Buddhi Stories Depression Elders Featured Patient Stories Traumatic Brain Injury

Varadarajan – Spiritual Odyssey

Varadarajan was on a pilgrimage to Badrinath in the company of extended family members in late 2010. Little did he imagine that he would be the victim of a fall, which proved disastrous and would alter the course of his life so abruptly. The initial 3-4 months of dramatic progress in his health condition reached a plateau, with minimal further improvement. It was at this point of standstill that the helplessness and hopelessness of a dependent status descended on him. The loss of self-esteem and of self-confidence built up, till the depression peaked in early 2013. All this in spite of a supportive family.


Mr. Varadarajan an engineering graduate, worked in a company for a few years before he decided to establish his own business. This he pursued in a committed manner and with enterprise, travelled a great deal on business, kept his family comfortable, educated his two children well, arranged & conducted his daughter’s marriage, an important milestone for any middle aged Indian couple. The daughter is settled abroad and visits with family every year. The trip to Badrinath, fulfilled Varadarajan’s religious inclinations as much as his urge to travel and seek adventure in the ‘mountainous Himalayan escape’!

Of Holy Shrines and Landslides The organised Char Dham pilgrimage is to the holy shrines of Lord Vishnu, Siva, Gangotri and Yamunotri, dotting the celestial Himalayan heights of Uttarakhand. The shrines are open to devotees in May and closed in early October, with the onset of the heavy snowfall. Roadblocks occur due to landslides, especially during the monsoon months of July-August, when the south-westerly winds bring with it rain, which lashes in all her fury on the slopes of the mountain ranges. Thousands of pilgrims may be stranded for a few days to a week for the roads to be cleared following a landslide. Natural disasters caused by the landslides and flash floods (the latter as in 2012 which claimed many lives) are no deterrent to the pilgrims, and year after year over 20 million pilgrims visit these holy temples in groups. The Border Road Organisation, Uttarakhand Government and the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee have their hands full during the pilgrimage season, not only to cater to basic amenities, which are sparse, but also to ensure the safety of vehicles on the winding, hazardous roads leading to the shrines. The Army is called upon to help in clearing heavy roadblocks and emergency helicopter service has to be sometimes deployed for medical emergencies and in disaster situations. The State Disaster Response Force has been established following the flash floods in 2013, to regulate the flow of pilgrims and towards better preparedness in the face of natural or man-made disaster situations. All these arrangements fall short of ideal organization, which the sheer enormity of the pilgrim population defeats.

The bus with the pilgrims had wound its way through the mountainous terrain until the driver was alerted of landslides ahead, and he knew by force of habit that he must halt the vehicle and warn the passengers to stay put. They had reached Pandukeshwar, a small town, 1829 metres above sea level, which lies about 20 km from the Vishnu temple at Badrinath. The bus crew took control of the situation, which was familiar to them, and made sure that there was no sign of panic among the busload of devotees. Their common mission was to reach Badrinath and that they would.

Exploring the Condition

Peace and calm prevailed and the long wait for the onward journey was taken as the ‘Will of God’. It was in the late evening that Varadarajan having just stepped out of the bus, perhaps to answer the call of nature, slipped on the slope, which sent him hurtling down 40 feet to land on his forehead. The bus crew and a few passengers rushed to the rescue. The wound was sutured and other first aid measures employed by the special team of healthcare providers. There was no immediate sequelae of loss of consciousness or seizures.

Varadarajan, within a few hours of the event, showed the foreboding signs of irritability and restlessness, pacing the floor of the shelter, becoming disoriented at times. He was transferred to the primary health centre at Joshi matt the following morning. In the next 3 days he progressed to semi-coma and was slipping into coma, and required specialized care. He was air-lifted by the Army helicopter and admitted to the ICU of a premier hospital in Dehradun, (the capital of Uttarakhand) which offered Neurosurgery as a superspeciality. The MRI reported ‘Subarachnoid haemorrhage and Subdural haematoma, with contusion on the right side’. His progress was monitored closely to minimize secondary brain injury following Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and the condition was managed conservatively with the patient on heavy medication. He regained consciousness after 21 days, was disoriented initially and did not recognize his immediate family members, who had rushed down on receiving the news. At discharge he was able to sit up, was on oral feeds and was continent and off the Foley’s catheter.

Back in Chennai, followed by a neurologist, and on home care, in familiar surroundings, stimulated by the presence of family and friends and with minimum therapies, the patient made slow progress. Over a few months, his memory improved, and he recovered his gross cognitive ability and other faculties, including to some extent language and writing skills. There was a residual right-sided weakness, but the patient could walk with a little support. He had impaired hearing in the right ear. Repeat MRI confirmed resolution of the blood clots over large brain areas, which correlated with return of efficient brain functioning. 

