Mental Health & Psychology
Dr S K Sharma
- What is mental health?
Mental health is described as a level of intellectual and emotional wellbeing and an absence of a mental disorder or disease. It includes an individual’s ability to live life effectively without stress, enjoy various aspects of life and strike a balance between life activities and achieve psychological resilience. In common language if you are reasonably successful and happy without causing undue discomfort to people around, you are mentally healthy.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
- What is mental illness?
Mental illness should better be called psychiatric disorders. These are the conditions affecting the brain and mental functioning that causes distress to the person and affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and relates to others and to surroundings. Major causes of psychiatric disorders are genetic, biological, psychological trauma and environmental stressors.
- Are mental diseases / complaints curable?
Like physical diseases it depends on type of disease, extent of affection and other factors like family history, age, life circumstances etc. When recognized & diagnosed early, most of them can be well managed and treated. People can recover fully and remain free from complaints if they take proper treatment and follow doctor’s advice. This applies equally well to complaints which are said to be due to chemical imbalance in brain.
- Are mental diseases / complaints preventable?
It depends on the cause of disease. Those due to external psychoemotional and environmental factors can be prevented if one develops efficient life skills. Those with strong genetic and biological factors may not be preventable but can be well managed.
- What is chemical imbalance? Can it be treated?
According to this theory which is based on brain chemistry, psychiatric disorders are due to chemical changes in brain. These chemicals are neurotransmitters which are important for correct functioning of brain. But if there is any change leading to imbalance, this can result in abnormal mental functioning. It is said that such abnormal functioning can be corrected by medicines which corrects the chemical imbalance in brain.
- Who needs treatment?
It is not easy to define ‘abnormal’ mental functioning. This is because ‘normal’ varies person to person, society to society, culture to culture. The basic point to remember is that if a person is under distress which he or she is unable to manage and / or is causing undue disturbance to others around, then the person must seek advice of a mental healthcare professional. He or she can then be assessed & diagnosed to see what is problem and how well it can be corrected.
- What are treatment options?
There are two broad categories of treatment. One is the medicinal treatment. People are aware about allopathic / conventional medicines prescribed by psychiatrist but not many people are aware that there are available very effective medicines in homeopathy which can treat psychiatric disorders. Second category is of psychotherapy. It is a big group of many therapies like cognitive behavior therapy, gestalt therapy, psychoanalysis, primal therapy, rational emotive therapy etc. All these options have unique advantages and are found effective.
- Which is better – medicinal treatment or therapy?
As said all these options have unique effectiveness and advantages. Their effectiveness also varies according to the type of condition. In some disorders medicinal treatment is the suitable treatment, in some it could be some type of psychotherapy and in still others it is the combination of medicinal as well as psychotherapy which will give best of the result. Your doctor should be able to guide you towards best option.
- How long the treatment must continue?
It depends on type and severity of sickness. One should be very careful and should not interfere with medicine dosage or stop it at own discretion. It should only be done on doctor’s advice because there can be a relapse of the condition. Psychiatric disorders are widely prevalent and affect a large number of people around us. It is no longer a stigma. One should not feel embarrassed and seek correct treatment for sufficient duration.
- What is the difference between counselor, psychologist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist?
Psychological Counselor is the mental health professional who has received education & training in psychological counseling. Counseling is a process that facilitates better personal and interpersonal understanding & functioning. In this counselor acts as facilitator and enables counselee to achieve better insight and look for better coping skills. Common fields where counselors work are individual counseling, family counseling, marital counseling, career counseling etc.
Psychologist is the mental health professional who has received education & training in psychology as their main subject. This is the most fundamental study of mental health and includes development of personality. A psychologist may or may not be a therapist. Common roles played by psychologist are clinical psychologist, community psychologist, educational psychologist, health psychologist, occupational psychologist etc.
Like psychotherapy, psychotherapist is a term which can be used to refer to any mental health professional who uses some or the other psychological therapy to help people in achieving better mental health. This can include therapist who uses psychoanalysis, cognitive behavior therapy, hypnotherapy, gestalt therapy, existential therapy, adlerian therapy, integrative therapy, primal therapy, rational emotive therapy, interpersonal therapy etc.
Psychiatrists are the medical doctors who have achieved MD degree in psychiatry and are specialized in the diagnosis and treatment (including medication) of psycho emotional disorders. These physicians usually work in hospitals or have private clinics.