Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hyperalertness and Neuroreceptors

I went back and read my post on biological psychology where I talked about what Phillip Corr calls a "consistent level of stimulation,"  how the brain tries to maintain that level and creates more or fewer neuroreceptors in an effort to do it.  And when the brain increases the neuroreceptors, and then the level of stimulation suddenly drops ("deficient chemical state," the person suffers because the brain is slow to change back.

I wonder if this explains why people who are hyperalert get depressed or anxious or angry.  They have too many neuroreceptors to begin with and require a higher level of stimulation, maybe.  Then when they don't get that level of stimulation, they suffer by becoming anxious, or depressed, or angry.  The brain responds slowly to the decreased level of stimulation, and meanwhile, the mind makes the person feel bad so he/she tries to feel better by increasing stimulation in some way through eating, taking drugs, or fighting with someone, for example. 

But how does depression help?  Does depression only look like a lack of stimulation?

If I go back to my primitive human analogy, depression is like hiding or fleeing, I've decided.  It removes the person from the situation of fear.  In modern life, it allows people to step back and retreat from their daily lives. My mother sleeps all day to avoid the pain of living where she doesn't want to live.  But I think that it's not so much that she doesn't want to be where she is, but that she doesn't get any stimulation where she is.  As a younger woman, the stimulation of life's requirements filled her day and propelled her forward.  No one needs her to do anything anymore, unfortunately.  Her neuroreceptors are craving the stimulation she no longer gets, so she shuts down and waits for them to catch up. 

Maybe that's what depression is designed to do--shut down the organism until the brain catches up and takes away some of the neuroreceptors.  Then when there is a stimulus, it will seem greater because there are fewer neuroreceptors.  Hmmm. That reminds me of my problem with "the middle."  I know there's a chapter in the book that talks about depression.  Maybe I should go there and read it.

Meanwhile, what does this revelation mean? Well, I think my "cure" (that is, scanning) for depression or anxiety or anger makes sense, then, because it gives the brain some stimulation, and in a way that is less harmful to all concerned.

A hyperalert person needs stimulation more than normal folks, so that person tries to maintain that level of stimulation, sometimes by doing things he or she shouldn't, such as drinking, eating, gambling, taking drugs, having sex, beating on or killing someone or something, driving fast, participating in a dangerous sport, shopping, etc.  We think of those people as adrenalin junkies sometimes.  But other, less obvious ways of maintaining stimulation can be crying, complaining, gossiping, surfing the net, texting, being late, hoarding, responding to phobias, watching TV, playing video games.

None of the solutions people come up with for easing the pain of understimulation are bad in and of themselves in small doses.  But when people are constantly doing these somewhat negative things, the consequences are negative, especially for one's daily life.  Compulsive gambling wrecks lives, as we all know, but compulsive gossiping does, too.  Constant crying puts people off, as does constant complaining.  One has to try not to do these destructive things too often, but when one gets addicted to them (because, unfortunately, they work, even if only short term), it's much harder to stop and do something else more constructive.

So, substitution is needed, as any substance abuse counselor will tell you.  The substance doesn't have to be a substance, though.  It can be an activity.  I have a few that I do, such as writing.  Reading, too, is helpful, especially through headphones, I think, because that engages the brain more directly and with more senses.  Not only am I listening (and hearing words, voice, inflection, tone), but I'm also seeing my surroundings and smelling or feeling the temperature of the places I walk through as I "read."  And those become associated with the book, so that memories of the story are more vivid.

My sister tells me that watching TV and doing other things like that distract her from her pain.  But what if they are actually doing more than that? What if they are actually taking away the pain, even if only for a few moments?  She'd say "no" immediately, I'm sure, if I asked her.  But I wonder . . . A person who feels intense pain may be someone who is hyper-hyper alert.  After all, pain is neurostimulation, isn't it?  What if my sister's brain is causing her to feel pain more acutely than the normal person?  Maybe she has many, many neuroreceptors--way too many--that allow her to feel things normal people do not feel?  Maybe stimulating her in other ways can take the place of pain stimulation that her brain is accepting?  The more she is stimulated by other than pain, the fewer neuroreceptors are available for pain.

I wish I could get through to more people about this method of dealing with brain chemistry.  It could be that bi-polar disorder and anxiety disorder and the others are simply the problem of maintaining a higher level of stimulation, but without getting addicted to any one particular option.  I need to write a book on it, but who will listen? I don't have a degree in psychology.  Should I get one?  I don't know . . . it's pretty expensive, after all.  I wish someone would help me, someone who does have a degree in psychology.  But who?

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