Traumatic Brain Injury

  1. Moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a major Public Health concern in India, as  it is globally. 1.5 to 2 million persons are injured and 1 million succumb to death every year in India due to accidents. A comprehensive report in 2002 of the Dept. of Epidemiology, WHO Collaborating Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, Rehabilitation, Policies and Programmes, at NIMHANS, Bangalore, India, headed by Prof. Gururaj, states that road traffic injuries are the leading cause (60%) of TBIs, followed by falls (20%-25%) and violence (10%). Since then, road traffic accidents have increased exponentially, and with an ageing population, falls in the elderly must add significantly to that category as well.
  2. Of all TBIs, 63% affect persons aged 15 to 64 and these represent the primary working population. These persons often have severe problems resuming a productive life and maintaining satisfactory interpersonal relations, despite the significant physical recovery within the first 6 months of injury. Depression can occur at any stage following an acquired brain injury, from the acute hospital stage to many years later. Post-injury depression may range from mild, (where a person may still be able to function in day to day life, but generally feel ‘low’), to severe depression and debilitation. Like in other forms of depression, the mood may be of sadness, despair, flat emotional reaction, increased frustration, irritability and anger. The thinking pattern may include a sense of hopelessness, pessimistic beliefs, and behaviour patterns may be of reduced attention to physical appearance, social withdrawal, loss of motivation to participate in activities the subject enjoyed premorbidly, accompanied by  fatigue, sleep disturbances and poor appetite. There may be inability to return to previous employment and the subject may become dependent and progressively isolated, with a gradual decline in ability to perform everyday tasks and progressive disability to cope with everyday stressors. Most of the patients with these disturbances are unable to identify the cause of their inner mental state or report their social functioning accurately and the family may be at an equal loss to fathom the reason. Researchers have consistently suggested that the psychosocial problems associated with TBI may be the major challenge facing rehabilitation. This is where a specialist integrative therapy team can step in to achieve what seems impossible, patiently holding the hands of the patient and family members, guiding them through the assessments followed by the therapies in a graded manner and coaxing stepwise positive advancement in the patient’s condition. This is the ‘Art of Medicine’.
  3. Recognition of pituitary hormonal insufficiencies after head injury and Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH) may be important, especially given that hypopituitarism-related neurobehavioral problems are typically alleviated by hormone replacement.
  • Gururaj G. Epidemiology of Traumatic Brain Injuries: Indian scenario. Neurol Res. 2002  Jan;24(1):24-8.
  • Rafael Gomez-Hernandez, Jeffrey E. Max, Todd Kosier, BS, Sergio Paradiso, Sergio Paradiso, Robert G. Robinson, Social Impairment and Depression After Traumatic Brain Injury Archives of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation 1997; 78: 1321-1326
  • Daniel F.Kelly, Irene T, Gaw Gonzalo, Pejman Cohan, Nancy Berman, Ronald Werdloff,  Christina Wang Hypopituatarism Following Traumatic Brain Injury and Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: a preliminary report J Neurosurg; 93: 743–752, 2000

The Prolonged, Gloomy, Negative Phase

The rehabilitation progress seemed to have reached a plateau within the next few months . The realization of the problems related to recovery from TBI dawned on Mr. Varadarajan. He was no longer the independent, vigorous, frequent-traveller, successful businessman, to whom the whole family looked up and others marveled. He was dependent, even for some physical help, could no longer travel alone on business, and with the financial stress and poor back up of human resource for his private enterprise, he was in the verge of closing down his business, which he had nurtured with a certain nonchalant air of confidence through these years. Life seemed to be slipping away from his control, and he was home bound, sleeping much of the time, with poor appetite, poor socializing and full of all the negative thoughts which sheer hopelessness can bring with it.

At this juncture, Varadarajan’s son’s marriage was fixed and the wife was forced to take up single-handedly, the elaborate arrangements and formalities which go with an arranged south Indian marriage. The daughter, who arrived early from abroad for her brother’s marriage, was alarmed at the father’s state of health, with weight loss, socially withdrawn, curled up in bed and sleeping long hours and finding it difficult to participate spiritedly in the wedding activities, which was very unlike the father she knew. She realised that something had to be done to pull him out of this state and to instill in him some positive energy. It was at this point that she came across information of the novel and holistic TriMed-Neurokrish approach to healthcare and decided to pursue it.

Our Healing Approach

After putting the marriage celebrations behind her, Varadarajan’s daughter arrived at the Trimed-Neurokrish reception counter and made enquiries and met Dr. E. S. Krishnamoorthy. She knew right away that that ray of hope to give her father some quality of life lay in this setting. She did not delay by even a day to arrive with her father to initiate the comprehensive assessment, integrated therapy and counselling offered here.

