Depression and other mental disorders are diagnosed through patient interview and reporting of symptoms to their doctor. But if the patient forgot some of the symptoms, or were in denial of some of them, would there be an accurate diagnosis? Probably not!
Diagnosis of depression, anxiety and bipolar disease is currently based on a list of symptoms. As a matter of fact, psychiatry is the only specialty that treats the symptoms of a disorder without any diagnostic testing to determine the underlying cause. Luckily, things are now starting to change.
Addressing the symptoms of the disease is the primary concern of conventional psychiatric treatment. But then, psychotropic medication will only tackle the symptoms and not the real cause of the imbalance. Once the patient stops taking medication, the symptoms will come back. Similarly, patients may experience the same symptoms for a certain mental disorder yet the root cause is diverse. Personalized treatment for each patient is therefore important, and this can be achieved through functional medicine.
Functional medicine is a revolutionary concept which emphasizes that everything is connected. The mind is affected by the different organs of the body and vice versa. Our gut, for instance, has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other mental disorders. Some studies show that problems with neurotransmitter production starts from the gut before it affects the brain. There is also growing evidence that toxicity, nutritional deficiency, blood sugar control and other dietary factors are highly associated with brain dysfunction. Recognizing this complex connection, functional medicine examines all the factors that may have impact on the patient’s condition, as opposed to conventional medicine that only concentrates on the disease itself.
As functional medicine emerges as a new treatment for mental illness, the focus is redirected to the underlying causes of the illness rather than the symptoms. This holistic approach involves the assessment of clinical imbalances through the patient’s medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests. Functional medicine also looks into the genetic makeup of a patient and environmental factors such as diet, physical activities, traumatic experience, and exposure to toxic substances. And in order to fully understand the condition of a patient, functional medicine practitioners consider the psychological, spiritual and social elements that influence the patient’s health.
Beyond conventional psychiatric treatments, functional medicine manages other factors with profound effects on mental health. It explores a wide array of interventions that are customized according to the needs of the patient. In combination with pharmaceutical and/or surgical interventions, functional medicine incorporates therapeutic diet, detoxification programs, counseling, lifestyle change, stress management and nutritional supplementation as part of the treatment. The aim of this treatment is not only to relieve the symptoms but to cure the illness and improve the overall health of the patient.
With the increasing epidemic of psychiatric disorders adversely affecting the lives of millions of people, functional medicine holds the promise of a more natural, holistic and effective treatment to mental illness.
If you are experiencing symptoms affecting your mental or physical health and want to get to the root of the problem once and for all, consider having an evaluation with a practitioner that has been trained in functional medicine. Experienced Functional Medicine practitioners at IntegrativePsychiatry.net are available for phone or office consultations here.