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Ataxia Support Network

Is ataxia simply a mental illness or brain disease?

#1

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#2

A neurological disease.

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#3

As far as I know a mental illness cannot physically destroy parts of your brain whereas ataxia is caused by physical deterioration in parts of the brain. Therefore I would class it as a "disease". My hubby's ataxia is caused by the cerebellum in his brain physically dying off very slowly, it is currently smaller in physical size than it should be therefore it is a "physical" brain illness as such.

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#4

I think it *can* cause mental illness like depression but I am not sure that it *has* to cause it. My hubby has no mental illness yet has ataxia.

John "JC" Colyer said:

Its a brain disorder that causes mental illness , Depression.

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#5

Sorry But I do not like to think I have a Mental illness. I may be sad but I wont allow myself to go into a depression. I would say it is a Brain disorder. I'm sorry I just don't like the word Disease. To me that's like Herpes, aids, rashes, fungus, shingles, Ect. Those to me are diseases. Ataxia is a Neurological Disorder. A disability. Just my opinion!

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#6

Oh I just hate ataxia. No rime or reason. To me its bad enough. Don't be sorry. But Thank you for saying it!

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#7

Ataxia is a neurological condition causes loss of automatic skills such as balance and co-ordination, which people without Ataxia can do without thinking about.

As a genetic condition, a gene triggers the progression. Ataxia can also be acquired through brain injury and as a result of metabolic disorders affecting the same areas of the brain.

Mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but people can also become mentally ill after head injuries. If a condition can cause a progression of cognitive abilities it will affect your emotions and perception so you may perceive the world as been against you (as a disabled person) or people not wanting to be with you because you feel they are ashamed of you for example. This type of paranoia is not the same as someone with bipolar disorder for example or schizophrenia...for whom medication can often help if its due to a chemical imbalance.

People with progressive conditions can get depression of course and we can all suffer depression from life events such as death of a loved one and/or loss of skills, but again this is different to clinical depression where someone with seemingly no apparent reason to be depressed can suffer from severe depressive episodes. Again this can be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and can often be controlled by medication.

Just because you have been diagnosed with Ataxia does not necessarily mean you will suffer depression from then on for the rest of your life. That will depend on your personality, beliefs, support etc.

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#8

Sorry guys, I like Lore's response the best!

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#9

Yes the brain deteriorates. It is a deterioration of the brain. The doctors call it a deterioration of the cerebellum. At no time have I heard the words diseased cerebellum. I take as a slap in the face when someone calls it a disease. You can feel anyway you want to. I'm not upset. And I hope your not. But my ataxia is a brain disorder not a disease!

Best wish. Lori

pandagirl said:

As far as I know a mental illness cannot physically destroy parts of your brain whereas ataxia is caused by physical deterioration in parts of the brain. Therefore I would class it as a "disease". My hubby's ataxia is caused by the cerebellum in his brain physically dying off very slowly, it is currently smaller in physical size than it should be therefore it is a "physical" brain illness as such.

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#10

Is cancer counted as a "disease" since it is a similar thing in it is the cells of the person's own body attacking its own cells?

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#11

Well from my family. My mother died of caner. She had 6 different cancers. We called it cancer. I just look at disease as something someone else can catch. And you can not catch ataxia, cancer, MS, Parkinson, ect. So to me its not a disease. Like I said that is just my thinking. I'm really sorry if it offend you. Didn't mean to.

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#12

I don't consider it to be a "disease" but the original poster only offered two options in his question "mental illness" or "brain disease" and since I definitely do not count it as "mental illness" the only option left was the "disease". I do not think of my hubby as having a "disease", I do not even think of him as having a degenerative neurological condition, I just think of him as him and that he just is as he is and we will evolve to encompass anything that changes in him but even then he will still be just Mr Panda to me.

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#13

Your right. And good for you! Your hubby is lucky. Now I just have to find someone that thinks like you. Ha, Ha. Enjoy!

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#14

disorder that may or may not cause mental illnesses

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#15

We know it causes physical problems, I know what I would like to call it!

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#16

I hear you loud and clear!

Beryl Park said:

We know it causes physical problems, I know what I would like to call it!

