Severe mental illnesses can also be treated, here’s how
Almost one out of five adults in the United States experiences some mental illness in a given year, while approximately one in 25 — nearly 9.8 million American adults — experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Health care providers and policy makers are actively engaged in finding new ways to reduce the occurrence and provide relief to existing patients.
Common mental disorders like depression and anxiety disorders are mostly treated with medications and therapies to help patients deal with mood and behavioural symptoms. Some of the most widely used medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, mood stabilizing medication and stimulants. On the other hand, psychotherapies include cognitive therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), talk therapy, group therapy, etc.
However, in some cases, due to the severity of the mental disorder, the familiar treatments may not be adequate to suit the needs of a patient. In order to positively impact the lives of people with effective interventional therapies, new approaches are being designed and tested that might bring a ray of hope to the lives of millions.
Therapies for severe problems
The American Psychological Association (APA) stresses on the need to improve the ability of professional psychologists to assess and treat serious mental illnesses (SMI) stating that specialized knowledge combined with evidence-based treatments have proved to be the most effective so far. Such knowledge can be attained through specialized curriculum that has been specialty designed for psychiatrists looking to treat SMI, where the general outline is based on the knowledge of etiology of SMI, psychopharmacology for those with SMI, prevention and early intervention, understanding of social, cultural, environmental and gender issues, among others.
Another way to treat SMIs is use of controlled substances under strict medical supervision in a clinical setting after traditional treatment modalities have failed to provide recovery. Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital’s co-medical director and psychiatrist of Interventional Psychiatric Services, Dr. Robert Ostroff, and his colleagues are working towards removing the misconception as well as educating people about the misuse of such substances, particularly ketamine.
“Ketamine is a medication that was initially approved for anesthesia about 30 years ago,” Ostroff said. Now, the hospital is using it as part of an intensive therapy. In cases of treatment-resistant depression implying that “at least four other anti-depressant trials” have proved to be ineffective, the hospital has introduced three more therapies that include ketamine infusion, electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
The use of ketamine as part of a treatment procedure has been studied well by the Yale School of Medicine, leading to the discovery of ketamine’s antidepressant effects when administered in small doses. Ostroff states that the drug is administered through a slow intravenous infusion for over 40 minutes and it relieves the symptoms almost immediately.
ECT is also an effective treatment for depression where electric current is administered to induce a grand mal seizure that lasts for 20 to 30 seconds, after which the patient wakes up. Lastly, the transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment works by subjecting the brain to magnetic waves without using anesthesia. The treatment is done in an outpatient setting involving 18 to 21 treatments.
The researchers are yet to assess the efficacy of the therapies for long-term effects but they are hopeful to have opened the doors for a more comprehensive approach in dealing with one of the most common mental disorders.
Mental disorders, when left untreated, lead to a series of physical and mental health complications that interfere with daily life. Depression can wreak havoc on a patient’s personal, professional and social life and can lead to substance abuse as a means to self-medicate. Early diagnosis and treatment is the vital step towards full recovery.
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