How to treat Mental Illness without Medication?

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How many of us lived with Mental illness without knowing? How many of us suffered without releasing what we are passing through?


The real question is how many of us know what is Mental Illness and aware of their Mental Health?

Mental health and mental illness are real problems that need people’s attention and understanding in order to enhance their quality of life. To ensure that everyone has a good understanding of mental health, we’ll describe it briefly. Mental health, according to medicine, refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It has a strong impact on our thoughts and feelings, and it has the ability to influence our actions.

Our decisions, responses to stress, and how we handle others may all be influenced by our mental health. Mental health is a part of every stage of our lives, with childhood being the most vulnerable, but also adolescence and adulthood.

We are all exposed to circumstances that can have an effect on our mental health, which can be temporary or permanent. We may be diagnosed with mental illness or poor mental health.

What is Mental Illness?

A mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder is characterized as mental illness, also known as a mental health disorder. Its effects vary from mild to moderate, and severe illness (serious mental illness).

While all stages of mental illness can have an impact on our quality of life, severe mental illness can trigger functional disability, limiting one or more of our main activities and social interactions. Depression, anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia are examples of mental health disorders.

It is true that medications are used to treat the majority of psychiatric illnesses, but it is important to remember that medication are not the only way to treat mental illness.

Signs of Mental illness

Mental disorder, like any other physical disease or issue, has symptoms. We would be able to cope with and treat mental illness earlier if we are aware of these signs. Therefore, here are some early signs that indicates you might be suffering from a mental disorder.

  • Having extreme mood swings without known reason that trigger relationship issues
  • Suffering from real but unexplained aches and pains
  • Suffering from a sense of helplessness or hopelessness even to serious issues in your life
  • Withdrawing from people and routine tasks
  • Heavy smoking, drinking, or drug use more than usual
  • Experiencing unusual levels of confusion, forgetfulness, agitation, rage, upset, worry, or fear coming from un-logical things
  • Having recurring feelings and experiences that you can’t shake
  • Hearing voices or believing things that aren’t real
  • Contemplating harming yourself or others
  • Inability to carry out everyday activities such as caring for your children or going to work or school.

There are some symptoms that you might be suffering from mental illness or have poor mental health. Always note that if you have some symptoms it’s not necessary that you have to mental illness. You could be going through a phase in your life that has caused your mental health to be marginally compromised in what we call poor mental health.

Mental illness Diagnosis

You cannot depend solely on what we have said to determine your mental state. When you believe you are not okay and that things are truly out of your control, you should consult a doctor for a proper medical diagnosis.

How Mental illness is diagnosed?

  • Physical exam: Doctors try through this test to perform a physical evaluation to see if it complement your symptoms and try to figure out the reason behind these symptoms. Like unexplained pain for example.
  • Lab tests: These are done to check the presence of certain hormones and chemicals in your body, check their levels, evaluate if they are normal or not, like serotonin and dopamine for example, and sometimes kynurenine that causes neurodegeneration.

This can include also checking gland functions, like thyroid and pituitary gland, or even screening the presence of alcohol and drugs.

This can help a lot and sometimes is very essential to perform.

  • A psychological evaluation: A diagnosis, which is a must in most cases with a psychological doctor. Where you can honestly talk about everything happening with you and feeling. This is a big part of determining symptoms and giving an accurate diagnosis.

Factors Causing Mental illness

Factors are variable and many, it is important to understand that some of us may have subjected to more than one factor resulting in a certain mental illness.

  1. Neurodevelopmental causes occur during gestation where an embryo may have neurodevelopmental disorders resulting in abnormal neuron structure or function.
  2. Neurodegenerative causes, where neurons structure is damaged and function is altered, due to some infections, like toxoplasmosis for example
  3. Life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
  4. Biological factors such as genetics and chemicals
  5. A traumatic brain injury life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, harassment, especially when it happen in childhood
  6. Consuming alcohol and recreational drugs
  7. Medical conditions like cancer or diabetes

As you can see, the causes and factors behind Mental illness are numerous, and every one of us may be subjected to one or more of them.

Male patient having consultation with doctor or psychiatrist who working on diagnostic examination on men’s health disease or mental illness in medical clinic or hospital mental health service center

Treatments of Mental Illness Away from Medical Drugs

For each type of mental illness, there are certain recommended therapies and practices away from using drugs. Drugs may be essential at a certain stage, especially in severe and developed cases of a mental disorder.

Let us discover the most recommended treatments for mental illnesses in general.

Brain Stimulation Therapies

This is one of the serious treatments away from medical drugs. It is used in cases of severe mental illness and considered the choice when no treatment gives a result.

There are different types of Brain stimulation Therapy:

1. Electroconvulsive therapy

which is the best and oldest therapy of this type. It’s about using an electric current for treating serious or severe cases of Depression, Schizophrenia, and Bipolar Disorder.

