I have been unable to control my mood for the past week or so. This has been primarily exemplified by irritability. To the outside, perhaps it seems like preoccupation or just an "out-of-sorts" type of affect. There seems to be no cause for this, other than repressed feelings of personal failure. Internally, however, it is a stew of rage and pain, and my subconscious throws up memories from my past to justify the pain. When a person has delirium tremens, the body sometimes feels as though ants were crawling on the skin. This is called formication, a tactile hallucination. "Ethanol ... acts as an N-methyl D-aspartate receptor antagonist. Withdrawal of ethanol leads to increased activity of these excitatory neural receptors." (emedicine.com: Dr. William Gossman). So, the neural receptors, exited by the withdrawal of ethanol from the system become agitated. The human mind puts a cause to the sensation, which is ants crawling on the skin. It is an hallucination. The ants are not really there, and the cause of the hallucination is physiological.
Phantom limbs are a kind of formication. A stimulation of the nerve endings in the stump of an amputated limb can lead to the sensation that the limb is still there.
I believe that the same is true of mental disease. A free floating or unconnected mood disorder can stimulate, as in my case, painful memories that justify the cause of the anger, resentment, fear complex, and lead to excruciating recollections of very painful times in my life, accompanied by the individuals who caused the pain. Major players in these episodes can be my Graduate School advisor, my Grandmother, my Mother, almost anyone. The rage that results is piquant, intense and uncomfortable.
I cannot tell which is the cause of the other, however. Is the rage a result of the depression--i.e., my mind attributes a phantom cause for the depressive pain, or is it the other way around? My instincts tell me it is the former.
Oh, and the title of today's entry is the technical term for the compulsive biting of fingernails and cuticles.