Is mental illness like any other illness?

The social stigma surrounding mental illnesses is nothing new. In some cultures, mental illness was perceived to be the result of demonic possession. And in decades past in America, the mentally ill were kept isolated and were subjected to ineffective or dangerous “treatments.” In recent years, there has been a shift toward the public perception that a mental illness is just like any other illness—like diabetes or heart disease. But is this a fair or even accurate representation of an incredibly broad and complex range of conditions? The concept remains controversial, but at Los Robles Regional, one thing is for certain—each of our patients always receives the compassionate, evidence-based treatments they need to live life well.

The biological basis of mental illnesses
Researchers have made amazing strides toward better understanding mental illnesses, but there’s quite a lot that’s still unknown. It’s still unknown exactly what causes depression, for instance, although there are a lot of contributing factors that can play a role. One of those factors may be low serotonin levels.

Research in this area seems to support the idea that mental illnesses can have a biological basis. But the question of what causes depression can’t be answered by low serotonin levels alone, as this provides an incomplete picture. If a biological basis alone can’t explain mental illnesses , would it be accurate to call them just like any other illness?

The risks of grouping together mental and physical illnesses
There are a few reasons why some experts have balked at the idea of classifying mental illnesses just like any other disease. One is that it implies that an individual patient’s experience with mental illness can be downplayed, but the same mental illness won’t necessarily affect two people in the same way. As an example, not everyone with depression has suicidal thoughts or would even appear to be depressed to the casual observer.

Another potential risk of this concept is that it could lead to overdependence on the medical treatments of mental illnesses, namely, medications. Some patients might be led to assume that, if their condition has a biological basis, they can exclusively use medical treatments and skip more involved, long-term interventions like psychotherapy. In fact, most providers would likely agree that a multidisciplinary approach tends to be most effective.

You’ll find highly trained and genuinely caring healthcare providers at Los Robles Regional Medical Center . Our modern medical facility in Thousand Oaks combines cutting-edge technology with a friendly, patient-focused approach. You can get in touch with a registered nurse any time of the day or night by calling (877) 888-5746.

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