It’s recommended when the illness state is not showing any improvements and not getting better with other treatments like antidepressants and psychotherapy for example and when rapid responses are required.

It can also be used in life-threatening situations. This can be when a patient is unable to move or react to the outside world (catatonia) or is severely malnourished due to extreme depression.

2. Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Despite the fact that it was used to treat epilepsy, this procedure demonstrated its efficacy in treating extreme depression mental disorder. However, it is not recommended as first-line therapy.

Let us take the advantage of this technique to mention that neurotransmitters are from the major factors that play role in mental illness. There are some neurotransmitters that function in the brain and are directly associated with mood and here are they: serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, GABA, and glutamate.

Why did we mention this?

Because this technique was found to alter the levels of a neurotransmitter associated with moods, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and glutamate. This is how this technique play role in treating severe depression disorder.

3. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)

This technique was approved by the FDA as a treatment for patients suffering from depression and did not respond to other types of medications. It works by stimulating a specific part in the brain (left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) through magnetic fields and electric current.

Actually, this part of the brain is where emotions and executive functions are processed and regulated, thus this is the strategy followed.

TMS is considered safe and non-invasive therapy.

4. Deep Brain Stimulation

This technique was initially developed to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms, but it showed benefits in treating depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

It’s still uncertain how this therapeutic strategy works to relieve depression or OCD, but scientists claim the pulses help to “reset” the malfunctioning brain region so that it can act normally again.

This type of therapy requires more studies to prove its function and figure all its side effects as well as other technique called Magnetic Seizure Therapy.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is widely considered as the first-line treatment for a wide range of disorders. It is beneficial for mild to moderate conditions. Severe psychiatric disorders almost always necessitate medication, which is typically accompanied by psychotherapy.

Many of us are unaware of the numerous methods of psychotherapy. There are many types of psychotherapy, and each one is recommended depending on the individual’s condition, the therapy’s intent, and the stage of the disorder. The most well-known methods of psychotherapy are as follows.

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT): The most common one, where the therapist works on revealing the unhealthy patterns of thought and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.
  2. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) it aims to treat individuals who have chronic suicidal behavior with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
  3. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is used to treat Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  4. Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that is widely used to treat phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  5. Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) aims to improve the mental health of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

The importance of using behavior therapy and CBT as adjunctive treatments with drugs for bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia is supported by short-term and long-term clinical evidence. Psychotherapy techniques (primarily behavior modification, CBT, and IPT) have been shown to be effective as primary therapies (treatments of choice) for obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and severe depression, as well as many other psychological conditions, in broad randomized clinical trials.

Meditation

Meditation is a widely used technique that benefits both the mind and the body. It benefits mental health, calmness, psychological balance, and physical health. It is about taking habits into the present moment and discovering the connections between the brain, mind, and actions.

In other words, meditation will help you strengthen your concentration and perception while remaining mentally clear, emotionally relaxed, and stable. It has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of mental disorders, especially depression and anxiety.

Yoga and massage therapy are also believed to be helpful for people suffering from mental disorders.

Mental health Disorders and Recommended Treatments and Practices

Aside from we had discussed above, it’s time to speak about the most common mental health disorders and best recommendations for each.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is characterized by extreme depression and, in some cases, a loss of interest in daily activities and even in life.  It has the ability to influence your feelings, thoughts, and actions. It has an impact on your emotions as well. This is due to alteration in dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitter levels induced by a number of causes, including personal experiences.

Suicidal thoughts can arise as a result of severe depression, and many people attempt suicide after being diagnosed with depression.

People who are diagnosed with depression typically have more than two weeks of symptoms such as low self-esteem, loss of interest in generally fun activities, low energy, and pain with no apparent cause.

Anxiety is a disorder in which an individual has intense fear and concern about upcoming events. An anxious person may try to avoid all situations and events that he is concerned about, as well as feel constantly on the verge of danger and confusion.

It contains anxiety disorders such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), panic disorder, and phobias.

Best practices and treatments for Depression and Anxiety

For mild and moderate phases of the disorder, it’s recommended to follow psychiatric therapy with a specialist as well as meditation.

In its severe state Brain stimulation therapy is an option along with anti-depressants and other medications.

What are recommended practices to help overcome depression and anxiety?

  • Try new things and activities
  • Break routines when needed
  • Set goals
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Load up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Folic Acid

Bipolar Disorder (BP)

It is also known as manic depression, and it is characterized by sudden mood shifts, in which a person may be very happy and then suddenly become very sad and depressed, or vice versa. Individuals suffering from this mental disorder can experience sleeping and thinking difficulties, as well as behavioral changes.

Other than medicine, what treatments and practices are used for Bipolar Disorder?

Starting with therapy is the first step and in this case, the best type is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)and sometimes Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT).

