Understanding Neuroplasticity and How it Affects Your Mental Health

As we grow, our brains change. Learning new skills and going through new experiences can alter the neural pathways that control our thought processes. This happens throughout our lives in a process called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is at play almost every moment. All your behaviors and thoughts can either rewire your brain, or reinforce the pathways that are already there. This is essential for learning, but it can also influence the thought patterns behind your moods, potentially being the cause of various mental health conditions and preventing you from breaking from the negative thought patterns that are a symptom of many conditions.

How Neuroplasticity Can Cause and Reduce Depression

For an example of neuroplasticity, when you move to a different neighborhood, your brain will establish neural pathways as you learn your way around. Continuing to travel those routes will reinforce those pathways until navigating your city becomes second nature. If you move, you may start to forget the routes as your brain rewires to your next neighborhood.

If you go through a traumatic event, such as an ongoing threat to your life or an abusive situation, your mind rewires itself to help you survive. Your brain starts to recognize certain triggers and learns to be constantly alert. Unfortunately, neuroplasticity can make these ingrained reactions that stay even after you leave the situation.

Depression can be similar. It can cause you to continuously think negatively about yourself, reinforcing the neural pathways behind these thoughts and leading to a cycle that can make depression feel like a permanent part of you.

But in the same way that neuroplasticity is an added difficulty in treating mental health conditions, it can also be helpful. Neuroplasticity means that habitual thoughts are not permanent and with the right resources, you can change the thoughts that occur because of a mental health condition. These resources can include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Often called CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy can train you to alter your thoughts and begin reinforcing more positive patterns by helping you relate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Other types of talk therapy can be helpful as well, but neuroplasticity is the main science behind CBT, making it especially relevant.
  • Medication – In addition to neural pathways, activity in different parts of your brain and levels of chemicals like dopamine are also a major cause of mental health conditions which can often be managed through medications.
  • Exercise – Regular physical activity makes your brain more efficient at making changes, helping you readjust and from neural pathways that promote healthier, more positive thought patterns.
  • Meditation – Meditative practices may help you better understand your thought patterns and the increased focus can assist you in rewiring your brain to limit negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Other Skills – Depending on your current mental state and your mental health challenges, other skills and activities can help make your mind more open to change and give you the skills you need to start making those changes.

For those dealing with mental health conditions in Dallas, Fort Worth, Bedford, and the surrounding area, Aware Behavioral Health can help. Dr. Sehdev is a psychiatrist who uses medication, therapy, and other solutions to manage mental health conditions of all types, addressing the chemicals behind your emotions, your past experiences, and how you can change your thought patterns to reduce your symptoms. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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