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#17

Because a stupid doctor said that Cerebella Ataxia was in my head, I had to spend two weeks in a London hospital having tests to see if it was in my head. There were bars up the windows and all doors were locked so one couldn't get out. After two weeks the specialist told me to go home and forget about it being in my head, it was part of my brain that was dying out, the Cerebellum the part that controls the muscles and the heart being one big muscle so I have had two heart attacks. The only thing that I would say is use your muscles as much as you can or you will lose them. And once they have gone you will not be able to get them back again. Do not worry, live your life as if it was your last day on earth, because like everyone it will be one day. Love yourself and all those around you.

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#18

If you read the definition of “disease” on Wikipedia, you will see that the term can be used interchangeably with “disorder”. What is sad to me is that mental illness is still so stigmatized that we feel we have to put it in it’s own category. Having worked in mental health for most of my working years, I understand that it certainly is a brain dysfunction. Researchers are learning more all the time about how the brain works. And there is information now that links the cerebellum to the cerebral cortex, showing that it affects much more than only the autonomic functions such as circulation, breathing, and motor control. We are whole people. Things work together. Brain chemistry is not a choice, and brain illnesses are not something any of us should feel shame for. The genetic problems in my family have manifested with both kinds of symptoms; and I myself have elements of both to deal with. I am learning not to be ashamed of any of it.

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#19

Though other dictionaries are available, I have used the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED);

OED: ataxia: [mass noun] (medicine): the loss of full control of bodily movements.

This does not necessarily infer or imply either illness or disease though either could be present potentially.

OED: Disease: noun: a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.

So! With the above definition, ataxia could possibly be referred to as a disease.

OED: Illness: noun: a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind.

So! With the above definition, ataxia could possibly be referred to as an illness.

There is no specific definition of 'brain disease' in the OED.

OED: mental illness: noun: a condition which causes serious disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking.

This is less than easy to place! A person with ataxia could well also have mental illness. The two are not synonymous though.

I'm no expert but I have not yet seen anything online or otherwise to suggest (in a professional sense) that any mental illness is or could be directly linked to having ataxia.

Circumstantially though, I think it is fair to say that having ataxia (not the ataxia itself) can have a negative persuasion on a person's mental well being. Reading these very forums (LWA) does show that we of the ataxic variety can and sometimes do feel stressed, drawn, frustrated, down or negative in other ways because of our perception regarding how ataxia, does, might / may, will affect us now and / or in the future.

Is ataxia a brain disease? Maybe it could be described as so. I prefer to call my ataxia a condition I am affected by.

Is ataxia a mental illness? Most certainly not. Though I will give way to the notion that having ataxia can / could lead to those affected becoming somewhat depressed / mentally affected. I suppose too that it is possible for someone with a mental illness to think they are ataxic when they are not!

As I have noted, I am no expert. I just give my opinion.

EDIT:

I also think that the stigma of (a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person) mental illness or any other illness or condition is horrible.

We are at a time where we as a race have access to all sorts of information and technology and yet we (some of us) still stigmatize those that are in some way 'different' or 'sick' (I'm trying to choose my words carefully but it is difficult). I sometimes despair at the way we as a race or society treat our fellows.

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#20

You might ask, what’s in a word, eh?

The word “normal” definitely doesn’t sit well with me, simply for the fact that I personally think that “normal” is subjective; and since we put our own definitions on normal, there really is no such thing as “normal”.

Anyway, maybe the disease, or dysfunction, terminology is the same kind of thing.

I do agree that certain words grow a stigma; and, I try to avoid certain words b/c of this…but call me human; I get it totally wrong sometimes.

Regarding stigmas and depression, I, too, worked in the mental health industry - not as a therapist - for awhile, and there was definitely a stigma when I worked there which was more than 10 years ago.

From what I’ve come to understand:

-there’s a difference between depression and clinical depression…where you want to consult a professional for the latest and greatest on what that is.

-with any type of loss (eg. loss of functioning, etc.), a person who loses someone or something will go through some steps - and everyone is different regarding how each step affects them. The steps being - in a different order sometime: 1. Denial; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; and finally 5. Acceptance.

Things might have changed, but that’s what I remember.

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