Could there be a mind body connection for Alzheimer’s? I am seeing a correlation between certain personality types of persons who develop Alzheimer’s.
Usually people who have it has gone through a lot in life, and developed a kind of mental toughness that is unyielding which they need it to survive usually a tough childhood but no longer serve them and affects their relationships with others. Most of the time there is a tendency to strongly forget, suppress or deny certain strong emotions, or overthinking that leads to overload of the brain. Till at one level, it started to trigger an auto immune response where the brain really try to do them a favor by shutting down. Just like pneumonia, is actually the immune system response of producing fluid in the lungs to fight of bacteria but end up sometimes killing the person.
I have 3 real life case studies of Early Onset Alzheimer’s which I summarize here:
1. A man diagnosed with mid stage Alzheimer at 42 yrs old.
When he was born (eldest), his parents placed him to live with his grandparents. But his siblings all got to stay with his parents. Thru series of misunderstanding, he developed huge resentment towards his parents. Then his father died suddenly and he found out he had misunderstood him. He was filled with deep remorse, could not forgive himself and sank into depression for 2 years. Instead of focusing on his career, wife and young children, he kept lamenting on a mistake that he could no longer undo.
After that, symptoms of forgetfulness appear till it is so serious that it affected his work performance. He was diagnosed with mid stage Alzheimer few years ago and his cognitive function had decline rapidly.
2. Female lady
This lady went through so much misery that no one should be made to go through. She was denied of an education made by her mother to raise her step children. She was ill treated in the household and made to work like a servant but she did a lot to care for her step siblings. When things got too much, she try to escape her life by marrying early but ended up with a man who was a womaniser, gambler and alcoholic.
Took her children and left the marriage. Worked 3 jobs to raise them. But her stepsiblings and her daughter were ungrateful. Eventually she met a wonderful man who took her and her children and cared for her financially.
Usually when I speak to her all along, she would complain and cry. Instead of focusing on what she have, her mind kept reliving the sorrows of the past. What she needed was therapy but her resilience that enabled her to survive means she does not accept advice from others. In the end, her delirium and forgetfulness got worse. She got Alzheimer’s in her 50s.
3. A lady diagnosed at age 40
She was a qualified accountant and worked in foreign country and survived on her own for 10 years. Had very strained relationships with her parents and kept comparing herself to her siblings. Due to enormous pressure and expectation she placed on herself which is uncompromising, she suffered a mental breakdown and started becoming disorientated and forgetful. After her condition deteriorated, she was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having early onset and started medication for Alzheimer’s as well as anti psychotic medication.
Initially she was resistant but she has a teacher whom she listens to. She changed her behaviour, ie stop being so unyielding, learned to relax and mend the strained relationship with her parents (i helped her in that). With medication and outlook change, and stop being so hard on herself, her cognitive functions no longer show any decline. It remains as it is but of course stressors are removed from her life.
Because of the third case, I am seeing some hope in early onset Alzheimer’s where if one changes the way one thinks and view life, there is a possibility of halting the cognitive decline. Often, one would need to be on medication from the neurologist or psychiatrist that helps to relax the mind and enable the mind to rest and sleep better.
What if a person have a great/happy childhood but still develop Alzheimer’s?
Let’s talk about ‘happy/great childhood’, I once saw a video by Dr Gabor Mate who spoke of connection between chronic illness and childhood trauma. A woman raised a question. She said she had a happy childhood but why she suffered from so much of chronic conditions? Dr Gabor asked her one question.. He asked when she was a child, whenever she was afraid, unhappy or needed someone, could she talk to an adult in the family? She could not answer yes.
Dr Gabor Mate mentioned that childhood trauma is not defined by what had happened (ie abuse, neglect) but by what that did not happen. Example, does his family practice open communication or did he learn to ‘suck it up’ and not trouble the adults? When we do not speak about feelings does not mean it is not there. With years and all the bottled up suppression, and the brain power needed to keep everything in check, it is not surprising that the brain’s cognitive function start to have an irreversible cognitive decline.
What to do with diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s
The doctor would do their best within the medical capability to treat our illness. However, the doctor cannot heal our inner wounds, stubbornness and trauma. We will need to work on these ourselves because whether our cognitive would decline further or not may well depend on this.
Suppression, repression, denials, withdrawals should not be the go-to when feeling unpleasant emotions, experiences or memories. Most likely, therapy would be needed as from observation, many of those who develop Alzheimer’s or dementia have untreated depression.
Many of us develop maladaptive ways from childhood to deal with difficulties in our lives. As we grow into adulthood and no longer need to depend on the very adults that have let us down, these childhood coping mechanism no longer work and need to be understood, then let go.