Mental Health FAQs
What causes psychiatric illnesses?
- There are many causes of psychiatric illnesses. Some are caused by genetic information that is passed down from family members while others are brought about by environmental factors and major life events, like the death of a loved one. A patient with both genetic predisposition to psychiatric illnesses and exposure to stressful environmental factors may have more severe symptoms or show signs of illness earlier. For example, if you have a family history of bipolar disorder, abusing drugs or alcohol could lead to the presentation of bipolar symptoms earlier in your life and in a more severe form.
Can I seek therapy if I don’t want to be on medication?
- The decision to try psychiatric medication is one that you and your provider would make together. Some mild psychiatric conditions can be treated without the need for medication. However, many psychiatric conditions are caused or worsened by imbalances in the patient’s brain chemistry. If this is the case, medication will help correct this chemical imbalance and give you a better chance to beat your illness. Your psychiatrist will help you determine the best treatment options for your individual problems.
If I start a psychiatric medication, how long will I be on it?
- If you choose to begin a psychiatric medication, you should expect to stay on that medication for at least 6 months after your condition has stabilized. Your doctor may also gradually wean you off a medication with progressively lower doses. If you experience many episodes of your illness, you may be advised to stay on your medication much longer in effort to minimize the risk of your symptoms recurring. Additionally, suspending medication and resuming the same medicine in the future will sometimes not help as it did before.
Could I grow to be dependent on a medication?
- Most people are dependent on someone or something to get us going and improve our health and well-being. When your pancreas does not secrete enough insulin, you are dependent on insulin. Without it, you would have serious physical health problems. Despite the stigma, it is the same with mental health. If your brain cells aren’t secreting enough serotonin, dopamine, or adrenaline, you are lacking the crucial chemicals for your sense of well-being, happiness, motivation and energy. Psychiatric medication can help your brain produce more of these chemicals or prolong their half-life. Depending on these drugs to improve your distress tolerance, mood regulation, motivation, energy, and sense of well-being is nothing to feel ashamed of or fear.
A loved one thinks I should seek help, but I don’t think I have a problem. Should I see a psychiatrist anyway?
- Despite the stigma that seeking help for your mental health carries, almost everyone has or knows someone with a psychiatric disorder. Some people are better than others at coping with their problems—others hide, deflect, or project their issues onto others because they do not want to face them. If a loved one recommends that you see a psychiatrist, you should heed their advice, because if they’ve begun to notice it, the problem has likely been present for a while. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away or leave you feeling better—seeking treatment is the best solution.
I know that I would never kill myself, but I still have thoughts of suicide sometimes. Does this qualify me as “suicidal”?
- Many people discount the risk of their own thoughts of suicide because they doubt that they could every carry through with it. Many people don’t seek help because suspect that people who do kill themselves are dealing with much worse psychiatric problems and experience much more intense thoughts of suicide than they are. This is not the case and it is a very dangerous way to think. Down playing or ignoring the seriousness of these thoughts can result in tragedy for yourself and your loved ones. If you have any thoughts of suicide, get immediate help.
Is it possible for attention problems to develop in adults?
- People develop ADD/ADHD and other attention problems as children, but many go undiagnosed until adulthood. Children with mild to moderate ADD/ADHD can go through school with very high grades and be regarded as intelligent, talented, and charming. However, as they grow older, the demands of adult life highlight their struggles with attention, memory, motivation, and impulsivity. When the strategies they used to mask these struggles as children no longer work, ADD/ADHD becomes a problem requiring treatment for adults.
Addiction and Substance Abuse FAQ’s
What medicine should I use to combat my abuse of Opioids?
