Mental illness is classified as a medical condition whereby an individual’s feelings, thinking, moods, daily functioning and ability to interact with others are disrupted. The larger society classifies such patients as crazy since they seem to be detached from others. Like any other disease, mental illness is a medical condition whereby one cannot cope with the ordinary demands of life (Thompson, 11). The concept mental illness entails brain disorders like dementia and schizophrenia, personality disorders and other disorders like anxiety and depression to mention a few. It affects people across socio-economic, religious or educational backgrounds. For many decades, mental illness has been approached using psychiatric drugs citing the first tranquilizers that were introduced in the year 1952. Since then, researcher have been busy introducing new classes of drugs to remedy mental illnesses with the latest being antidepressants. Despite the positive impact of the drugs in the mental medical sector, their dangers and shortcomings have become increasingly dangerous. Examples of serious mental illness conditions include bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorder, schizophrenia, post traumatic depression, borderline personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. There are many mental health professionals who include social workers, psychiatrists, counselors (marriage and family), psychiatric nurses and psychologists who are better placed to handle mental ill patients using various approaches. The treatment approaches are either pharmacological (using medication) or non-pharmacological (using therapy) or a combination of both depending on the illness. The question worth looking at is whether mental illness can be treated without medication as will be (Busfield, 1)
This discussion reveals that there is also a clear distinction between two types of mental problems but their relationship is yet to be fully investigated. On one hand, there are biological disorders that can be restored using drugs that restore the chemical balance of the brain. On the other hand, there are emotional disorders which in most cases following circumstantial evidence lead to chemical disorder. In determining the best alternative to treatment, it is important to first consider the non pharmaceutical approach since it has minimal side effects compared to drug administration that will only lead to further destruction if a thorough analysis is not done. Antipsychotic drugs have been used widely in the treatment of mental illness aiming at restoring an individual’s chemical balance, and even though they are effective in some circumstances, their side effects have also become evident. There are several reported shortcomings of medication directed towards treating mental illness. These include over 50% weight gain, some level of sexual dysfunction, muscle spasms, suicidal urges, agitation and depression (Guyol, 2). Research shows that fifty percent of patients with depression and bipolar disorder have not recovered after administration of antidepressants and those who improved stopped taking medication because of the negative side effects which include significant weight gain, sexual dysfunction and suicidal tendencies. Other extreme dangers include invasive ovarian cancer, bladder and lung cancer, increased risk of heart attack, increased risk of developing type II diabetes and stunted growth in children. However, in the presence of all this negative side effects of drugs psychiatrists are still administering drugs to remedy mental illnesses. The good news is that there are other safer ways to manage these conditions.
Substantial evidence indicates that mental illnesses such as depression, mood and bipolar disorders result from a combination of environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors. This is all attributed to new tools in neuro-imaging and genetics that have enabled scientists make progress towards decoding the underlying natural science towards mental illness. Although not much can be done about inherited genes that cause the disorders there are several holistic approaches that can be used to bring about positive changes without negative impacts. There are several myths that surround the issue of mental illness and in trying to find the solution, it is important to rule out several myths that surround the issue. First, mental illnesses are uncommon. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2 out of every 10 Americans have been diagnosed with a mental disorder within their lifetime. Secondly, mental disorders are often difficult to treat and once diagnosed it takes lifelong to recover but this is a problem when considering the pharmaceutical approach to the issue. Mental illnesses are also not purely caused by genetics or by the person suffering from them. When one realizes that they have mental issues, if they let others know they would be termed as crazy which leads to long term hospital sessions. Seeking intervention does not mean one is weak and cannot handle his or her issues. Instead it is a step towards fast recovery and going back to “normal” living. It is also a myth to assume that mental illness can only be best treated by primary care physicians or general practitioners. This will be countered as the discussion will illustrate how effective non pharmaceutical approaches lead to full recovery from mental disorders (Hazen et al, 12). Furthermore in seeking non pharmaceutical intervention to mental illness, the assumption that the psychologists, counselors and social workers is wrong since these important people are the least paid in the physician specialty field. In trying to overcome the highlighted myths, the desired outcome is to enable a mentally ill patient to construct a chronicle that relates with the real life situation rather than be paralyzed in despair or be happy in any given situation.
The concept of mental illness has been troubling the society as psychiatrists and social workers try to find out what is the best alternative to solve the problem. It is important to note that diagnosing mental illness is not like diagnosing other diseases, it is rather a subjective endeavor. An alternative to dealing with psychosis also includes forming support groups that enable patients discuss and cope with the voices they hear in their heads without necessarily taking any medication. For this technique to be successful, it is important to provide an emphatic and caring environment (Thompson, 137). More often than not, the patients in support groups are reported to have learnt how to live with and control the voices they get to hear in their heads. The patients have transcended over their conditions to live rich and productive lives without the need for hospitalization and taking of any medication. The psychiatric survivor groups enable patients realize that no matter how severe emotional difficulties are, they can be coped with. The patients are therefore better placed to understand their distress. It is important for psychiatrists to establish a relationship with patients one based on mutual respect and understanding. Patients are more likely to recover when they are surrounded by understanding, respect and empathy. This is not a condition you can get from medication. For example, there are mental disorders (psychosis) that come about as a result of poor emotional relationship between a person and family and that it is a rational response to an irrational society. At this junction, a pharmacological approach to the treatment of the mental illness does not seem to have a basis and will only cause further harm by causing chemical imbalances. This then implies that therapies seem to be the better alternative to treatment as opposed to medication (Bentall, 70).