The Neuropsychiatric diagnosis was Post-Traumatic Brain Injury Depression, and Gait Disability. The residual neurological deficit was minimal on clinical examination, with some gait dysfunction and right sided weakness. Blood examination was unremarkable except for D3 deficit. A careful endocrinal screening was done to rule out neurobehavioural problems secondary to hypopituitarism, which can occur in TBI with subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Varadarajan’s blood pressure was under control on regular medication with Amlodipine taken twice daily. He was also on regular Phenytoin Sodium twice daily, Clinidipine for heart function, started on admission soon after the TBI and these continued. Other medication introduced at Trimed-Neurokrish included antioxidants, piracetam, ginseng (all for brain health), pregabalin (for anxiety and seizure prophylaxis) once a day, Donepezil (for memory) and Paroxetine (for mood). Vitamin D3 and B12 supplementation was initiated as well. 

On neuropsychological evaluation, deficits in certain subtler areas of cognition were noted, which could hinder efficient performance. When questioned, Varadarajan said he felt hopeless, worthless, and had a sense of guilt for not being able to support his family. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for depression and Cognitive Retraining were introduced and continued for over months, with a definite positive trend in his outlook. Family counseling and psychoeducation added to the improvement. The physiotherapist noted severe hamstring spasm, with restricted SLR bilaterally – basic exercises to make the limbs more flexible were given with Yoga and mud therapy. His gait disabilities were addressed specifically and over time he began to ambulate with greater ease. Yoga therapy helped his posture and balance, apart from reducing anxiety. Ayurvedic medicated oil massage for muscle spasm and joint flexibility, Shirodhara for cognition and mood and sessions of acupuncture were all spread over 3 months. Patient and family members were extremely pleased with the personal participation in the recovery process, the positive waves from the team enhancing the results of the long term therapies.

The focus of the TriMed-Neurokrish challenge was not just to improve the physical independent activity  of the patient, but to modify behaviour (with the negative feelings of hopelessness and helplessness of the patient, leading to severe depression), to positive waves in slow but sure stages through cognitive behaviour therapy for the patient and through family counseling. Gaining the trust of the patient and family as the first step made them go along with the therapies with a sense of total dynamic participation in the process of rehabilitation and it even became a ‘fun game’ as marked improvement was noted. Recognising the patient’s often warped ‘thoughts and beliefs’, the altered life situations and the loss of self-esteem that contribute to the maladaptive and social withdrawal behaviours and the immediate triggers that set it off, are part of the sensitive professional assessments. These can be remedied by cognitive behaviour therapy, (when followed with diligence), towards placing the patient back in his original zone of comfort and self confidence in the home and in the community. A supportive network in this process includes health care providers, family, old friends, new friends, and persons who have had similar experiences.

The yoga sessions, massages, and other integrative therapies reinforce the wellness of the person through their general and specific actions, ensure continuity with the treatment team, and motivate the patient and family to participate willingly in the path to patient recovery.

“She knew right away that that ray of hope to give her father some quality of life lay in this setting.”

Looking Ahead

Over months, Varadarajan has made a steady recovery. His cognitive difficulties have largely remitted, his walking has improved, so much so, that he now does 5 kms on his own and walks his dog as well; his mood has improved, anxiety reduced and confidence levels have been boosted considerably. He is attending to his business again and has started to strike new deals, possibly saving his factory from closure; he is even planning a visit to the USA to spend time with his daughter, rekindling too an old desire for travel. Mr. Varadarajan continues to attend his medical reviews and booster therapy sessions regularly as scheduled and is gregarious in his interactions with the treating team, often sharing a hearty laugh.

For us, Varadarajan and scores of courageous patients like him, are our true inspiration. His family are beside themselves with joy to have him well and truly back in their midst, for his has truly been “A Himalayan Odyssey”. The Longman’s Dictionary of Contemporary English which defines the word ‘odyssey’ (with its roots in the Homer’s epic poem by that name)  “as a series of experiences that teach you something about yourself or about life – a spiritual odyssey”, suits the theme of this TriMed-Neurokrish story best.

Adults Buddhi Stories Epilepsy & Seizures Featured Memory Problems Patient Stories

Joseph – His Unedited Life


Equipped with a Masters in Political Science, a supportive wife and 2 young children and a video-editing job in a reputed TV channel, which he carried out with a natural flair, Joseph had his stars to thank for a comfortable and fulfilling life. He had always been hardworking, an amiable companion at work, a good husband and a loving father. It was not just the sudden onset of seizures that disrupted his life flow, but the inability to work, the prominent cluster of neurobehavioural symptoms, the agitation, the paranoia, which mounted within a few weeks of the seizure onset. Back at work after recovery from the subacute phase, he could not perform. To make matters worse, the software of the editing platform had been updated with a newer version, during the period of his absence!

When Joseph presented to us over three years back with a cluster of seizure episodes, delirium and subsequent neurobehavioral symptoms, one needed to step back and view the sequence of events that led to this acute/subacute symptom complex that altered the course of his life so dramatically. The hospital which had received Joseph as an emergency had done well to manage the acute phase of the illness. The patient was diabetic and on oral medication with moderate control of blood sugar levels. Other laboratory parameters were within the normal range. The MRI showed bilateral hippocampal atrophy and the EEG recorded bilateral epileptiform dysfunction. A course of IV methylprednisolone brought about some control of the acute phase of the illness.

Exploring the Condition

However, Joseph continued to have seizures, poor recent memory, mood swings, irritability and aggression. He was unable to return to work both due to cognitive deficits which acted as impairment to his job performance and also due to poor social tolerance, to interact with team members. This came to the notice of the TV channel in which he was Senior Video Editor and the managerial staff of the channel took it upon themselves to support and take an active role in the neurorehabilitation  process of the patient. It was then that they stumbled upon Neurokrish – The Neuropsychiatry Center where they met Dr. Ennapadam S Krishnamoorthy. After a detailed interdisciplinary evaluation of his clinical profile, a discussion was held with the family and employer’s Chief Medical Officer on Joseph’s protracted cognitive and neurobehavioural sequelae and its impact – personal, familial and occupational. Concerned that their key employee should continue to work with them, the employer readily offered to support his care in all possible ways. The family too was committed to helping him get back on his feet.

Most importantly, the doctor was the purveyor of good news – that recovery from the ravages of a significant brain inflammation was possible, with medication, prolonged therapy and  psychosocial support. “Patience and gentle persuasion are the key” he said, in a convincing voice, persuading and encouraging patient, family and employers, through the long dreary days and months of targeted therapy.

Understanding Joseph

The enormity of the challenge of comprehensive neurorehabilitation for Joseph descended on us, fully, only when the clinical psychologist along with some other TriMed-Neurokrish team members, tried to unravel from basic literature, the complex demands on the video editor of a TV channel. With this background knowledge the cognitive retraining and cognitive behaviour therapy interventions could be individualized more effectively. A brief account of the video editor’s role would not be out of place here.

Video Editing

Although video editing may be considered a creative act, it requires working through a well-established, predictable set of steps. The first step is the importing and ingesting phase, followed by rough edits to the footage, dragging clips into the timeline, synchronizing the audio track and then fine-tuning the clips. Once the structure is set at this level, some additional post-production steps are required, namely, adding transitions between clips and various kinds of video filters, which change the visual quality of one or more clips to impact on the tone and texture of a piece. Titles are added and finally the color grading is done. In short, TV video editing calls for thematic conceptualization and sequencing in a timeline as executive function, with clarity of online working memory, pattern recognition and creative abilities, visual and auditory sensitivity, coupled with addressing the emotional element of a broadcast, team work and alert, timely delivery of the end product. This end product must capture the main features of the program, have a flow and continuity and appeal to the viewer expectations to create an overall impact!

Our Healing Approach

We came to the diagnosis that his symptoms were provoked by an underlying antibody syndrome – Autoimmune Limbic Encephalitis (LE). Detailed assessment for a possible malignancy was carried out, to rule out Paraneoplastic Limbic Encephalitis A second course of IV methyl prednisolone (the first having been given during admission in the acute phase), intensive cognitive rehabilitation and stress management was the doctor’s well considered management schedule, along with the other integrative therapies .Other medication included Levetiracetam for seizures, Donepezil for memory, Clobazam (for seizures and anxiety), Piracetam and Gingko Biloba (cognitive enhancers). He was under regular antidiabetic medication with his Diabetologist who also saw him through an unexplained acute skin reaction together with a dermatologist.

Cognitive Retraining (CRT) sessions were focused on improvement of sustained attention and memory enhancement. Tasks followed were the cancelling of digits for attention and verbal games, reading and visual memory games. He was able to recall from a small paragraph initially, to quarter of a page at mid therapy and half a page of details by the end of ten sessions of CRT.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) was given for his neurobehavioural symptoms. Family counseling, worksite review, and introduction of Joseph’s family members as his treatment monitors were other focused methods to enhance patient motivation and to see him progressively attain his premorbid state at home, in the community and at his workplace 

Our Ayurveda Consultant prescribed Shirodhara, the calming effect of which has been elaborated in the ancient texts. We have observed remarkable improvement in some of our patients with neurobehavioural problems who have undergone this procedure and we saw it succeed once again in Joseph.

