5 Things to Know About Mental Health Treatment

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Mental health problems affect tens of millions of Americans every year. Unfortunately, only half of the individuals with a mental illness receive treatment, reports the National Institute of Mental Health. When untreated, many types of mental illnesses will gradually reduce your quality of life and increase other mental and physical health problems—including disability and suicide.

If you are suffering from a mental health condition, it may help to know that treatment is widely available. Mental health treatment can help you improve and restore your well-being and livelihood, getting you back to living a happier, more productive, and more fulfilling lifestyle.

Here are five things you should know about mental health treatment and how to contact The Haven when you’re ready to learn more about your treatment options.

1. Mental health treatment can improve your entire life. 

An overwhelming amount of medical research shows that untreated mental health disorders can lead to countless serious problems that ultimately worsen your quality of life. Unemployment, homelessness, financial problems, incarceration, divorce, and substance abuse are some of the many different issues you may face when you do not get treatment from a mental health professional or mental health services.

Symptoms of mental health disorders are often difficult to cope with. Sadness, excessive worry, fatigue, paranoia, and changes in eating habits are examples of mental health symptoms that can cause a ripple effect to increase the risk for secondary health problems, including heart disease and eating disorders. Anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder requiring mood-stabilizing and brain stimulation therapies are common. 

In a 2014 study published in Social Science and Medicine, researchers evaluated the effects of mental illnesses on quality of life. After speaking to and working with people with mental health disorders, the researchers learned that the areas of life impacted greatest by mental illness were relationships, self-perception, activity, hope, autonomy, well-being, and physical health.

Doctors who offer mental health treatment can work with you to reduce the symptoms affecting your livelihood. Mental health treatment is often highly individualized and will focus on the areas of your life being affected the most. For example, if poor coping skills are causing you to rely on drugs and alcohol to reduce symptoms of depression, your treatment plan may focus on helping you develop healthier ways to cope with stress and depression, such as volunteering in your community or exercising regularly.

2. Regular exercise can complement your treatment plan.

Medications and behavioral therapy (like cognitive-behavioral therapy) are the most frequently sought treatments for mental health disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). However, these are not the only treatments that can reduce your symptoms and help you turn life around.

A number of studies show that exercise can help normalize your brain chemistry and improve symptoms of mental health. Results from a 2013 study published in Brain Sciences showed that exercise was effective at regulating levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin. Imbalances in these three brain chemicals have been linked to mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. The researchers found that people with these mental health conditions who exercised regularly were successful at improving their symptoms.

In another study published in a 2020 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers evaluated the effects of regular exercise on people with both a substance use disorder and mental illness. The researchers found that in addition to normalizing brain chemistry associated with various mental illnesses, exercise was effective at reducing drug cravings associated with substance use disorders.

Exercising regularly can help you deal with stress, sleep better at night, and increase your confidence and self-esteem. If you plan on receiving mental health treatment at an inpatient or residential treatment facility, ask your doctors about the possibility of also starting an exercise routine. Many treatment facilities have gyms and fitness amenities so you can exercise and further improve your mental health.

3. Mental health support groups are available.

Beyond those special understanding family members, peer support groups can be highly therapeutic for those with mental health disorders. These settings allow you to speak openly about your challenges and experiences related to mental illness without fear of judgment or stigma. Your doctor or therapist may recommend joining one or more mental health support groups to complement your existing treatment plan.

Mental health support groups offer many benefits for those with a mental illness. They can reduce isolation and make you realize you are not alone with your type of mental condition. They can help you improve your social skills, express your feelings, and learn important tips and tricks for coping with your specific mental illness. They can also increase your confidence and self-esteem, given how they provide you with the opportunity to help others with similar situations.

Many support groups are free to attend and are widely available throughout the community. In-person and virtual support groups are available—both of which allow for face-to-face interaction with your peers. Your doctors may even provide you with a list of meetings you can attend in your local area.

Fortunately, there are support groups for nearly every type of mental condition and concern. Some are highly specific, such as support groups that are open only to first responders like police officers and firefighters coping with PTSD and alcohol addiction.

Again, ask your doctors for recommendations on the best support groups to join based on your type of mental health disorder and unique situation. You can also use social media sites to find nearby support groups in your local area.

4. Mental health treatment could last months.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for mental health that works for everyone. Some people may benefit only from talk therapy, while others may benefit from both talk therapy and medication. Some people may need a few therapy sessions to overcome trauma, while others may need multiple sessions over several weeks.

Before seeking treatment for mental health, it’s important to know that your treatment plan could last for several days, weeks, months, or years, based on how you respond to treatment. It’s not rare for your doctors and therapists to modify your treatment plan at any given time, especially if your symptoms aren’t improving and you still don’t feel good.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), an estimated 50% of patients with PTSD need an average of 15 to 20 treatment sessions to experience recovery. Evidence shows that many patients prefer a longer period of treatment, such as 30 sessions over six months, to achieve more complete symptom remission and develop the confidence they need to prevent a relapse.

The APA also adds that patients with co-occurring disorders often require longer treatment that lasts 12 to 18 months in order for therapy to be effective. Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnoses, are two or more behavioral health conditions that exist at the same time. For example, a person with schizophrenia and cocaine addiction is known to have a dual diagnosis.

If you are receiving mental health treatment and feel as though it has stopped working or never worked at all, get in touch with your primary care physician or therapist right away. Your doctors can review your treatment plan and start or stop therapies as needed until you find solutions that work. According to Mental Health America, the most common and effective mental health treatments include psychotherapy, medication, support groups, hospitalization, alternative medicine (such as yoga, meditation, and herbs), and recreational therapy (such as art, music, or equine therapy).

5. Many addiction rehab centers offer mental health treatment also.

Mental health disorders are highly common among people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. The NIH reports that about 50% of people who have a mental illness will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives, and vice versa.

Given the high prevalence of mental health disorders among people with substance use disorders, many addiction treatment centers offer dual diagnosis therapy. People with co-occurring disorders will usually experience a more positive outcome and long-term recovery if they are treated for both disorders at the same time. Otherwise, they face a higher risk of relapse.

Chronic use or misuse of drugs and alcohol can alter levels of brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to increase the risk of mental illness. Therefore, if you only receive treatment for the mental illness, it may come back later on if you keep misusing drugs and alcohol.

At the same time, an untreated mental illness increases the risk for drug and alcohol misuse due to the way it causes unpleasant symptoms like guilt, sadness, or anxiety. If you only receive treatment for addiction without addressing the mental illness, you may resume drinking or drug use to cope with symptoms of your mental illness.

If you have a dual diagnosis, look specifically for an addiction treatment center that can effectively help you recover from both your substance use disorder and mental illness. This helps ensure you’re set up to receive comprehensive treatment that provides you with a greater chance of recovering from both disorders.

Recovering From Co-Occurring Disorders at The Haven

The Haven offers dual diagnosis treatment for those who need help recovering from both a substance use disorder and mental illness. Our health services include drug and alcohol detox, residential rehab, and dual diagnosis therapy.

Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment services and to get started on your recovery journey.

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