Another example of using non pharmaceutical approach to the treatment of mental illness include treatment of Post traumatic stress disorder using the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). The therapy is to enable patients to stop reacting to past traumatizing events. The Journal of Clinical Psychology report indicated a seventy percent success rate with EMDR and currently in the United States it is a highly recommended therapy by the Department of Veterans Affairs (Guyol, 1).
In traditional practice of medicine, a good health is by focusing on four aspects of life which are the mental, spiritual, emotional and physical. There is an indication that a therapy regimen that encompasses the above is very effective in mental illness management. An example is a mood disorder patient who was put on Lithium, Cogentin, Elavil, Valium, and sleeping pills, and it is that this had gross side effects on her without any improvement. However, there was great recovery after a breath therapy called “rebirthing” which entailed release of the traumatic events, as opposed to reliving them. Medication is not effective in this instance because it acts as a suppressant of the symptoms but does not address the cause (Jenkins, 1). In other instances researchers quote the use of spiritual intervention citing the practice of Yoga as advocated by the Hindu religion whereby the patient engages in a journey to find themselves by moving their body in various positions with the aim of improving their breathing and relaxing their mind. In the process of relaxing the mind, the patients get to release stress which is the underlying cause of disorders such as depression. Relief is realized without necessarily using drugs enabling the patient engage in fruitful interaction with others.
Goldstein (2013) asserts that nutrition is an effective alternative in the treatment of mental illness. This is because certain mental illnesses have been investigated to originate from certain regions of the stomach. The non pharmaceutical therapy entails the use of vitamin b, omega 3 fats and amino acids to restore the required nutritional requirement of the body to function properly. Further studies into the approach revealed that populations that consumed a lot of vitamins had no mental illness. This therefore implies that with the appropriate dosage of omega 3 fats are effective is depression management enabling an individual effectively cope with the everyday challenges of life despite the level of difficulty. A high dosage of vitamin b3 is documented to have a success rate of 90 percent in the treatment of schizophrenia. Further, specific amino acids and vitamins have been used to help mental patients in recovery (Goldstein, 1).
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or electric shock therapy is also a non medicinal treatment for mental illness. It entails the induction of convulsions in patient using electrical currents. Studies indicate it is safe and very effective especially in the treatment of depression and mania and acts faster compared to medications that take time to be absorbed by the body before they begin to act. It is also highly recommended in the management of suicidal urges in patients. Furthermore, research indicates that seventy to ninety percent of patients show positive results after ECT (Thompson, 141).
Psychodynamic therapy is an approach that has been recommended in the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP). This disorder is caused by instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. Research indicates that fifteen to twenty five percent of mental cases are diagnosed as BDP (Kay, 51). The therapy focuses on the emotions and thought patterns of the patient as well as behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been indicated as a suitable treatment. Recovery has been realized with the use of therapy alone without the use of any medication in the treatment of BDP (Gunderson & Hoffman, 25).
Mental health professionals have also advocated for the use of neuro feedback as a form of therapy has for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individuals with ADHD have more, slow brainwave activity and less fast brainwave activity in comparison to normal people. The therapy helps the brain to normalize these activities and maintain what is classified as normal. Conclusive empirical evidence of its success rate is however limited, but this does not mean it is not a viable treatment option since out main intention is to minimize up to zero levels the side effects that result from the use of drugs (Hazen, Goldstein & Goldstein, 53).
So much progress has been made in the mental health sector with scientists suggesting that a higher percentage of mental illness patients in the United States opt for non conventional treatment as a first line of defense especially against depression and anxiety disorder. Although the studies also notes that severe depression can be handled with the use of prescribed antidepressants, there is need to be sure that the non pharmaceutical approaches have completely proved unsuccessful.
The bottom line of non pharmaceutical approach to remedy mental illness is to restore a state of well being and enabling the patient to interact with the world in a coherent and productive manner. Mental illness can affect any individual and when one exhibits signs of psychosis, they tend to hear voices and think that someone is out to get them. The disease is not as a result of lack of character or personal weakness but rather from genetic and environmental factors. Rather than referring the patients to psychiatrists who immediately put them under medication that as above explained have negative side effects, it is vital to consider the non-pharmaceutical approach that has proved effective. The pharmaceutical approach has proved to be short lived and mentally ill patients end up in a vicious cycle of isolation and hospitalization making it impossible for them to hold down a productive engagement and are stigmatized by the society. It is important for psychiatric interventions to explore other therapeutic alternatives before placing their patients under powerful drugs. In summary, the benefits of combining medicinal and non-medicinal approaches cannot be refuted however it is important to point that a purely non- pharmacological approach is a viable and effective model of mental illness treatment (Lake and Spiegel, 25).
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Busfield, Joan. Mental Illness. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011. Print.
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