What is psychiatry? It is the branch of medicine which focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
A medical doctor who specializes in mental health is a psychiatrist. His/her expertise in this field also covers substance use disorder and he/she is capable and qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of any psychological problem.
There are many reasons why people seek psychiatric help. The problems can be sudden: panic attack, extreme hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, or the case of hearing “voices”. Other problems are considered long-term, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiousness that usually lingers, leading to a life of distortion and chaos.
To provide a detailed and full picture of a patient’s physical and mental state, psychiatrists order or perform laboratory and psychological tests, combined and along with frequent discussions and monitoring with the patient. Their extensive and thorough education and clinical training equip these psychiatrists to fully understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses along with genetics and family history, to assess medical and psychological data, to come up with a diagnosis and to work with the patient in developing effective medical plans.
The history of treating mental illnesses dates back to 5000 B.C.E. with the evidence of “trephined skulls”. In older times, it was believed that mental illness was “the result of supernatural phenomena” such as “demonic possession”, “sorcery” and “the evil eye”. “Trephine” is the act of chipping a hole into the skull of a person, believed to be possessed by the demon. Through this, “the evil spirits would be released” eventually healing the patient.
As a matter of fact, Persians, Egyptians and Greeks practiced several ways in identifying and treating mental illness. Hippocrates discovered that illnesses come from “natural occurrences in the body”. He disregarded superstitious beliefs and focused on the medical aspect of the illness. He studied the pathology of the brain and suggested that mental illness stemmed from imbalances in the body of a person.
As treatments and ways in healing the mentally ill evolved, a somewhat negative aspect rose. Due to certain atrocious procedures and horrific manners in which people with mental illness were treated in facilities and asylums, many reforms began to take place. Throughout the course of history, there have been comprehensive changes in how the mentally ill are treated and cared for. These changes occurred due to various conflicting societal views and knowledge of what mental illness really is. The radical changes have brought psychiatry out of a negative light and have given psychiatric studies a brighter and hopeful future with regard to effective avenues in treating people with mental problems.
Two reformists greatly influenced the spread of what is popularly known as the “Humanitarian Movement”. They believed that kindness and compassion are instruments in the healing process. Along with the creation of state-operated psychiatric hospitals, came the increase in psychoanalysis. The father of psychology, Sigmund Freud, was the creator of psychoanalysis.
The most common form of psychoanalysis is to help individuals with mental illness identify and achieve their own goals. Also, it keeps patients occupied, thus cure them from delusions and irrationalities.
Morever, the introduction of pharmacology led to the deinstitutionalization reform that changed the view from institutionalized care to community-oriented care with the idea to improve the quality of life. Based on studies, many of the treatments given and enacted on mentally ill patients throughout history haven been somewhat ineffective and are considered as “pathological sciences”. Those being treated haven’t actually benefitted from these treatments.
As the social stance and knowledge have greatly changed, so has the overall treatment of those afflicted with mental pathologies. These treatments will continue to evolve as the world expands its knowledge and explores the possibilities and breakthroughs of brain pathology.