The two main forms of treatment for mental disorders are psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is provided by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, social worker or counselor. There are several main types: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used for a wide variety of disorders and the goal is to modify the patterns of thought and behavior associated with a particular disorder. Psychoanalysis is the classic form of psychotherapy and it addresses an individual's underlying psychic conflicts and defenses. Family therapy addresses a person's network of relationships as well as the individual themselves. Mental health professionals often pick and choose techniques depending on the disorder and the individual.
Medication is also widely used to treat mental disorders. These are psychoactive drugs are prescribed by a psychiatrist or family doctor. There are several main groups: antidepressants are used for the treatment of depression as well as often for anxiety and other disorders; anxiolytics are used, generally short-term, for anxiety disorders and related problems such as insomnia; mood stabilizers are used primarily in bipolar disorder, mainly targeting mania; antipsychotics are used for psychotic disorders like schizophrenia; stimulants are commonly used for ADHD.
Mental disorders include a wide range of problems, including:
There are many causes of mental disorders and not all of them are well understood. Each individual case is different as well. Your genes and family history may play a role. Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, may also matter. Biological factors can also be part of the cause. A traumatic brain injury can lead to a mental disorder. A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant may play a part. Other factors may increase your risk, such as use of illegal drugs or having a serious medical condition like cancer.
Medications and counseling can help many mental disorders. Alone or in combination, they can be very effective.
Meditation: Calming your mind, helps you keep things in perspective, slows your metabolic rate, and allows the brain to function without interference from stress hormones. It has been shown that people who meditate 3 or 4 times a week, have much more consistent and symmetrical biorhythms.
Exercise: Healthy minds need healthy bodies. When you exercise, the flow of blood and oxygen increases to your brain. This in turn, helps the brain function more effectively and efficiently. In addition, regular exercise helps with good sleeping patterns, reduced stress hormones levels for quite some time after exercising, and weight control; all things that in turn help you think and function better mentally.
Psychotherapy: Discussing your problems with a mental health professional; developing a plan to help you use proven techniques to control your disorder; and being able to get feedback on your progress can be very helpful. Effective psychotherapy treatment may eliminate the need for medication and bring about lasting results.
Many mental health patients, as well as concerned family and friends, seek information to help them better understand the benefits of prescribed medications, potential side effects, and to help them in talking with their doctor about such matters.
When you're feeling overwhelmed or confused, it's understandable that you might want to let others make medication decisions for you. But being actively involved in your treatment can make a real difference in your recovery. Talking honestly with your doctor is a big part of that process. If you discuss your concerns and learn about your options, you are much more likely to come up with a plan that works well for you.
The following tips can help you decide about taking a medication:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you ask the following questions:
Some people get relief from their symptoms immediately, others after a few days or weeks; for others, it may take even longer. After a short time on the medication, it's important to share with your doctor or therapist how you are doing with the treatment. Together, you may need to find the right amount of medicine or combination of medicines.
It's especially important to tell your doctor about any side effects you're having from the medication. You may be able to make some changes in dosage or the time of day you take the medication to lessen or get rid of the side effects. There are also newer medications that have fewer side effects than older drugs, making it easier for people to stay on them. If after an extended period of time on a medication you are still not experiencing progress, you may need to talk with your doctor about trying another medication. Consult your doctor before making any changes in your medication.
How long you take medication really depends on your particular needs. Some people are able to discontinue medication when their symptoms have fully subsided and they have reached their treatment goals. Others may need to remain on medication for longer periods of time as part of a long-term recovery plan.