression or bipolar affective disorder, depression that includes alternating times of depression and maniaSeasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a form of depression most often associated with fewer hours of daylight in the far northern and southern latitudes from late fall to early springCyclothymic disorder — a disorder that causes emotional ups and downs that are less extreme than bipolar disorderPremenstrual dysphoric disorder — mood changes and irritability that occur during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle and go away with the onset of periods.Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) — a long-term (chronic) form of depressionDisruptive mood dysregulation disorder — a disorder of chronic, severe and persistent irritability in children that often includes frequent temper outbursts that are inconsistent with the child’s developmental ageDepression related to medical illness — a persistent depressed mood and a significant loss of pleasure in most or all activities that’s directly related to the physical effects of another medical conditionDepression induced by substance use or medication ― depression symptoms that develop during or soon after substance use or withdrawal or after exposure to a medication.Trouble is inevitable in the life of this world; this is how Allah swt has decreed it and He has made it a place of trials and tests, and a bridge to the Hereafter. Even the best of His creation, the prophets, were never free of troubles. Life is never plain sailing for anyone, young or old. You may have reason to rejoice one day, then reason to feel sad for many other days; this is how it always is in the life of this world and this is how people are all the time. Who among us has not felt grief and sorrow as a result of the calamities we see befalling the Muslims, day after day? Who among us has not lost interest in this world and everything in it, because of what we hear or see? But when these feelings of sadness and loneliness or bad moods persist and prevent us from living a normal life or carrying out the duties that are required of us, or fulfilling the rights of others, or they cause us to neglect the blessings of Allah swt which He has bestowed upon us and fail to give thanks for as we should, at that point sadness moves from being something natural to being a case of weakness and sickness that needs to be treated.  There is no greater remedy for that than patience and fearing Allah swt, and thinking positively of Allah swt, the Lord of the Worlds, putting one’s trust in Him, delegating one’s affairs to Him and turning to Him in all times of calamity. If the state of grief worsens and leads to some level of depression, then in addition to this spiritual remedy, showing patience, putting one’s trust in Allah swt and always remembering Him, medical attention from a knowledgeable and trustworthy specialist is also needed. The symptoms of depression include the following: ·        Always feeling sad, anxious and in a bad mood·        Loss of interest and lack of enjoyment in activities that people usually enjoy·        Constant pessimism and feeling helpless in the face of life’s problems·        Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and social alienation·        Inability to show or express feelings towards others or to accept feelings from others·        Trouble sleeping, such as insomnia, sleeping too long or waking up too early·        Eating problems (overeating or loss of appetite)·        Chronic physical pain from which no remedy brings relief·        Weepiness·        Getting tense quickly; hyperactivity and not being able to calm down and relax·        Constant feelings of tiredness and inability to do any physical activity·        Inability to concentrate, remember or take sound decisions 
If four or more of the symptoms mentioned above are present, then you should consult a specialist in psychology.In addition to seeking medical treatment, you should try to keep yourself busy with useful activities, such as reading Quran and other books, and engaging in hobbies and so on. Do not forget some natural remedies that will re-energise you and help the brain to regain energy, such as honey and dried fruits.One of the prescriptions that was often used in the past is talbeenah. According to an authentic report, the Messenger of Allah swt (blessings and peace of Allah swt be upon him) said concerning it: “Talbeenah brings comfort to the sick person and it lessens grief.” Narrated by al-Bukhari, 5101; Muslim, 2216 Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah swt have mercy on him) said in Zad al-Ma‘ad:This broth clears that from the stomach and intestines, cleanses it, makes it flow, makes it more liquid, adjusts it, and restores balance. Thus it gives relief, especially for the one who usually eats barley bread, which was the custom of the people of Madinah at that time; it was their staple food, as wheat was very expensive for them. And Allah swt knows best. Talbeenah is a broth made from barley flour with its bran, to which a cup of water is added, and it is heated on a low fire for five minutes, then a cup of milk and a spoonful of honey is added.

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