According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately one in six American adults are living with some form of mental illness. Due to the stubborn stigma surrounding mental illness, there is also a distinct chance this number could be even larger, since many individuals may be living undiagnosed, whether they are aware of this or not, and are fearful of seeking treatment and having the stigma affect them.
Treatment for mental illnesses is quite varied, and most of the specifics depend on the mental illness in question, the patient, and the severity of each case. Learn more about the approach many mental health professionals take when treating patients and the top methods they use now.
Approaching Treatment For Mental Illnesses
When patients talk to doctors and mental health specialists about treatment, there are many avenues they may take. While there are standard options and those with scientific backing, most mental health professionals will approach each patient individually when determining what course of action, or a combination thereof, they want to take. The reason for this, most will cite, is because one method of treatment that works for one person may not work for another. This is also why patients may go through a few different treatments before finding what works for them.
When most individuals think about treatment for mental illnesses, chances are the first thing, or one of the first things, their minds land on is medication. There are medications dedicated to treating specific mental illnesses, such as medication for schizophrenia, as well as others that have proven useful at treating more than one mental illness, such as antidepressants. In addition to treating depression, antidepressants are also helpful with generalized anxiety disorder.
It is important to note due to the many types of medication, even within one mental illness, patients often have to try more than one medication and adjust dosages over a period for their doctors to discover what works best. As an example, one common type of antidepressant is serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Even if one patient receives the same SSRI as a friend or relative also suffering from depression, it could be at a different dose. Alternatively, it could be a different SSRI in addition to a different dose.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
There are quite a few different types of psychotherapy a patient can undergo when seeking treatment for a mental illness. Perhaps the most popular and effective form, however, is cognitive behavioral therapy. To put it in simple terms, cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term practical approach to treating mental illness and focuses on the psychiatrist teaching the patient goal-oriented and problem-identification strategies for managing their condition.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is quite effective as the sole form of treatment for many patients with conditions such as depression and generalized anxiety disorder, and as previously mentioned, also works exceptionally well in conjunction with medication. Although the bulk of cognitive behavioral therapy is short-term, it produces lasting results as the patients will have learned the necessary strategies to manage their mental health.
Unlike cognitive behavioral therapy, which breaks down situations and looks to future goals, mindfulness is tuning into thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without passing judgment. It is acknowledging the thoughts and feelings for what they are without passing judgment on them, which is believing a thought is right or wrong. Mindfulness also focuses on remaining in the present without thinking about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
Meditation is often involved in mindfulness. A typical meditation with mindfulness in mind is focusing solely on the breath and what is felt while breathing. Patients often use counting as a way to gauge how long they can focus on meditation. When focus wavers, and it often will, the counting starts over again. Even if the focus wavered to something such as what’s going to be for dinner that night and not an anxious thought, the patient must still start their counting over again.
When most individuals suffer from mental illnesses such as generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and even bipolar disorder, there are often many moments when they feel as if they simply do not have any motivation to do much of anything. However, doing things is often exactly what they need to do to start feeling relief. This is where exercise comes in!
Exercise has been proven to release endorphins, which can act as pain relievers, but they primarily function as a feel-good hormone, since they produce a feeling similar to that of morphine. This feeling is where the term ‘runner’s high’ comes from! It is also worth noting exercise is an excellent addition to cognitive behavior therapy and goal accomplishment. One major tenet of cognitive behavioral therapy is for patients to do things even if they do not feel like it, particularly in the case of exercise and getting movement into their day. Actually doing things is what creates motivation to keep going. Waiting around for motivation to strike, especially with a mental illness such as depression, could mean patients waiting for quite a long time, perhaps even forever.