Within a three month period of therapy, with the overall feeling of well being and improvement in his cognitive ability, that glimpse of hope of recovery sparked off definite positive trend in his attitude, with less agitation and irritation, a more focused goal to help himself and to take maximum advantage of the therapies and counseling offered to him by the TriMed-Neurokrish team. From this point the improvement in his condition was by leaps and bounds and there was no looking back.

Our Integrative Medical Therapy

  • Shirodhara is a classical and well-established procedure, as described in the ancient Ayurvedic treatises, of slowly and steadily dripping medicated oil or other liquids onto the forehead. Shira – head, is the ‘Seat of the Mind’ and Dhara signifies flow – a constant flow of the medicated, warm liquid – oil, milk,  buttermilk or coconut water onto the forehead of the subject, lying supine on the Ayurvedic massage table in the yogic Shavasana posture of complete relaxation of body and mind.
  • The liquid is gently poured, in a constant stream, ‘the size of the little finger’ from a height of 8-10cms from a special vessel, (protecting the eyes), onto the centre of the  forehead for a minimum duration of 30 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes. The liquid is allowed to flow down the scalp and is collected from the table, warmed and reused during the procedure. Shirodhara may be repeated 2-3 times with an interval of 7, 14 or 21 days, depending on the severity of the disease/disorder.
  • The constant flow of fluid stimulating the Sthapani Marma (this ‘vital spot’ being one of the 37 vital spots of the head, the whole body consisting of 107 such spots) indirectly stimulates the pituitary gland, at which brain level (Sthapani), the liquid flow occurs. The Ayurvedic texts mention the master gland and other endocrine glands and their function and clearly outline the calming neurobehavioural benefits of the procedure. The centre of the forehead, which was evolution-wise related to the third eye, is also connected atavistically to the pineal gland. This spot is known as Agnya Chakra, one of the vital energy centres in the yogic tradition. Focusing on Agnya Chakra with closed eyes during meditation leads to psychosomatic harmony.
  • As the oil drips on the Agnya Chakra, the authors propose, that the meditation-like effect is a consequence of stillness of mind leading to adaptive response to the basal stress. Shirodhara is popularized today by the modern health spas as a sure way to ‘rejuvenation and stress relief’! However, the ancient texts lay emphasis on its role in neurological and psychological disorders, headache and insomnia, and mention other indications and contraindications.


  1. Vaghbatta. Shirodhara Ashtanga Hridaya, Sutra Sasthana, Chapter 22
  2. GS Lavekar, TV Menon,  Bharthi, A Practical Handbook of  Panchakarma Procedures (2009)  Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, Dept. of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare GoI, New Delhi
  3. Ajanal Manjunath, Chougale Arun Action of Shirodhara– A Hypothetical Review J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Sept. 2012 1;  9 : 457–463
  4. Kalpana D. Dhuri, Prashant V. Bodhe,  Ashok  B. Vaidya . Shirodhara: A Psycho-physiological Profile in Healthy Volunteers J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2013 Jan-Mar; 4(1): 40–44.

Our Neuropsychiatry Focus

Autoimmune Limbic Encephalitis is a rare disorder, characterised by the subacute onset of seizures, short-term memory loss, and psychiatric and behavioural symptoms. This type of limbic encephalitis is associated with Voltage-Gated Potassium Channel (VGKC) or N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antibodies.

  • The emphasis in the management of autoimmune LE is on its timely recognition, in order to rule out malignancy and to initiate treatment early. This potentially life-threatening disease responds well to immunomodulatory therapy.
  • The diagnosis of Paraneoplastic Limbic Encephalitis (PLE) is difficult because clinical markers are often absent and the LE symptoms usually precede the diagnosis of cancer or may mimic other complications. The clinical diagnosis of PLE requires :
    • a compatible clinical picture;
    • an interval of <4 years between the development of neurological symptoms and tumour diagnosis;
    • exclusion of other neuro-oncological complications.


  1. M.J. Thieben, ; Lennon, V.A.  Boeve B.F.  Aksamit A.J.,Keegan M,  Vernino S. Potentially reversible autoimmune limbic encephalitis with neuronal potassium  antibody Neurology April 2004;62:1177–1182
  2. Guetekin SH, Rosenfeld MR, Voltz R, Eichen J, Posner JB, Dalmau J Paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis: neurological symptoms, immunological findings and tumour association in 50 patients. Brain. 2000 Jul;123 ( Pt 7):1481-94

Looking Ahead

At work a change in the software platform used, resulted in Joseph’s problems being magnified. No longer could he work on the auto-pilot, with skills learnt over two decades suddenly becoming obsolete. Supported by the three legged stool, his family, his employer and our therapeutic team, all working in tandem, he has managed to overcome these many hurdles. Apart from therapy and rehabilitation, he has benefitted too from a second course of intravenous steroids. Titrating his drug prescription, avoiding drugs that have unacceptable side effects and responding to his changing situation have all been necessary.

