Proper meds and positive vibes for the psych patient

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

TO STABILIZE the chemical imbalances and to enforce positivity in the brain -- these are the primary goals in treating a mentally ill or psychotic patient and these are achieved with a proper dose of pharmacotherapy and ample time for psychotherapy.

New Day Recovery Center medical director Aneze Maghuyop-Babista, in an interview with Sun.Star Davao, said pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy are the general terms that one could come across when you speak of the conventional treatment for psych patients.

Pharmacotherapy therapy refers to the administration of medicine while psychotherapy involves various thorough counseling methods that will mentally and emotionally help a patient.


The Brain Drugs

Babista said the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain has been one of the major contributors for mental disorders.

The imbalance, however, may be addressed using medicines that alter the flow of neurotransmitters and either activating or deactivating brain receptors which are vital in controlling behavior and cognitive functions.

One general term of which are the antipsychotics or neuroleptics.

Unregulated levels of dopamine flowing through the different receptors in the brain has been attributed to the cause of mental disorders thus, antipsychotics is intended to block these receptors. Some antipsychotics manage norepinephrine levels. Norepinephrine acts as a hormone and a neurotransmitter which is responsible for cognitive functions such as reasoning, attention, memory, problem solving and decision making.

While the common antipsychotics address the flow of dopamine and norepinephrine, Babista said newer versions of antipsychotics normalize the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep and aids in the cognitive functions including memory and learning.

Another general term associated in the treatment of mental disorders is benzodiazepines. This type of drug is administered to treat anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures and muscle spasms. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that elevate the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that controls sleepiness, anxiety and muscle activity.

Antidepressants, on the other hand, are used for mentally ill patients with mild to moderate symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and from the name itself, depression.

These types of drugs are paired off to treat patients who experience various level of mental disorders ranging from severe psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, hallucinations and delusions to mild symptoms.

But strictly speaking, any drug has corresponding side effects and all the more if it is abused. And with prescriptions that require days of guzzling down combinations of these drugs, patients have an increased chance of more harmful effects. Reported side effects include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, decreased cognitive and motor function, decrease in libido and sex drive, muscle spasms, hypertension and even addiction.

"The medication could go for three to six weeks depending on the condition of the patient. With this period, a patient can develop a drug dependency especially on benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines like valiums are highly addictive and those who are under this medication may experience withdrawal symptoms after their medication," Babista said.

But she assured that the doses of the patients are meticulously regulated and after the medication, patients won't be able to procure the drugs anymore as pharmacies would be requiring more than the doctor's prescription in releasing the drugs especially the benzodiazepines and antipsychotics.

Into the minds of the patients

After the chemical balance in the brain has been corrected, it is now on to the implanting of a healthy mind set. Babista said the first step to psychotherapy is letting the patient identify his or her own feelings saying that if they can already distinguish what they feel, they already have a grasp of reality. Psychiatrists then identify the sources of these feelings and from there they start incorporating different types of therapies intended to enhance social skills, improve cognitive skills and behavior.

The most common therapy that Babista uses is the cognitive behavioral therapy. This starts by identifying the negative thoughts of patients and teaching them how they could dispel these thoughts.

"The idea is when you plant a thought, you reap a feeling. You plant a feeling, You reap an action. You plant an action, you reap a habit. You plant a habit, you reap a behavior. You plant a behavior, you reap a character and when you plant a character, you reap your destiny. That is why we should start adjusting their thoughts to make them positive," Babista said.

After the perspective of a patient becomes positive, he or she may then be put through rational motive therapy. This is the part where a patient is presented with circumstances wherein one should make a decision.

Babista said the key here is giving the patient options while incorporating methods on how to make the sound choices. She said that she teaches the patients cost analysis wherein one will learn how to know the pros and cons of each option presented.

When there is already positive vibes coupled with logical thinking, a patient will then have either a couple therapy say if a patient is married or the group therapy. Basically the patient is being thought how to socialize until such time that they confidence with the presence of fellow patients. Also incorporated in the couple or group therapies are music therapy, dance therapy and other extracurricular activities possible to enhance the self esteem of the patient.

Finally, if a patient has been cleared from the facility, he or she will be given days or weeks to adjust to the society. The former patient would then come back for a support group therapy where one could share his or her experiences in coping up with mental illness to a still recovering group. This will also become a monitoring opportunity for the psychiatric doctor who cleared that patient.

But just like any other doctor would recommend, prevention is better than cure, thus Babista advised that people should already know the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses before a there is need that arouses to confine one to a mental facility.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 08, 2014.

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