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Mental health conditions and treatment are serious business. Studies show 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. struggle with mental illness each year. (1) Mental illness leads to more than $193 billion in lost earnings in the U.S. each year, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24. (1,2) Though doctors still have a lot to learn about treating mental health conditions, they’ve come a long way from previous treatment ideas.
Call the exorcist
Mental illness was thought to be caused by demonic possession (2)
Religious figures performed a ceremony to release demons
Doctors drilled a hole into the patient’s head to “release” the spirit. Unsurprisingly, most people treated with this procedure died.
In good humor
Doctors believed they could cure mentally ill patients by fixing their “humors,” or bodily fluids. They believed it possible to treat mental illness by forcing patients to vomit and bleed. (3)
Philippe Pinel, born in 1745, advocated for moral treatment. This meant looking at how environmental changes could impact an individual’s psychology. He rejected assumptions that mental illness was caused by demons. Pinel personally talked to his patients about their personal problems, marking the first attempt at therapy. (4)
In the 1800s, mentally ill patients were kept in insane asylums, where they faced prison-like conditions.
Members of the public could pay to visit the facility and watch patients like zoo animals. (5)
Who needs all that brain?
Doctors tried to remove “excess emotions” believed to cause mental illness by surgically cutting through the frontal lobe. (6)
Take a chill pill
In the late 1950s, chlorpromazine became the first pill that worked to treat a variety of mental illnesses. (7)
TODAY: 2000s and beyond
Talk it out:
Psychotherapy is based on the idea that talking about problems with a trained professional could help alleviate them by providing perspective. (8)
Talk therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for:
Feeling sad or having a low mood
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
Difficulties with energy, sleep and appetite
Feeling worthless or guilty
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (10)
Feeling nervous, irritable or on-edge
Sense of impending danger
Increased heart rate, rapid breathing, trembling and sweating
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
Work by blocking the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain so that more of the neurotransmitter is available
Used to treat depression, anxiety disorders
Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors
Increase the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain
Used to treat depression and ADHD
Work by regulating levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain
Used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression