If you feel like mental health problems are taking over your life, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), almost one in five adults in the United States lived with a mental health problem in 2020. Whether they struggled with symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar, or PTSD—the experience is shared.
Some days it may feel very challenging to navigate the world when you get burdened with anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders. However, there are many ways to improve your mental health, including seeking effective mental health treatment.
Here are five things you need to know about mental health treatment and how certified treatment providers can help.
1. Mental health treatment helps with brain chemistry.
Mental illnesses are health conditions that often involve abnormal changes in brain chemistry. Although there is a stigma surrounding mental health conditions, they are medical concerns in the same way as physical health conditions—like a broken leg or a sore throat—are medical illnesses.
Some mental health conditions occur because of a change in specific brain neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers. For example, in depression, a person may experience changes in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
This can throw a person’s mood off balance, causing depressive symptoms such as sadness, fatigue, or loss of interest or pleasure. Mental health treatment aims to restore the balance of neurotransmitters in a person’s brain with medications (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs), counseling, and support groups.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the changes in brain chemistry caused by mental illness can make it difficult to relate to other people or to simply function each day—why seeking treatment for mental illness is a critical part of being able to enjoy a high quality of life.
2. Mental health treatment can help anyone.
If you’ve been hesitant to pursue mental health treatment because of misgivings about whether treatment will work for your situation, the good news is that mental health treatment works.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research shows that treatments for mental illness are effective, and seeking mental health services can help people recover fully from their conditions to the point where they can honestly say that they feel good.
Mental health treatment can be provided by several sources and in several ways. While mental health treatments can help anybody with a mental illness, there is no single treatment or combination of treatments effective for every person. Some people find relief by seeking mental health treatment from their primary care provider, such as their family doctor.
Other people find that a mental health treatment plan set forth by a specialized psychiatrist is most effective. Other types of mental health providers include psychologists, clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, mental health counselors, certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors, marital and family therapists, and others.
The forum in which you can interact with a mental health professional also varies, especially as computers and smartphones have become more ubiquitous. For some people, face-to-face interactions with a mental health provider are the most beneficial. For others, the convenience of seeking mental health treatment virtually via a telehealth service is highly preferable.
Regardless of what type of treatment pathway you pursue, know that the first thing you try might not ultimately be the most effective. Sometimes it can take a little while for a medication to kick in. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can take up to 4 weeks for some mental health medications to reach their full effect.
It can also take a few visits to find a mental health counselor who is the best fit for you. It’s vital not to get discouraged early on by these variables. What matters is that you are being proactive and taking accountability for your own physical and mental health by pursuing treatment in the first place.
3. Mental health treatment can address substance abuse.
Many people who seek treatment for a mental health disorder are also interested in getting treatment for a substance use condition, such as alcohol use disorder or opiate addiction. What people struggling with addiction may not realize is that substance use disorders themselves are often considered by experts to be mental illnesses—just like anxiety disorders and depression.
The relationship between mental health conditions and substance abuse is very intricate, demanding expertise, mood stabilizing, and multiple treatment options. Some experts believe that, in some cases, substance abuse can trigger a mental illness, such as in the case of marijuana-induced psychosis. Conversely, people suffering from a mental illness may turn to substances to help self-medicate, such as in the case of a person with severe anxiety who turns to alcohol as a way to relax and self-soothe.
What may surprise you to learn is that co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders are extremely common. SAMHSA estimates that 9.2 million American adults are managing both a mental illness and a substance use disorder. These medical conditions are so connected that many treatment facilities offer dual diagnosis programs that can help people address both conditions simultaneously.
Often, the measures that improve one condition (such as counseling, medications, regular exercise, brain stimulation therapies, and enhanced nutrition) can improve a person’s other conditions, as well. Dual diagnosis treatment programs can be very valuable because only treating one condition without fully addressing the other may make a person vulnerable to relapse.
4. Mental health treatment is more than medication.
If you are new to the arena of mental health treatment, you may be under the impression that mental health treatment programs use only medication management and behavioral health counseling. While research shows that these measures can be highly effective, especially when paired together, there are many other tools available for people who are seeking treatment for mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Mental health treatment often has many arms because mental illness can stem from different root causes. Sometimes, a person’s genetic makeup plays a pivotal role in their mental health status. Other times, environmental factors can be a significant component.
When evaluating a person’s mental health, a medical professional will ask questions about sleep, activity level, social media habits, and diet. Often, identifying certain habits that can contribute to mental health conditions (such as an atypical or irregular sleep pattern) can help guide a treatment plan.
Even something which may seem harmless, such as spending time on a social media site, can be detrimental to your mental health, putting you at higher risk for developing anxiety and depression. A mental health treatment program can help you identify all the triggers in your daily life so that you steer clear of them or place limits around them.
Once a person has completed treatment for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, they will feel that they can return to their normal life or start anew. However, they may still experience triggers or temptations as they continue their recovery journey.
For this reason, periodic follow-up can be a critical part of any treatment plan. Additionally, support groups such as local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings can help a person stay on track with their treatment plan.
5. Mental health treatment teaches valuable coping skills.
Beyond improving the interaction of the neurotransmitters within your brain—through medications, counseling, and lifestyle interventions—mental health treatment programs can teach you useful coping skills that can help you navigate future challenges.
Mental health treatment programs can expose you to cognitive-behavioral techniques to increase resilience. Many people find that this is one of the most important and long-lasting benefits of a formal mental health treatment program.
Learning how to deal with stress constructively can help you avoid the same pitfalls that you may have been vulnerable to in the past. You may also learn to be less influenced by outside forces, such as social media, and more reliant on your inner compass and sense of self-confidence.
Find Treatment with Indiana Center for Recovery
If you or family members are concerned about a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or a combination of both—it can be intimidating to take the first step toward finding treatment. It can be confusing to identify which types of treatment may be most beneficial and at which level of care.
At the Indiana Center for Recovery, we have carefully constructed our intake process to help you quickly identify what sort of treatment program may be right for you. We are proud to offer a variety of programs, such as dual diagnosis, addiction rehab and treatment, EMDR, Integrated Care, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—to name just a few.
Contact us today to find out more.