Mental illness is a sensitive subject for many people. Part of this is due to long-standing stigmas associated with mental illness, but apprehension may be due to the fear of treatments and theories that are no longer applicable. Before you avoid a diagnosis and treatment, consider the ways mental health care has changed.
Less Overall Stigma
Destigmatizing mental illness in the public has been an important part of treatment. However, reducing stigma within the medical community regarding the overall care of people with mental illnesses has more of an impact. When patient records are transferred to new medical care providers, documentation of a mental illness can impact the perception of a patient and how their medical issues are handled before they attend their first appointment.
This stigma can make people with a mental illness less inclined to receive a diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness. To avoid the stigma, a patient may change their provider without transferring their medical records to essentially wipe their record clean and start over. But better medical training at the primary care level makes patients with a history of mental illness feel more comfortable being honest about all medical and mental health concerns. Additionally, patients do not have to be as concerned that physical ailments will be immediately disregarded as simply "all in their head."
Lobotomies And ECT Are In The Past
When considering mental health treatment, the thought of older practices, such as transorbital lobotomies or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can make you apprehensive. Unfortunately, these treatments were frequently used to treat any range of mental illness and had dire consequences. Transorbital lobotomies were blind procedures that frequently left patients with significant brain damage and permanent confinement to a nursing home.
Transorbital lobotomies are no longer performed, and rarely is ECT used. In severe cases of treatment-resistant depression where the person has no other options, they may elect to try ECT. When ECT is used, the process is very strategic and unlike the examples seen in movies or documentaries. The patient is sedated for the procedure so they do not feel any pain. ECT may be done to one or both sides of the brain, and care is taken with the placement of electrodes to reduce the likelihood of memory loss.
Improvements In Mental Health Resources
One major change in mental health care was the well-publicized quality of mental health care in each state. Since many states received poor grades on this report, there has been increased attention to the availability of acute and long-term management of mental illness. Part of this improvement has included more programs that specifically target low-income citizens who may experience a disproportionately higher rate of severe mental illness but often fall through the cracks when it comes to free or affordable treatment. Other changes have focused on the availability of acute care for people with suicidal or homicidal ideas. Acute care extends beyond stabilization at an emergency room to ensuring those most in need are able to be transferred to a mental health facility.
Changes In First-Line Antipsychotics
First-generation antipsychotics were once the only class of antipsychotics available for treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A major concern with some first-generation antipsychotics is significant side effects. One such first-generation antipsychotic, haloperidol, was commonly used in psychotic and affective disorders. Unfortunately, patients may become "zombie-like" and go through sensations of the floor or walls tilting. Extrapyramidal side effects, such as uncontrollable movements, are also common with haloperidol and may become permanent.
Familiarity with the side effects of first-generation antipsychotics can make patients and their families apprehensive regarding the use of any antipsychotic medication. Although first-generation antipsychotics, such as haloperidol, may be used in the acute stabilization of someone who is aggressive or severely psychotic, it is less likely to be used as a first-line treatment in someone without severe symptoms. With many second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics available, patients have the opportunity to try different ones to find an option that manages their symptoms with fewer side effects.
If you are experiencing any type of mental health concern, the changing landscape of psychiatry should make seeking treatment less intimidating. With less stigma and better treatment options, more people are living a better quality of life.
For more information and help with treatment, contact a psychiatry clinic near you, such as Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc.