Mental Illness Treatment Options

There are many types of mental illness and what treatment is effective for each person depends on the type and severity of the illness and how the individual responds to the treatment. What works well for one person may not for another person. A clinician may try several medications for instance before deciding on the one or two which elicit the best response in a patient.

Patients with a mild mental illness may do quite well seeing just one practitioner, for those with more severe conditions such as schizophrenia more of a team is needed. Either way, the beginning of the recovery process should include a proper diagnosis which is normally gained through discussing the condition with a family physician or other medical professional.

Once an accurate diagnosis is given, the individual can determine which treatment route is best for them. Most treatments will include medication, therapy or a combination of both.

  • Medication

    While mental illness medications do not cure disease, they can make life livable for patients and reduce symptoms considerably. For example, patients with thyroid disease take a daily thyroid tablet which does not cure the disease but keeps a person functioning very well. Maintenance medications are extremely helpful and those with mental illness who take medication regularly are much improved. Commonly prescribed psychiatric medications include:

    • Antidepressants: These are non-addictive drugs that may be used for long periods of time. In addition to treating depression they are useful in the treatment of anxiety and other disorders. Antidepressants reduce symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, lethargy and trouble focusing
    • Anti-anxiety medications: These are used in the treatment of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. They act rapidly and provide short term relief but can cause dependency so it is best to use them only for short periods of time.
    • Mood stabilizing medications: These medications are useful in the treatment of bipolar disorder, a disease which is characterized by mood swings alternating between mania and depression with various levels in between. Mood stabilizers are often prescribed in conjunction with antidepressants in the treatment of depression
    • Antipsychotic medications: These medications, also known as neuroleptics are used to treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. They may also be used in the treatment of bipolar disorder or combined with antidepressants to treat depression
  • Psychotherapy

    There are many branches of psychotherapy. Therapy will normally involve a patient and therapist meeting in a safe and confidential environment to speak together and explore thoughts and behaviors and their consequences. The therapist leads the session and introduces subjects such as past and current problems, relationships and thoughts and their outcome. The therapist guides the patient to make mental connections and provides insight.

    One of the more commonly employed and successful types of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, a therapist and patient probe the relationship between a person’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors. The therapist assists the patient in tracing unhealthy patterns of thought which progress into self-destructive beliefs and behavior.

    As they examine the pattern, patient and therapist work together to establish constructive methods of thinking, leading to healthier beliefs and behaviors. For example, CBT can help a person replace negative thoughts which lead to low self-esteem such as “I can’t do anything right,” with positive expectations such as “I can do this most of the time based on my previous experience.” The essence of CBT is identifying negative thoughts or false beliefs and testing or restructuring them. Studies of CBT have shown it to be an effective treatment for a variety of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Those who undergo CBT show changes in brain activity, suggesting that the therapy improves brain function.

    Different forms of psychotherapy, including CBT, may be used for individuals, couples or groups and are often very helpful in the treatment of mental health disorders. Most people with a mental illness do well receiving a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

  • Residential treatment programs

    Mental illness is sometimes severe enough to require hospitalization. It is generally recommended when a person is unable to take care of themselves or is in danger of harming themselves or others. Options include 24-hour inpatient care, partial or day hospitalization or residential treatment which offers a temporary, supportive place to live and go through treatment. Another option is intensive outpatient treatment with the patient returning to family members in the evening.

    Working as a team, a patient and clinician can decide which treatment is most appropriate for a specific illness. In severe cases, a doctor or family member may need to oversee care until a person becomes well enough to participate in decision making.

    Advances have been made in the treatment of mental illness and science and technology continue to pioneer new treatments. Patients who had few options in the past can now live full and active lives.

    For those seeking effective mental health treatment, the Florida Mental Health Helpline is able to get you connected with treatment programs that are right for your specific circumstances. If you have questions regarding mental illness treatment options or need further information, please call 866-846-5588 to speak with a member of our team.