Two years on, the transformation of Joseph is remarkable. He is seizure free, composed, communicates clearly and well, manages well at work having learnt to use the new software platform, and enjoys a close trusting relationship with his family. He still has some residual memory and cognitive dysfunction and attends our centre for periodic cognitive retraining sessions. This father of two, the sole breadwinner of a young family, has managed to retain his job, thanks to the therapeutic alliance between his family, employer and our treating team. Indeed, his employer’s corporate social responsibility in walking the distance with Joseph deserves special commendation. This editor’s life continues unedited, thanks to the science of modern medicine, the wisdom in our ancient medical systems and the goodness that continues to exist in our society.

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krishna – A Quest of the Mind

School days had been fun, playing team games at school and with the neighbours’ children in the sprawling campus all evening and on weekends. This did not deter him from achieving 90% and above in all the subjects in school and in the 10th standard Board Examination. 11th and 12th were in one of those cram schools, with 10-hour teaching schedules, which prepare children for the IIT entrance examination. IIT proved elusive and Krishna joined a reputed private engineering college and stayed in the hostel attached to the institution.


It is not clear whether it was the initial ragging, or the continuous teasing by the seniors in the hostel that made Krishna progressively more anxious and to withdraw socially; or indeed whether these were early manifestations of his mental health condition; whatever it was, seemed to viciously erode his self confidence in stages. He had been at the butt end of jokes even at school, as he was prone to get some facts wrong in areas of common knowledge, which he would blurt out impulsively. The inherent social awkwardness became magnified into loss of self-esteem and social withdrawal in the new environment, away from home and away from his childhood friends. Class grades plummeted by end of 2nd year at Engineering College and he had accumulated arrears in a few subjects. Clearing them seemed insurmountable even as his mental turmoil increased. By the 3rd year, he had to take a break from studies and later returned to the college, commuting from the home of his paternal grandparents (who lived in the same city where he attended college), for a period of six months, after which he opted to brave the hostel milieu, cleared the arrears and completed the course effectively, receiving a choice of campus placement.

Exploring the Condition

Krishna had thus been through a four year period of waxing and waning symptoms of social anxiety, with significantly reduced social interaction from about 17 years of age. He had a once in three month follow up with a psychiatrist over the previous couple of years and was on antidepressant medication, a low maintenance dose of Fluoxetine. On this medication and some counseling, Krishna was managing his daily activities and work performance satisfactorily, till 6 months prior to his consultation with us, when his condition turned for the worse.

In the competitive job scenario, Krishna found the IT project job very stressful as he could not grasp the concept of project ideas conveyed to him over the phone, often within a brief communication and consequently could not reply relevantly to suit the demands of the foreign clients. Being inherently a high achiever and wanting to please, he found this situation beyond his coping ability. An acute phase of illness set in, with marked loss of appetite, insomnia, loss of weight, fatigue, poor self-care, poor concentration, total inability to attend office, social isolation and subsequently led  to a state of almost catatonic mutism  During this period he had delusions of reference (others are talking and commenting about me) and experienced mental confusion. He appeared to be out of touch with reality and in a state of acute psychosis. Krishna was forced to go on medical leave.

It is at this point that the highly concerned, well educated, discerning parents made inquiries for a place that could offer sustained therapies and close follow up. He was admitted for a few days for comprehensive assessment and investigations and management of the acute psychotic state by the TriMed-Neurokrish team.

The case called for elaborate psychological testing. These assessment scores are touched upon here, without too much explanation, for the lay reader to appreciate the need for a scientific and evidence-based approach to a neuropsychiatric case which depends not only on the clinical acumen of the Neuropsychiatric Consultant as Head of the Group, but that clinical judgement is dependent on inputs from other team members, to estimate the degree of mental disturbance and to guide the course of management. 

Our Healing Approach

During assessment at Trimed-Neurokrish, Krishna admitted to have gone through similar, but less alarming phases of physical limitation and mental turmoil which he had not expressed clearly to anybody. Self perception and perception of the environment became progressively maladaptive in a range of social and personal contexts, and the subjective distress kept mounting. He had experienced suicidal ideation 2 years earlier.

He also described vividly ‘catastrophic scenarios that he had witnessed in his mind’ (possibly delusional) for e.g., an unknown person to the patient, whose tongue had been lengthened infinitely to be placed with precision under a running truck and  the vivid, gruesome picture of the resultant trauma and bleeding. On further questioning, there is no history of manic or hypomanic phase or of drug abuse; no clear family history of major depression.

