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Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders including various psychology conditions related to behavior, mood, cognition, and perceptions. Initial psychiatric assessment of a person usually begins with a case history and examination of mental condition. Physical examinations and psychological tests may also be conducted and in some cases, neuroimaging or other neurophysiological techniques are employed.

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Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders

Mental illness also referred to as mental health disorders deal with a wide range of mental health conditions including disorders affecting the mood, thinking and behavior such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. Signs and symptoms of mental disorders vary depending on the disorder, circumstances, and other factors. Instances of signs and symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Feeling sad/low
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to focus
  • Excessive fears/worries or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems in sleeping
  • Detachment from reality, paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems/stress
  • Trouble in understanding and relating to situations and people
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Diagnostic Tests in Psychiatry

  • Psychological Assessment: A psychiatric assessment is a technique to collect information about a person within a psychiatric service, with the purpose of diagnosing. This assessment is normally the first stage of a mental illness treatment procedure that includes social and biographical information, direct observations, and data from specific psychological tests. It is typically performed by a psychiatrist. However, it can be a multi-disciplinary process that may involve nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, and licensed professional counselors.
  • MRI Scan of Brain: Magnetic Resonance Imaging is the most frequently employed imaging test of the brain. MRI scan of the brain is often done to diagnose aneurysms of cerebral vessels, tumors, developmental anomalies, multiple sclerosis, stroke, dementia, infection, the causes of headache, and traumatic brain injury. The functional MRI of the brain creates pictures of the blood flow to certain areas of the brain that can be used to examine the brain’s anatomy and determine which parts of the brain are performing critical functions. It can also be used to examine damage from a head injury or from mental illness such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): Electroencephalography(EEG) is a typically noninvasive, electrophysiological technique to monitor and record the electrical activity of the brain. EEG measures voltage fluctuations caused by an ionic current within the neurons of the brain. Clinically, EEG focuses on the recording of the brain’s spontaneous electrical activity for a period of time, as recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp. Electroencephalography is often used for diagnosing epilepsy resulting in abnormalities in EEG readings and is also used to diagnose sleep disorders, depth of anesthesia, coma, encephalopathies, and brain death.

Treatment Procedures for Mental Disorders

The treatment for mental health disorders depends on the type of mental illness that the patient has, its severity, and what works the best for the patient. In some cases, a combination of treatment procedures would work out well. If a person has a mild mental illness with well-controlled symptoms, then treatment from a primary care provider might be sufficient. However, for severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, a treatment team approach would be appropriate.

  • Medications: Although psychiatric medications don’t cure mental illness, they significantly improve the symptoms of mental illness. Psychiatric medications also help in making other treatments, such as psychotherapy, more effective. The best medication for a patient depends on the patient’s condition as well as how their body responds to the medication. Some of the most commonly used psychiatric medications include:
    • Antidepressants: Antidepressants are used to treat depression, anxiety, and in some cases for other mental health conditions. They help in improving symptoms such as sadness, lack of energy, difficulty in focusing, and lack of interest in various activities. Antidepressants do not cause dependency and are not addictive.
    • Anti-anxiety Medications: This medication is used to treat anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. They also help in reducing agitation and insomnia. Long-term anti-anxiety drugs are typically antidepressants that also treat anxiety. However, fast-acting anti-anxiety drugs help with short-term relief, and since they have the potential to cause dependency they are ideally used for a shorter term.
    • Mood-stabilizing Medications: Mood stabilizers are most often used for treating bipolar disorders involving alternating episodes of mania as well as depression. In some cases, mood stabilizers are also used with antidepressants to treat depression.
  • Antipsychotic Medications: Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used for treating psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications can also be used to treat bipolar disorders or may be used with antidepressants for treating depression.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy also referred to as talk therapy, involves speaking about the mental health condition and related issues with a mental health professional. During psychotherapy, the patient learns about their condition and their moods, feelings, thoughts, and behavior. With the insights and knowledge that the patients gain, they can learn stress management skills. There are various kinds of psychotherapy, each with its own approach to improving mental well-being. Psychotherapy can be successfully completed in a few months. However, in some cases, long-term treatment may be required that takes place one-on-one or in a group or with family members. While choosing a therapist, the patient should feel comfortable and be confident that he/she is capable of listening and hearing what the patient has to say.
  • Brain-Stimulation Treatments: Brain-stimulation procedures are often used for depression and other mental health disorders. They are generally employed for situations only when the medications and psychotherapy have not worked. Brain-stimulation treatments include electroconvulsive therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation, and vagus nerve stimulation.
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