Causes and Symptoms: Mental illness arises from a disease or disordered working of that part of the nervous system, which controls the mind and conduct. There are various grades of mental disorders ranging from slight peculiarities to temporary craze and more.
The causes of mental disorders fall into two groups. Certain persons go through life with a tendency of becoming disordered mentally. The reason may the causes arises at any time. Others may be constantly subjected to much greater strains of the same nature without developing any mental abnormality. Therefore it is necessary to recognize the nervous constitution of the patient or a set of predisposing causes, and the stresses, which are particularly liable to disturb his mind. Among the predisposing causes some important can be mentioned as heredity, abnormal disposition or temperament, an over-finely balanced mind subject to going haywire at the slightest provocation, exciting causes which may be in the nature of a sudden shock, exhaustion of the nervous system, infections like those of some fevers, tuberculosis or syphilis, disorders of the endocrine glands, disturbed circulation of blood, alcoholism, and senility or senile degeneration. At certain stages in life when the mind may lose its balance, namely, adolescence, childbirth and its complications, the climacteric period around menopause, senile degeneration, and organic diseases of the nervous system this kind of stage can arise.
Mental illness rarely develops suddenly and indications of an approaching mental disorder may be gathered from some early premonitory symptoms, although these may be of so light a character as to escape observation. The most important among them is the alteration of disposition. A person of a suspicious nature may carry his suspicions too far and start looking at everybody as his enemy, bent upon doing him harm. Or the change may be in the opposite direction. The early alterations of habit and conduct are generally accompanied by some physical symptoms such as insomnia, disorders of digestion, and loss of weight.
Regardless of technical names, mental illness falls under two broad categories. namely insane beliefs and insane acts. The first category includes delusions, perhaps of grandeur or an unseen agency; suspicion and persecution; and hallucinations or false perceptions. The patient may imagine some unknown or unseen persons talking to him and appearing before him in a certain garb. The most serious delusions involve hallucinations of smell. Insane acts may include suicide and homicide, in addition to constant tearing of clothes, fantastic and extravagant dressing or disregard of personal appearance, refusal to eat food, kleptomania or obsessive stealing, dipsomania or obsessive thirst, indecent exposure of the self, and the commission of unnatural sexual offences.
Varieties of Mental Disorders: Mental disorders can be broadly placed in two categories i.e. neuroses and psychoses. The first category is of a mild form in which there is a general emotional tone of anxiety or apprehension. In this case patients are afraid to open letters lest the contents convey bad news, and, by the same reason, they are afraid of telegrams. Persons suffering from a mild indisposition may also interpret the same as a symptom of some fatal disease. Exophthalimic goiter is sometimes accompanied by mental symptoms, may be included in this group. Neurasthenia, hysteria and various obsessions including such symptoms as irrepressible thoughts and impulses fall into the group of psychoneuroses.
The other category of mental disorders, namely, psychoses, includes mania, melancholia, manic-depressive psychosis, paranoia, schizophrenia or dementia praecox, and certain confusional states in which there is more of disorientation than any serious disorder. There may be senile dementia and general paralysis of the insane which, in most cases, is the result of syphilis of the nervous system.
Ayurveda recognizes a large variety of insanity cases. The causative factors are vitiation of the three doshas. Sudden shocks i.e. mental or physical, weaknesses of the nervous system, ingestion of certain poisons or the formation of certain poisonous substances in the body are the causes of certain diseases.
Medicines & Prescriptions: The old masters have recommended a psychological course of treatment in the earlier stages. As for example, the patient who is in a depressed state of mind should be entertained and his mind sought to be diverted from his imaginary problems. If the insanity is of vatik origin, that is, if it is because of the vitiation of vata dosha, certain preparations of ghee-Siddha should be administered. If the insanity is of pitta origin, purgatives may be administered and in the case of kapha being at the root of the malady, vomiting should be induced.
The following medicines are helpful in dealing with most cases of insanity:
1. Chaturbhuja Rasa; Pravalapishta: Shankliapushpi Churna: 120 mg of Chaturbhuja Rasa, 240 mg of Pravalapishta, and 1 gm of Shankhapushpi Churna to be taken twice daily with honey.
2. Rajalabhasma: Chandravaleha: 80 mg of Rajatabhasma and 10 gm of Chandravalelm to be given twice daily with cow's milk.
3. Lashunadya Ghrita: 12 gm should be mixed with the food of the patient twice daily.
4. Saraswatarishta: 20 ml should be taken twice daily with water after meals.
Shatadhauta or Sahasradhauta Ghrita should be used for massaging the head. Castor oil should be administered to the patient twice a week to keep his bowels clear. Sarpagandha or Rauwolfia serpentina, extensively used in allopathy in the treatment of hypertension, and Shankhpushpi should be used in the form of a paste on the forehead.
Some of the well-known Ayurvedic preparations to deal with insanity can be named as follows: Unmadagajakesari should be taken with 240 mg with milk, Unmadabhanjana Rasa mixed with 240 mg with honey, Unmadabhanjini Vatika should be used as a paste for the eyes, Bhutankusha Rasa to be mixed with 240 mg with juice of ginger, Bhatabhairava Rasa mixed with 240 mg with five seeds of dhatura and cow's ghee, and also Shivaghrita that can be mixed with 12 mg to 20 mg doses.
Home Remedies: Bhang i.e. Cannabis indica should be ground in goat's milk, and the paste so obtained should be applied to the palms and soles during day and night.
Diet and Other Regimen: The food should be simple but nutritious.
Patients suffering from mental disorders of all types should be kept away from alcohol and other narcotics. Constipation should be prevented at all costs as that is likely to aggravate the condition. Patients should be handled tactfully and never reminded of their condition. In some cases, when they complain of persecution, they may have to be humoured before an effort is made to dispel their misconceptions. A pleasant, understanding atmosphere and companionship are of vital importance in bringing about a cure.