Mental health involves a person's emotional and psychological state. Mental health is important for well-being and to help us relate to others in daily life. Mental health problems can affect our thinking, mood, and behavior. Mental health problems can be caused by biological factors, like brain chemistry, genes, and hormones; and life experiences, like trauma, loss, or abuse. Mental health treatment is important for helping people manage mental disorders, reduce symptoms, and in some cases, recover from mental health conditions.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health problems are common. Mental health is an important part of our overall wellness and proper treatment is important for people living with mental health problems to manage their symptoms and get better but treatment and recovery are an ongoing process.
Our understanding of mental health and mental health treatment has come a long way over the past decades but there is still a long way to go. Historically, mental health disorders were doubted and demonized. When a patient complained of depression, anxiety, or PTSD, it was often viewed as a weakness. It was much later that doctors began to understand that mental disorders could be caused by physiological factors.
Many people with mental health problems think that mental health is a weakness or that mental health does not affect them. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1 in 5 American adults experienced a mental health issue and 1 in 10 young people have experienced major depression.
Medical Treatment for Mental Health Conditions
Medical treatment can be used to treat mental health conditions in patients. Treatment can cure some mental conditions, reduce symptoms, help patients manage their mental health better, or slow the degeneration of mental health conditions. Some patients may need continued treatment, including medication, for the rest of their life.
Treatment options vary greatly based on the type of mental health condition, severity, and the individual patient. Treatment options can include a number of interventions, including:
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
Medication for Mental Health Treatment
Medications may include antidepressants (for depression and anxiety); anxiolytics (for anxiety disorders); antipsychotics (for schizophrenia); stimulates (for ADHD); and mood stabilizers (for bipolar disorder).
Psychotherapy can include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT), and intrapersonal psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is used to improve mental health and well-being through talking and interacting, to change behavior and overcome problems. Therapy can involve one-on-one interaction, couples therapy, group therapy, and even over-the-phone or computer counseling.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy may be used when other types of therapy are not effective. ECT may be indicated for depression, psychotic depression, or suicidal ideation.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses magnets and magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. TMS is a treatment option for some patients with depression that has not responded to other treatments.
Developing Treatment Options
There are a number of treatment options for mental health conditions that are under development or going through clinical trials. This can be promising for people who have not had success using traditional treatments.
Common Mental Health Conditions
It is difficult to know how common mental health conditions are in the United States. Many people suffer with mental health conditions that are never diagnosed or acknowledged. Some of the more common mental health conditions include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Neurocognitive disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
Depression is associated with feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Depression affects about 6% to 7% of the population and can develop at any age. Depression often goes undiagnosed. Symptoms of depression can include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in normal activities, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts.
Depression can be caused by physical changes in the brain, changes in brain chemistry, or hormonal imbalance. Treatment options for depression can include medication and psychotherapy. Depression usually involves long-term treatment and may require lifetime care.
Anxiety disorders are also among the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. Anxiety disorders can also be very responsive to treatment when patients are diagnosed and receive proper treatment. Anxiety can include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. Anxiety commonly occurs with depression or other mental health or physical health conditions.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include feeling nervous or restless, increased heart rate, a sense of impending danger, trouble concentrating, and trouble sleeping. Treatment options for anxiety disorders can include psychotherapy, medication, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and complementary or alternative treatments.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be classified as a type of anxiety disorder. PTSD generally follows after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and uncontrolled thoughts about the traumatic event in the past or concerns that something will happen in the future. PTSD can have negative impacts on thinking and emotional reactions.
Traumatic events that may develop into PTSD can include a serious accident, watching another person suffer injury or death, physical or sexual abuse, or warfare. Soldiers have had a long history of PTSD for hundreds of years, previously known as war neurosis or shell shock. Unfortunately, mental health for soldiers remains often undiagnosed and left untreated.
Bipolar disorder often causes extreme mood swings with emotional highs followed by extreme lows. Mood shifts can affect a person's sleep, ability to concentrate, interaction with others, judgment, activity, and behavior. Bipolar disorder is generally managed with psychological counseling and medications.
Neurodevelopmental disorders generally include mental disorders that begin in childhood. The child may have mental or physical disorders before they become evident or they may develop over time. Examples of these disorders include autism spectrum disorder, developmental disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people in the U.S. Schizophrenia has a genetic aspect where the risk of the illness can increase when family members suffer the disorder. Most people develop schizophrenia between the ages of 16 and 25 but it can develop at any age.
Symptoms of schizophrenia often involve delusions, hallucinations, impaired ability to function, disorganized thinking and speech, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. Brain chemical imbalances may contribute to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia generally requires lifelong treatment, including medications and psychotherapy.