On medical leave, out of the stress-inducing situation in his work space and on integrated therapy and medication at Trimed-Neurokrish, Krishna soon came out of his acute psychotic state dramatically and settled to a preparedness to face the real world. In this phase, he was reported to have improved insight and judgment, understood he had a problem which impaired his capacity to cope with workplace stress and to engage in social interaction with his peers. He wanted to overcome this state, and be able to get back to his routine in better shape. 

The patient was cooperative for the psychological testing. The 42 responses to the Rorschach test met the criteria for the Coping Deficit Index. Thematic Aperception Testing pointed to the need for achievement, security, nurture, the conflict arising out of lack of ego strength and fear of rejection. The Neuropsychiatric Inventory score was 4-5 on anxiety, delusion, night time behaviour and appetite, and low on the depression scale.  A diagnosis of late onset Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymic disorder) was arrived at.

Krishna was on regular medication for over 2  months:

  •  Dicorate ER 750mg ( Divalproex)
  • Olanzipine  (10mg + 2.5mg) at bedtime and (20 mg + 10mg) in the morning
  • Vitamin  and Calcium supplements

He responded well to the integrated therapy with a total of 15 sessions of Reflexology, Acupuncture and Yoga and over 10 hours of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and some sessions of parental counselling.

An individualised short course CBT was initiated, setting attainable goals which helps in  bringing the  them back to their normal level of functioning.

In PERSISTENT DEPRESSIVE DISORDER, the patient suffers  a pervasive sad mood for over 4 years with barely any symptom-free period. The symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, educational, employment and other important areas of functioning.

Dysthymics however, may be pushed into major depression and subsequent acute psychosis Often this occurs at times of high stress and is linked to strong emotions and feelings, for example worry, anxiety, fear, depression or feeling overwhelmed by events. Lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, poor self-esteem, difficulty with concentration or decision making,and a feeling of hopelessness, peaking to result in a phase of acute psychosis. It has been suggested that in dysthymic disorder, to compensate for the lack of social and real life interaction, the patient can create elaborate and complex fantasy inner worlds within their minds. According to DSM V criteria, individuals whose symptoms meet major depressive disorder criteria for 2 years should be given a diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder as well as major depressive disorder.

Our Focus:

Cognitive Rehabilitation

A person who suffers from dysthymic disorder has generally learned to live with a fair amount of chronic unhappiness in their lives and so the therapist cannot go by the mood on a particular dayl He must first identify the thoughts associated with the patient’s distress. In dysthymia, these thoughts may concern the patient’s self-view, his or her representation of a significant relationship, or a meaningful situation.

Goals will vary according to type of therapy. The emphasis in Cognitive Therapy is to effect changes in one’s faulty or distorted way of thinking and perceiving the world. Interpersonal therapy focuses on an individual’s relationships with others and how to improve and strengthen existing relationships and an attempt to accommodate new ones. Solution-focused therapy looks at specific problems affecting the person’s life in the present and examines how to best go about changing the person’s behavior to solve these difficulties. Social skills training focuses on teaching the client new skills on how to become more effective in social and work relationships.


Dean Schuyler Evidence–based Review Short-term cognitive therapy shows promise for dysthymia Vol. 1, No. 5 / May 2002

Looking Ahead

Krishna continued to suffer from low self-esteem and a pervasive sad mood, with occasional congruent delusions of reference and delusional exaggerated fantasy, when assessed midway  from onset of the integrated therapy. By the end of the intensive integrated therapy sessions at TriMed-Neurokrish, he was much more stable, and was on the bench at his IT job, preparing with a greater level of confidence for active work to be initiated with the clients.

Adolescents Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Buddhi Stories Children Depression Featured Patient Stories

Ragini – Her Uphill Battle


It was a full term natural delivery. The newborn was small at 2.7 kgs. There was no complication of pregnancy and mother and infant were well. Motor milestones followed a normal curve, but language was delayed till the age of five years. Strangely, musical expression preceded language and by 2 years 6 months, Ragini lisped in melodic sequences, as melody with lyrics came with ease. She belonged to yet another traditional south Indian family where music occupies the whole day, from the TV devotional music broadcast at the break of dawn, the bathroom singing by the father relaxing through an evening lukewarm shower after the day’s work, till into the night, when the mother sings the infant to sleep – that ‘soporific lullaby’ which never fails! However, nurture alone cannot explain the child’s musical ability, which advantage she carried without losing ground, into adolescence and adult life with formal vocal classical music instruction. The family being resident in the West, she received higher grade training in Western classical music as well and got into the stride of it with no extra effort.

