Facts About Mental Health Problems and Their Treatment | Psychiatry | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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Facts About Mental Health Problems and Their Treatment

Most mental health problems are conditions that have their root in the biological processes of our body. These conditions can influence our mood, thoughts and behavior. While every person experiences feelings such as sadness, anxiety and anger, if the feelings continue for a long time they may start to disrupt our everyday lives. It's the disruption of our every day lives that signifies the conditions may benefit from treatment.

People often mistakenly assume that mental health disorders are a normal part of living and never realize they have an condition that can be treated. People also fear that they caused their symptoms, or they believe the symptoms are due to a weakness or character flaws. Mental health disorders are often medical problems caused by a combination of hereditary factors and life stresses. These problems are NOT a natural part of life and you CAN get better.

How can a mental health provider help?

Conditions may manifest as physical symptoms which may lead you to speak to your primary care doctor. Low energy, changes in appetite, sleep problems, heart palpitations, and sweating are just a few examples of physical symptoms that feel like physical problems, but can be related to a mental health disorder. Talking to a mental health provider about your symptoms is a first step toward treatment. The mental health provider will often together with your primary care provider. In addition, a mental health provider has many special skills that other health providers do not have; such as expertise in psychotherapy and psychiatric medications.

What kinds of treatment will I receive?

The most common treatments are prescription medications (such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications), psychotherapy, or a combination of both. As a result of research, these treatments have become very effective. The type of treatment most appropriate for you depends on the type and severity of your symptoms, your experience with any previous treatment, and your personal preferences. Together with your mental health provider you can choose the treatment that best fits your symptoms and lifestyle. Regardless of the type of treatment you choose, it usually takes a few weeks to begin to feel better, and full recovery may take a few months of treatment. Once a mental health disorder has been successfully treated, it can come back. It is important not to stop your medication or psychotherapy prematurely, and always discuss any such decisions with your mental health provider.

A brief note about psychotherapy

Modern psychotherapy focuses on what is happening in the here-and-now of your life rather than what happened in your past. Through careful scientific investigation we have developed new and extremely effective therapies that work within a few months and even weeks. You won't be asked to lie on a couch! You will be asked to think carefully about your life situation and your reactions to it, perhaps to keep some records of situations and your thoughts and feelings connected to them, and to try to change your behavior in small and gradual ways. This is modern psychotherapy, and it works extremely well!

A brief note about psychiatric medications

Psychiatric medications can be very effective in a wide range of conditions. Like other medications they all have potential side effects. Before beginning a medication you and your prescriber will want to discuss:

  1. The desired benefit of the medication
  2. The potential side effects of the medication
  3. How long it takes the medication to work
  4. Any precautions you should observe
  5. Any monitoring that is required
  6. The anticipated length of treatment
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