Today’s blog post is born out of a feeling of frustration. This story is not unique, and not even uncommon:
A few days ago, a young man came to my clinic seeking a second opinion. He had endured abuse and neglect throughout his early life, and when he got old enough to understand his own feelings, he realized he never feels well (emotionally). So the young man went to a doctor, and he was given medications and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which he was told he had inherited from his parents. When the meds didn’t help, he went back to the doctor. He got other pills. When those didn’t work, he was offered other meds, again and again. After years of failed treatment, he decided to seek a second opinion.
Some mental health symptoms spark from neurobiology in the brain. Bipolar illness type I, for instance, involves cycles of high energy, decreased sleep, and extreme upswings in mood coupled with extreme downs and lows of energy and mood that often cannot be controlled without medication. Even this is not an absolute, though. Life stressors can bring about symptoms. Social support can be part of the resolution.
Mental health symptoms or conditions are not simply cured with pills. Some problems stem directly from psychosocial stressors or spiritual distress. Even within the bipolar spectrum of diagnosis, some mood cycles in bipolar type II or atypical bipolar respond best to psychosocial support, or counseling. Medication may not be very helpful for some symptoms, or even the primary treatment.
Professionals continue to talk about the search for genetic links in mental health conditions, and to talk about “chemical imbalances,” but what about:
Navigating tough stages of growth (like moving out and starting adulthood)
Grief and loss
The young man referenced above has lost years of well-being to a neurobiologic wild goose chase. There won’t ever be a pill that rids him of 100% of his distress. He needs something else. He has to grieve a life of trauma, and try to learn that he is no longer unsafe, as he was in childhood. Prescription pills might be useful tools along the way, but he doesn’t simply have an inherited brain disease to be cured with medication.
Mental health care involves care of the whole person, not just pills to change the biology of the brain.
- Oct 8, 2018 Child Abuse Awareness Is Mental Health Awareness. Child Abuse Prevention Is Mental Health Prevention
- Oct 1, 2018 Your Joke About People Being "Triggered" Isn't Funny
- Sep 24, 2018 Screen Time Is Not As Relaxing As We Like To Think
- Sep 17, 2018 Myths Doctors (and Nurses) Still Believe About Suicide
- Sep 10, 2018 5 Things Every Child With A Depressed Parent Understands - by Guest Ally Golden
- Sep 3, 2018 GAPS in the Mental Health Care System
- Aug 27, 2018 Stop and Smell the Roses: Everyday Mindfulness
- Aug 13, 2018 Mean Behind a Screen
- Aug 6, 2018 Dissatisfied Customer: When You Take Your Loved One to a Mental Health Provider, You May Not Get What You Want
- Jul 23, 2018 9 Ways You Can Reduce Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination
- Jul 16, 2018 Substance Use and Mental Illness: The Chicken and the Egg?
- Jul 9, 2018 Summer Camp: A Little Independence Away from Over-Supervised Childhood
- Jul 2, 2018 It Seems Half Of Young People In Their 20’s Are Labeled With (Or Label Themselves With) A Mental Disorder. How Did We Get Here?
- Jun 25, 2018 Mental Health Symptoms May Spark from Neurobiology in The Brain, But That’s Never the Whole Story
- Jun 11, 2018 Responsible Reporting of Suicide Saves Lives
- May 28, 2018 #MemorialDay #ThankYou
- May 21, 2018 Growing Up in the Era of School Shootings
- May 14, 2018 A Mental Health Tragedy Unfolds and the System Doesn’t Have an Answer
- May 7, 2018 The Smartphones Have Taken Our Teens
- Apr 30, 2018 College Parenting on Summer Break
- Apr 23, 2018 Is It Useful To Ground A Twenty-Year-Old?
- Apr 16, 2018 The Questions Everybody Wants To Ask About My Urgent Care Clinic
- Apr 9, 2018 Q & A with Dr. D
- Apr 2, 2018 “Why Must My Daughter Go Against Everything I’ve Taught Her?”
- Mar 26, 2018 The Gut-Brain and Young Adult Depression
- Mar 5, 2018 Hiding Vulnerabilities and Imperfections
- Feb 26, 2018 Helping Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help
- Feb 19, 2018 Oh, the Things Teens Can Teach Us: Laughing at Trolls
- Feb 12, 2018 To the 21-Year-Old Living at Home with Controlling Parents
- Feb 5, 2018 Lies Your Chronic Illness Tells You
- Jan 28, 2018 “OMG, She Is So Bipolar!” There's a Better Way to Say It
- Jan 22, 2018 By Michelle Mata, Guest: The Journey to Recovery
- Jan 15, 2018 Advocacy, Integrity, and MLKDay on My Anniversary
- Jan 8, 2018 Lost at Sea: Mental Health Crisis in the Young Adult Years
- Jan 1, 2018 For a Happier 2018, Change Just One Thing: Your Expectations
- Dec 18, 2017 After Mental Health Crisis, Well-Being Is Possible Again, But It’s Probably Not Going To Come From A Prescription Pill
- Dec 11, 2017 When Our Kids Fail
- Dec 4, 2017 Cousins Getting Along in the Holidays-- 8 Reminders for Kids
- Nov 27, 2017 Mental Health in the Holidays
- Nov 20, 2017 This Thanksgiving, Be Mindful
- Nov 13, 2017 “He just stays up in his room watching Netflix. Is that depression?”
