Mental illness is a common health problem. It includes many different conditions. Some of the most common are depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. These illnesses and others like them interfere with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Learning you have a mental illness can be upsetting. But there is hope. Treatment for mental health problems is available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Path to improved health
There are several types of treatment for mental health problems. They include:
- Psychotherapy or counseling. This is one of the most common treatments for mental health problems. Also called talk therapy, it involves talking about your problems with a mental health professional. There are many types of talk therapy. Some common ones include cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy. Talk therapy is often done one-on-one. It can also be done in a group setting or with your family.
- Medicine. Medicine is another popular treatment method. Medicines for mental problems make changes to brain chemicals that are involved in emotions and thought patterns. Medicines don’t cure mental illness or health problems. But they can improve your symptoms. They can make other treatments, such as counseling, more effective. There are many different kinds available that work in different ways.
- Support groups. Self-help and support groups can help you gain insight into your condition. They can provide friendships, support, resources, and tips on how to live with your condition. They also help address the feelings of isolation that often go along with mental illness.
- Other therapies. There are many types of therapies people use to help treat mental health problems. These can include physical activity, such as exercise or yoga. They can also include creative therapies. These are therapies done using means of expressing yourself creatively. They can include using art, music, movement, or writing.
- ECT or other brain stimulation therapy. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure that sends electric currents into the brain. This causes changes in the brain that can improve and even reverse troubling symptoms. ECT and other brain stimulation therapies are often used when other kinds of treatment haven’t worked.
- Hospital or residential treatment program. Sometimes your mental health issues become so bad that you need to receive treatment in a hospital or a long-term program. This can happen when you can’t take care of yourself. Or it happens when you are in danger of harming yourself or others.
Not every treatment works or is necessary for everyone. Some people benefit from more than one kind of treatment. Your doctor will help you find the treatment that’s right for you.
Things to consider
There is a stigma that surrounds mental health and mental illness. It can prevent people from getting the help and support they need. They are afraid of what people will think of them. So they don’t seek treatment. Their condition often gets worse. Sometimes people even take their own lives, because the stigma of mental illness kept them from seeking help.
Look for these signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing signs of mental illness:
- Feeling sad or depressed.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Extreme feelings (including fear, guilt, sadness, or anger).
- Withdrawal from friends or activities.
- Extreme mood changes.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Unexplained hostility or violence.
- Inability to cope with stress or your feelings.
- Delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations (such as hearing voices).
- Thinking about hurting yourself or others.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You have many treatment options available to you. Mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed by or ashamed of. Being aware of mental health issues and learning the truth can help you and others. It can even save lives.
Questions to ask your doctor
- I have some of these symptoms. Could I have a mental illness?
- What is the best kind of treatment for me?
- Do I need to take medicine? Do I need to see a psychiatrist?
- Do I need psychotherapy?
- Can you recommend a counselor or therapist I could see?
- Is this a temporary problem or is it permanent?
- Will I need treatment for the rest of my life?
- What can I do at home to help me recover?
- How can I explain to other people the mental problem that I’m having?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.