Exploring the Condition

Ragini had poor communication skills, sub-average intelligence on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), language processing difficulty, perceptual thinking deficit and social fears and phobias when examined in childhood. She became irritable and frustrated, as coping with routine stresses, given her condition, became increasingly difficult over the years, and she showed significant disruptive behaviour at about 10 years of age by way of aggression. Following a psychiatric assessment, she was started on Tab. Risperidone, an atypical antipsychotic to control the irritability of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to reduce her depression. She continued Risperidone till the age of 19 years, went through mainstream schooling, as she was a high functioning ASD, and successfully completed a Certificate Course in Vocational training.

In 2013, Risperidone had to be withdrawn, due to tardive dyskinesia, and Clonazepam SOS was prescribed. Two years passed peacefully, off medication. With the support of her well educated, discerning parents empathetic to her needs, Ragini established her own space in her music studio,  where she could listen to music, catalogue the music videos in her collection  in the studio library, and even give musical training to groups. All this was encouraged by her parents, mindful of her problems as it also represented an attempt to organize herself into some self employed music-related career, in an area closest to her heart. However, largely alone in the studio also left her isolated and socially withdrawn. Perhaps due to this a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness descended upon her, and she had suicidal ideation. She was emotionally sensitive, eager to please, but did not have the ability to take criticism. Symptoms that started insidiously, reached a peak within 6 months, in mid-2015. She became severely depressed.

Escitalopram (antidepressant) and Quitiepine (an atypical antipsychotic) prescribed by the psychiatrist could not bring about any control. After a further 5 months of rapid mood swings, crying, shouting, explosive episodes of dyscontrol and threats of leaving home, the mother brought Ragini to India, hoping that a change of environment would help in some way to ease mounting family tensions. She had information about the multidisciplinary approach and integrated therapy offered by TriMed-Neurokrish and fixed an appointment for Ragini.

Our Healing Approach

It was not easy for the team at TriMed-Neurokrish to thaw the ice and make Ragini accept that the specialist team was there to help her. Once this was achieved even partially, with gentle persuasion, the flow of the assessments became smoother, with cooperation from the patient. The diagnosis and plan of management fell in place with the detailed clinical history of events that led up to the mental state at the time of assessments and clinical examination.

Her Rorschach Inkblot test produced 22 responses, meeting the perceptual thinking and coping deficit index. She had severe depression and a feeling of worthlessness. EEG showed significant epileptiform activity without localization or lateralisation. She had a past history of episodes of stare with momentary loss of consciousness. Blood test and MRI/MRA brain were unremarkable.

The Diagnosis was Autistic Spectrum Disorder (High Functioning) with Rapid Cycling Affective Disorder and Episodic Dyscontrol Syndrome. Arriving at a suitable drug regimen was more difficult and prolonged, with loss of precious time, as 2 anticonvulsants used as thymoleptic agents had to be rejected as Oxcabamazepine produced a moderate allergic response, and even worse, Lamotragine produced a Steven Johnson’s type adverse drug reaction. After allowing time for recovery from these drug reactions, the patient was stabilised on a drug regimen which she tolerated well, along with an extended program of therapies running parallel.

The regular medication was

  • Lithium (sustained release) 400mg – 1/2-0-1
  • Olanzapine 10mg – 1/2-0-1
  • Escitalopram 1-0-0
  • Lorazepam 2mg – 0-0-1
  • Vitamin supplements

The mood stabilising, antidepressant and anxiolytic effect of this drug combination was reinforced with 24 sessions of CBT, individual psychotherapy and family education, 11 of physiotherapy (grade 2), 34 of Acupuncture, 20 of Reflexology, 34 sessions of Shirodhara and whole body massage and 24 sessions of Yogasana, intensive and daily over the initial phase and then spaced out to 3-4 days a week.

“There is considerable evidence suggesting that a subset of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), youth with extreme disturbance of mood suffer from a symptom cluster that is phenomenologically consistent with the syndrome of Bipolar Disorder (BPD)”

Joshi, 20091

Longitudinal studies are essential for observing the onset and progression of co-morbid condition of Bipolar disorder in ASD.

“It is of importance to recognise both the psychiatric diagnoses of ASD and overlapping BPD in order to plan the drug regimen, therapies and set realistic treatment goals.”

Looking Ahead

Following the extended therapy program and after being stabilized on the drug regimen, there is a definite return of Ragini’s lost self esteem, which had been shattered during the downhill phase. Her mood swings are minimal, and there is no episodic dyscontrol. The mother admits that she came with the hope of some relief of Ragini’s symptoms of aggression and dyscontrol. She got much more from the team at TriMed-Neurokrish, she confessed, and feels that the situation is under control and has the hopes to settle her daughter’s future plans of home and career within reasonable goals.

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