- Oct 30, 2017 #MentalHealthAwareness is Great, But Where’s the Help?
- Oct 23, 2017 9 Tough Conversations Parents Need to Initiate
- Oct 16, 2017 Have Parenting Practices Become “Too Good” for the Good of Our Kids?
- Oct 9, 2017 Why Meds Aren’t Enough
- Oct 2, 2017 3 Questions to Ask if Your Child Is Having a Rough Start This Semester
- Sep 25, 2017 Doctor, I Know You’re Rushed, But Patients Need Reassurance
- Sep 18, 2017 5 Reasons You Need Psychosocial Rehab After a Mental Health Crisis
- Sep 11, 2017 Is It Possible To Advocate For More Mental Healthcare And Less At The Same Time?
- Sep 4, 2017 8 Problems in Teens and Young Adults That Mimic a Mental Health Condition, But Aren’t
- Aug 28, 2017 Does Advice on “Finding Joy” Help or Harm People with Depression?
- Aug 21, 2017 Can the Solar Eclipse Bring Us Hope for Transformational Change?
- Aug 14, 2017 Families Belong on the #MentalHealthCare Treatment Team!
- Aug 7, 2017 Questions You May Have Always Wanted to Ask A Psychiatrist
- Jul 31, 2017 Grit and Mental Wellness
- Jul 24, 2017 12 Reasons Parents Are Worried About Their 20-Something Kids
- Jul 17, 2017 8 Things Every 20 Year Old Needs to Know
- Jul 10, 2017 8 Things Teens Need to Learn by 16/Driving Age
- Jul 3, 2017 8 Things Kids Need to Master By Age 13
- Jun 12, 2017 Parents: Start Off Summer Right (And Then Relax)
- May 29, 2017 Get Some Memorial Day Quiet Time
- May 22, 2017 Adult-Child Returning Home This Summer? Make Sure You Have a Plan
- May 15, 2017 #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
- May 8, 2017 The Month of May is Stressful. 12 Ways to Cope:
- May 1, 2017 Adolescence: A Built in Second Chance for the Brain
- Apr 24, 2017 Why I Want to Hear From Your Mom
- Apr 17, 2017 Cyberbullying: Not Your Dad’s Schoolyard Fisticuffs
- Apr 10, 2017 The Secrets Inside Someone Else’s House
- Mar 27, 2017 Yes, Antidepressants Work Differently in Teen Brains
- Mar 20, 2017 Casting Light
- Mar 13, 2017 Gratitude
- Mar 6, 2017 FAQ’s: Mental Health Urgent Care
- Feb 27, 2017 10 Reasons to Stay Out of the Psychiatrist’s Office
- Feb 20, 2017 When Mom or Dad Has a Mental Illness
- Feb 13, 2017 When An Adult Child is Diagnosed With Mental Illness: A Parent’s Role
- Feb 6, 2017 Depression is Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual
- Jan 30, 2017 Teens in High School, and Keeping It Together, Mama
- Jan 23, 2017 What Do We Believe About Each Other?
- Jan 16, 2017 “Hey, Doc! You Support My Stance on Marijuana, Don’t You?”
- Jan 9, 2017 An Expert in Teen Mental Health (Until I Walk In the Door At Home)
- Jan 2, 2017 I’m So Depressed (No, You’re Not.)
- Dec 19, 2016 Stigma Within the Healthcare System
- Dec 12, 2016 Today My Son Stood Up
- Dec 12, 2016 Cracks in the Dam of Mental Health Care
- Dec 5, 2016 Stepping in When Your Teen is Cyberbullied
- Nov 28, 2016 Let’s Revisit Giving Thanks
- Nov 14, 2016 America: The Kids Are Listening
- Oct 31, 2016 I Voted 2016
- Oct 24, 2016 The October Crisis
- Oct 17, 2016 In Case of Psychiatric Emergency
- Oct 10, 2016 Reacting Like a Wild Beast
- Sep 26, 2016 Doctor Mama: School’s Back Self-Care
- Sep 19, 2016 Too Much Parenting
- Sep 12, 2016 A Generation Unprepared
- Sep 5, 2016 A Plan for Living Mindfully
- Aug 22, 2016 Grief Is a Skill
- Aug 15, 2016 From Summer to School for Behavioral Special Needs (and Everyone)
- Aug 8, 2016 Psychiatric Care Is Impossible to Find. Urgent Care Clinics Provide the Solution
- Aug 1, 2016 8 Things Your Teen Cares More About Than School and Why They Matter
- Jul 25, 2016 What I Learned About Pokémon Go On Vacation With My Kids