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January 5, 2012

Mental Illness: Understanding Treatment Options

These high rates of mental illness mean a large amount of research is devoted to treatment. Depending on their condition, patients may be treated with drug therapy, psychotherapy, brain stimulation therapy, or some combination of these. Drug therapy is based on the knowledge that certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, must exist in a specific balance, in order for thoughts, emotions and behavior to be properly regulated. Psychoactive drugs are designed to suppress and normalize neurotransmitters in patients whose brains do not do so automatically. So antidepressants, like Paxil, Effexor, and Wellbutrin, are used to treat depression, while anxiolytics, like Klonopin and Xanax, help aid in anxiety. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are illnesses that also respond well to drug therapy. Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," meanwhile, helps patients by teaching them to better understand their conditions. There's an emphasis on coping strategies and self-improvement techniques, since both help patients gain control of their symptoms. Of the many types of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy is among the most common. CBT is a combination of cognitive therapy, which focuses on problematic thinking, and behavioral therapy, which focuses on altering actions, or responses to thoughts. Another option, interpersonal therapy, sees relationship improvement as essential to leading a mentally healthy life. Meanwhile, group therapy involves meeting with individuals with similar problems, and psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on how a patient's history and subconscious relate to their current problems. And then there's brain stimulation, the most common being electroconvulsive therapy. In ECT, weak electric currents are sent the brain to induce brief seizures, which seem to have a positive effect on brain chemistry. Although there's no "one size fits all" treatment for mental illnesses, with the right combination, 70- to 90-percent of patients experience significant reduction of symptoms and lead happier lives. So if you're suffering symptoms of a mental illness, contact a reputable health care provider today!

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012