IPSRT is a form of psychotherapy that is used for BP patients. It seeks to assist people suffering from bipolar disorder in the following ways:

  • Maintain a consistent routine.
  • Adopt healthy sleeping habits.
  • Learn how to cope with issues that happen during their everyday routine.

Meditation is also recommended.

When it’s in severe state, Brain Stimulation therapy may help and Electroconvulsive therapy as the most convenient type.

Schizophrenia

Another mental illness in which a patient loses contact with reality and experiences hallucinations, delusions, and unbalanced and disorganized thought. Furthermore, it has been discovered that people with schizophrenia have difficulties with both social interactions and emotions.

Schizophrenia, like other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression, can be developed after birth as a result of diseases or accidents. A Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, and Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and surprisingly depression can be caused by a parasite!

Yes, a parasite known as Toxoplasma Gondii may cause these mental disorders. It is important for all of us to be aware of this parasite because we can become infected by food, such as meat and contaminated vegetables.

How do such parasites accomplish this?

Actually, it is our immune response to the parasite, not the parasite itself. Neurons can degenerate as a result of a complex process and sequence of reactions and interactions initiated by our immune response, certain receptors can be blocked, neurotransmitters can lose their equilibrium, and this can result in the aforementioned disorders, as well as Alzheimer’s.

In the case of schizophrenia, psychotherapy and medications may be the first-line therapies as well. If no outcomes or changes are achieved, Brain Stimulation Therapy (Electroconvulsive Therapy) can be considered in addition to medications.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Is a mental illness in which a person does the same thing repeatedly. People suffering from this condition are unable to control their thoughts and constantly repeat them. Examples include hand washing, door inspection, and other related tasks.

Various forms of psychotherapy may be beneficial in this situation.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been the preferred form of psychotherapy in the United States and Europe for decades, aiding patients in recognizing their thought patterns and how they affect their feelings and behavior. Recognition and Engagement Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), have also been shown to be effective.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy is another successful psychotherapy treatment for OCD.

Some beneficial practices:

  • Regular Exercises
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation

These practices are not a treatment but they showed their effectiveness in controlling the symptoms in patients of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This condition occurs as a result of shocks, dangerous or terrifying circumstances. It has been classified as a mental illness condition because of the severe and often long-term effects that occur after a traumatic incident such as an accident, war, disaster, sexual assault or raping, and so on. Both of these are incidents that trigger trauma after they occur.

Since this is a very common illness to which we are all especially vulnerable, understanding the symptoms is important before beginning care. The following are the most serious symptoms:

  • Flashbacks and reliving the trauma over and over again, with physical signs such as a pounding pulse or sweating
  • Bad dreams and Frightening thoughts
  • Avoiding locations, incidents, or things that are reminders of the traumatic incident
  • Avoiding thoughts or emotions relevant to the traumatic event
  • Pessimistic thoughts about oneself or the environment
  • Skewed feelings such as remorse or blame
  • Lack of interest in pleasant activities

To be classified as PTSD, symptoms must last longer than a month and be serious enough to disrupt relationships or work. The disease progresses in a variety of ways. Some people recover in 6 months, while others experience symptoms for much longer.

Medication is one type of treatment, but psychotherapy, which is necessary for both diagnosis and treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are the most beneficial types of  the psychotherapy.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Is a mental health condition that causes difficulties in everyday life. BPD has an effect on how you think and feel about others, as well as yourself. As a result of these results, people experience self-image problems, dysfunctional relationships, and challenges controlling emotions and behaviors.

Someone with BPD can also struggle with accepting and tolerating being alone, experiencing mood swings, loving someone and wanting long-term relationships while pushing them away. Such a disorder begins in early adulthood, it can worsen and then improve with age.

Other symptoms like shifting goals rapidly, lose touch with reality for minutes or hours, risky behaviors, and suicidal behaviors.

This condition can be caused by environmental, social (traumas and experiences), genetic, or brain abnormalities.

Psychotherapy is a non-medication treatment choice. CBT and DBT are the preferred styles that can assist a patient in changing his attitudes, habits, and opinions of himself and others.

It also aids in the reduction of self-destructive habits and the control of strong emotions.

Panic Disorder, Phobias, and personality disorders are also other mental disorders where meditation, psychotherapy, and some practices can help a lot away from medicine.

COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic had a wide-ranging effect, including those on mental health. Many factors during the pandemic showed to affect everyone’s mental health, such as quarantine, loss of job and income, fear of infection, and losing people and family members in COVID-19, to name a few.

Such factors may intensify pre-existing mental conditions or contribute to the development of new mental illnesses; both cases can be related to depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It is worth mentioning that COVID-19 can cause neurological and mental problems itself including delirium, hysteria, and stroke.

Related: COVID-19 vaccination comparison

What makes the situation worse is the disruption of medical health services; although many countries, especially developing ones, have developed teletherapy, it is still insufficient to fill gaps and achieve desired results.

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