Trusted medical advice from the
American Academy of Family Physicians.

Different Types of Mental Health Treatment

Mental health or psychiatric conditions are common. Many times, they run in families. Some of the most common mental health conditions are depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. These illnesses and others like them interfere with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Learning you have a mental health condition can be upsetting. But there is hope. There are a variety of treatments available for mental health conditions. 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 also is called talk therapy. It is one of the most common treatments for mental health disorders. It involves talking about your problems with a mental health professional but is so much more. The is an education element, a focus on relaxation exercises and coping skills as well as stress management. 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. Individual and group talk therapy is sometimes helpful. This type of therapy can be useful even for those who do not have a mental health condition and are simply going through challenging life situations (grief, divorce, etc.).
  • Prescription medicine. Prescription medicine is another popular treatment method. Medicines for mental disorders make changes to brain chemicals that are involved in emotions and thought patterns. Medicines don’t cure psychiatric conditions or health problems. But they can improve your symptoms. They can make other treatments, such as counseling, more effective. There are many kinds of prescription medicines available that work in different ways. Your doctor will make a recommendation and share any side effects.
  • 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 health conditions.
  • 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 safe 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.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. This type of therapy is used to relieve psychological stress. It has become an effective way to help treat trauma, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • 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 a combination of treatments. Your doctor will help you find the treatment that’s right for you.

Things to consider

Sometimes, there is an unfair stigma that surrounds mental health and mental conditions. This stigma 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.

Healthcare professionals, educators, and organizations are working to overcome the stigma. Individuals and their loved ones are more likely to speak up about mental health disorders. They are encouraged to get treatment.

Look for these signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing signs of mental health conditions:

  • 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 health condition?
  • What is the best kind of treatment for me?
  • Do I need to take prescription 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?

Resources Local Organizations with Mental Health Expertise

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Mental Disorders

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