Neurocognitive disorders affect an individual's ability to think because of medical disease. Neurocognitive disorders generally develop over time, especially for older adults. These disorders are generally caused by injury or damage to the brain, including traumatic brain injury, hypoxic brain damage, or stroke. Neurocognitive disorders can also be caused by degenerative conditions, including Alzheimer's, Huntington disease, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Substance Abuse Disorders
Substance abuse disorders are one of the most common disorders that often go untreated. Many people still do not think of substance abuse as a mental illness but it is a serious mental health concern that affects millions of people across the country. Substances like nicotine, alcohol, and opioids can change normal behavior and interfere with the ability to go to school, go to work, have good relationships with family, and maintain self-worth. Substance abuse disorder often involves comorbidity of another mental illness, especially in men.
Many people do not get help for substance abuse disorders because they are ashamed, they do not think they have a problem, or they fear the withdrawal symptoms that go with stopping self-medication with the drugs or substances.
Alcohol use disorder can cause a number of other health risks, including increased risk of stroke, heart attack, liver disease, digestive problems, diabetes, eye problems, bone damage, and increased risk of cancer. Treatment requires close monitoring because some people can suffer serious injury or death by going “cold turkey” when quitting alcohol.
An increasingly common substance abuse disorder involves opioid drugs. In recent years, doctors have prescribed millions of patients with these highly addictive drugs while the drug companies underreported the dangers of abuse. This has caused an opioid crisis in the U.S. with patients overdosing on the drugs or seeking street drugs when they can no longer get a valid prescription filled. Commonly abused opioid drugs include Vicodin, Oxymorphone, Hydromorphone, OxyContin, Percocet, and Fentanyl.
Mental Health Treatment Team
The people who treat mental health can include a number of healthcare and counseling professionals. Mental health treatment may include any combination of:
- Family doctor
- Nurse practitioner
- Physician assistant
- Mental health counselor
- Clinical social worker
- Pastoral counselor
- Family therapist
Many types of counselors, therapists, and advisors can provide support for mental health conditions but not all can diagnose diseases, injuries, or illnesses and only a few can prescribe medication.
Psychiatrists and Psychologists
The terms psychiatrist and psychologist are sometimes confused but the two are very different professions. The main differences are:
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors (M.D. or D.O.), psychologists are not.
- Psychiatrists can prescribe medication, psychologists cannot.
- Psychiatrists can diagnose illness, disease, and health conditions, psychologists cannot.
Psychiatrists undergo the same training and education requirements as other doctors but focus their practice on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists may treat patients with psychological treatments, medical care, medication, or other therapy.
Psychologists use “talk therapy” to treat patients. Patients are encouraged and guided to talk about their thoughts to understand their problems, give a better understanding of thinking and behavior, reduce symptoms, and change behavior.
Mental Health After a Brain Injury
A brain injury can cause a significant change in the injury victim's brain function. Many injury victims and their families report a significant personality change after a brain injury. There may be an increase in mental disorders after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A study in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found evidence of increased risk of the following:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Alcohol-related disorders
- Personality changes, including apathy, affective lability, and aggression
Even mild head injuries can increase the risk of developing a mental health disorder, including PTSD and major depressive disorder.
Mental Health After Serious Illness
After recovering from a serious illness or while living with an illness, disease, or medical condition, patients can experience mental health problems. Depression is common after a serious illness or medical treatment. Individuals may also experience anxiety or PTSD. Doctors should be aware of the risks of mental health disorders after an illness and make sure treatment is available for the patient.
Mental Health After Serious Accident
A serious accident, such as a high fall, burn injury, or car accident, can lead to mental health disorders. Accidents can cause permanent physical damage, including scarring, disfigurement, loss of vision, and loss of a limb. Physical scarring and disfigurement can lead to severe depression. Patients may also suffer PTSD from the traumatic event, emotional distress, anxiety, or depression from seeing others injured or killed in the accident or have survivor's guilt after coming away from the accident when others did not.
After a serious accident, many patients address only the physical injuries and avoid addressing their mental injuries. Mental health conditions can have a significant impact on your physical health, including impairing recovery from a physical illness.
After a serious accident, the injury victim may experience loss of sleep, loss of appetite, mood swings, loss of interest in normal activities, fear, anger, and anxiety. This can have a significant impact on the individual's quality of life and mental health should be addressed just like physical health after an accident.
Costs of Mental Health Treatment
Mental health treatment can be very expensive, especially when ongoing treatment is necessary for the rest of the patient's life. According to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, the average cost of treatment for PTSD in the first year was about $4,100.
Many people cannot afford expensive and ongoing mental health treatment and are at risk of going off of necessary medication, reducing the number of beneficial counseling sessions, or ending treatment altogether. This may put the patient at greater risk of mental health decline, drug addiction, injury, self-harm, or injury to others.
When a mental health condition was caused by the actions of another, such as a car accident, medical mistake, birth injury, or traumatic event, the victim should not have to pay the price of treatment. A personal injury lawsuit or medical malpractice claim can help the injury victim recover the costs of all medical treatment, including mental health care. Damages can also recover lost income, loss of earning potential, and pain and suffering.
Trial Lawyers Helping Patients Recover Damages
If you suffered a mental health illness, disease, or other condition because of an accident or medical error, talk to our experienced trial lawyers about your options for recovery. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.