- The two main medications used to treat Opioid abuse are Naltrexone (Vivitrol) and Burpernorphine (Suboxone, Zubsolv). They work in very different ways and the right option for you is best to be discussed with your provider. Naltrexone is a monthly shot that shuts off your Opioid brain receptors to shut down the brain’s reward mechanism and gradually prevent you from experiencing cravings. Naltrexone may be hard to start due to the fact that it requires a trial of the oral form of the medicine to ensure you are not allergic to Naltrexone, a liver function test to ensure that the patient is safe to take Naltrexone, and patients need to be free of Opioids for 2 weeks to start. Bupernorphine is an Opioid replacement therapy. It provides your brain with the Opioid it needs so that you can avoid abuse of heroin and pain medication. Opioids like these street drugs are highly associated with criminal activities, drug overdose, homicidal behaviors, and serious medical conditions such as Hepatitis C and HIV. Massive harm is reduced just by being evaluated and treated in a medical setting.
Can I use medication to help me quit abusing substances?
- It can be hard for your loved ones to appreciate how challenging it is to quit drug or alcohol use by pure will alone. Those around you telling you to “toughen up” or “brush it off” might think they are being encouraging, but these statements hinder more than they help. Your emotional brain, loaded with memories of exciting, pleasurable, and thrilling moments associated with substance use, has hijacked your rational brain. There are medications available on the market that can help minimizing for you the emotional aspects decision making and help you gradually think more rationally.
Why is it so hard to quit drugs and alcohol? Is it a lack of will and commitment, or something else?
- Addiction is a disease that affects individuals on so many levels. It alters a person’s brain chemistry, behavior, support system, and environment. Although substance abuse often leads to individuals engaging in illegal activities, addiction should not be approached as a criminal activity, but as a disease. People struggling with substance abuse will never get better if they are prosecuted or constantly berated for their inability to “just get over it.” Instead, people struggling with substance abuse stand a much better chance of recovery if we work together to understand the biological, social, and personality aspect of their illness.
I know that I need help, but I’m embarrassed to let my family and friends know about my addiction. What should I do?
- Revealing that you are struggling with an addiction may be shocking and painful to your loved ones, and it will likely affect your relationship. But this revelation can be so worthwhile because no one will understand and support you like your friends and family. Fighting your addiction can even be easier once you get your secret off your chest—once you are no longer hiding, you can lean on your loved ones for support as you go through recovery. Keeping this from those closest to you will only make your addiction feel bigger, scarier, and more impossible to beat.
Where do psychiatric problems come from? My child seems too young to be dealing with mental health problems.
- Most psychiatric problems have at least some genetic predisposition, which means that any family history of mental illness in first or second degree relatives can increase the risk of a child developing mental health problems at an early age. Environmental factors can also play a part in some disorders and result in symptoms appearing earlier or more intensely than they would otherwise. Additionally, some problems arise as a result of big or sudden changes in a child’s life, like a parent’s divorce or the death of a close family member. In these cases, while the stress and adjustments surrounding the change might go away eventually, the mental health problems that arise in the moment may still be severe enough to require treatment, even if it’s temporary.
Can these problems go away on their own?
- It’s unlikely that mental health problems will resolve on their own without some help from a therapist or psychiatrist. If you feel that your child might need help with their mental health, it’s best to seek care as soon as you can so the problems don’t worsen.
Do we have to use medication to help with these problems or is counseling/therapy is enough?
- Counseling is an essential part of dealing with emotional, behavioral, and thought problems, as therapy can help your child learn the right coping skills to be able to minimize the intensity of their mental health problems and stressors and lead a better life. However, sometimes therapy alone is not enough, especially if there are genetic factors involved. In these cases, medication might be beneficial to your child to help regulate their emotions and correct any imbalances in their brain chemistry that might be worsening problems. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to mental health, so whether or not your child needs medication will depend on their specific situation. However, PPS psychiatrists can help you and your family make the best decision about medication and other treatment options during therapy.
What would medication do for my child?
- When a mental health problem is caused or influenced by genetic factors, there can sometimes be an imbalance in a patient’s brain chemistry. They may not have the correct amounts of serotonin, dopamine, or other neurotransmitters in their brain, which worsens the way they are feeling. Medication can help correct these imbalances, which makes it much easier to handle the emotional and behavioral changes that are a result of the mental illness. While counseling is an essential part of the healing process when it comes to mental health, medication can often make it easier to apply the coping skills a patient in learning in counseling, which can all around improve treatment.