Your brain is your body’s control center. It’s part of the
nervous system, which also includes the spinal cord and a large network of
nerves and neurons. Together, the nervous system controls everything from your
five senses to the muscles throughout your body.
When your brain is damaged, it can affect many different
things, including your memory, your sensation, and even your personality. Brain
disorders include any conditions or disabilities that affect your brain. This
includes those conditions that are caused by illness, genetics, or traumatic
This is a broad category of disorders, which vary greatly in
symptoms and severity. Keep reading to learn about some of the largest
categories of brain disorders.
Brain injuries are often caused by blunt trauma. Trauma can
damage brain tissue, neurons, and nerves. This damage affects your brain’s
ability to communicate with the rest of your body. Examples of brain injuries include:
- blood clots
- contusions, or bruising of brain tissue
- cerebral edema, or swelling inside the skull
Examples of the symptoms of a brain injury include:
- speech difficulty
- bleeding from the ear
- memory loss
- problems with concentration
Later, you may develop:
- high blood pressure
- a low heart rate
- pupil dilation
- irregular breathing
Depending on the type of injury you have, treatment might
include medication, rehabilitation, or brain surgery. About half of people with
severe brain injuries need surgery to remove or repair damaged tissue or to
relieve pressure. People with minor brain injuries may not need any treatment
beyond pain medication.
Many people with brain injuries need rehabilitation. This
can include physical therapy, speech and language therapy, and psychiatry.
Sometimes, tumors form in the brain and can be very
dangerous. These are called primary brain tumors. In other cases, cancer somewhere
else in your body spreads to your brain. These are called secondary or
metastatic brain tumors.
Brain tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign
(noncancerous). Doctors classify brain tumors as grades 1, 2, 3, or 4. Higher
numbers indicate more aggressive tumors. The cause of brain tumors is largely
unknown. They can occur in people of any age.
Symptoms of brain tumors depend on the size and location of
the tumor. The most common symptoms of brain tumors are:
- numbness or tingling in your arms or legs
- changes in personality
- difficulty with movement or balance
- changes in your hearing, speech, or vision
The type of treatment you’ll receive depends on many different
factors, such as the size of the tumor and your age and overall health. The
main types of treatment for brain tumors are surgery, chemotherapy
(medication), and radiation therapy.
Neurodegenerative diseases cause your brain and nerves to deteriorate
over time. They can change your personality and cause confusion. They can also destroy
your brain’s tissue and nerves.
Some brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, may develop
as you age. They can slowly impair your memory and thought processes. Other
diseases, such as Tay-Sachs disease, are genetic and begin at an early age.
Other common neurodegenerative diseases include:
- Huntington’s disease
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- all forms of dementia
Some of the more common symptoms of neurodegenerative
- memory loss
- a loss of inhibition
- mood changes
Neurodegenerative diseases cause permanent damage, so
symptoms tend to get worse as the disease progresses. New symptoms are also
likely to develop over time.
There’s no cure for neurodegenerative diseases, but
treatment can still help. Treatment for these diseases tries to reduce symptoms
and maintain quality of life. Treatment often involves the use of medications
to control symptoms.
Mental disorders, or mental illnesses, are a large and diverse
group of conditions that affect your behavior patterns. Some of the most
frequently diagnosed mental disorders are:
- bipolar disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
The symptoms of mental disorders vary based on the
condition. Different people can experience the same mental disorders very
differently. You should talk to your doctor if you notice a change in your
behavior, thought patterns, or moods.
The two major types of treatment for mental disorders are
medication and psychotherapy. Different methods work better for different
conditions. Many people find that a combination of the two is the most
If you think you might have a mental disorder, it’s
important to talk to your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that works
for you. Don’t try to self-medicate.
Brain disorders can affect anyone, but your risk factors are
different for different types of brain disorders.
Traumatic brain injury is most
common in children, young adults who are under 25 years old, and adults who
are 65 and older.
Brain tumors can affect people at any age. Your personal
risk depends on your genetics and your exposure to environmental risk factors
Older age and family history are the most significant risk
factors for neurodegenerative diseases.
Mental disorders are very common. About 1 in 5
American adults has a diagnosable mental health condition. Your risk may be
higher if you:
- have a family history of mental illness
- have or have had traumatic or stressful life
- have a history of alcohol or drug abuse
- have or have had a traumatic brain injury
Your primary care physician or a neurological specialist can
diagnose a brain disorder.
Your doctor will likely perform a neurological exam to check
your vision, hearing, and balance. Your doctor might also get images of your
brain to make a diagnosis. The most common diagnostic imaging tools are CT,
MRI, and PET scans.
Your doctor might also need to study fluid from your brain
and spinal cord. This helps them find bleeding in the brain, infection, and
Mental health disorders are usually diagnosed based on an
evaluation of your symptoms and history.
The outlook depends on the type and severity of your brain
disorder. Some conditions are easily treated with medication and therapy. For
example, millions of people with mental disorders live perfectly normal lives.
Other disorders, like neurodegenerative diseases and some
traumatic brain injuries, have no cure. People with these conditions often face
permanent changes in their behavior, mental abilities, or coordination. In
these cases, treatment will try to help you learn to live with your illness and
retain as much independence as possible.