top of page

Pharmacological vs. Non Pharmacological Approaches to Diagnosing Common Psychological Disorders


A woman riding a bike on a mountain

With the recent increase in diagnosed psychological disorders, it’s no secret that people all over the world are struggling with their mental health. According to the World Health Organization, across the globe, 1 in every 8 people are living with a mental health disorder. The estimated percent of individuals living with an undiagnosed mental illness is estimated to be about 50% of the population. There are various different types of mental disorders. Each one comes with its own unique set of classifications, treatment options and side effects. Three of the most common psychological disorders that offer both pharmacological vs. non pharmacological treatment options are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and Depression.

Pharmacological vs. Non Pharmacological Approaches to Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a chronic condition that causes extreme anxiety and obsessive thoughts. People with OCD often feel compelled to perform rituals to reduce anxiety or prevent negative events. These compulsions include repeating phrases over and over again, counting, checking things repeatedly, or performing repetitive behaviors such as hand washing.

There are many different treatment options for people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Pharmacological vs. Non Pharmacological Approaches bring about different treatment options. Some treatments focus on changing how someone thinks about certain situations while others help them change their behavior.

The most commonly used pharmacological treatment involves taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs. Used at a higher level and for a longer time than it would  for depression, SSRIs have proven to be extremely beneficial in treating individuals with OCD. People with OCD usually seek treatment because it helps them manage their symptoms and live a normal life.

Non Pharmacological Approaches to Treating Obsessive Compulsive Order

Before the invention of modern medicine, we only had non pharmacological treatments to help individuals cope with mental health issues. Non pharmacological treatment refers to a treatment that does not involve the use of drugs or medication. One of the most common non pharmacological treatments is talk therapy. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, has been around for thousands of years.

When it comes to treating patients with OCD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapeutic treatment, has proven to be successful. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT aims to help patients recognize, then change certain thought patterns and behaviors.

The goal of CBT is to help people understand their emotions and develop healthier ways of dealing with stress. CBT helps patients identify negative thinking patterns that lead to emotional distress and teaches them how to cope with stressful events in healthy ways.

Pharmacological Approaches to Treating Depression 

There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to treating depression. The most common type of medication that has been shown to reduce the side effects of depression is a drug called an antidepressant.  Recent studies show that antidepressants, in conjunction with psychotherapy, are superior to other active treatment options.

These findings suggest that patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) benefit equally well from either medication or psychological intervention. This study provides further evidence that antidepressant medications are effective and that psychological interventions are effective for treating depression.

Antidepressants have been shown to improve symptoms of depression within one week, and it takes about four weeks for full benefits to emerge. Therefore, it is recommended that people suffering from mild to moderate depression start taking antidepressants immediately. 

Antidepressants come in many forms. They’re used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), postpartum depression, eating disorders, insomnia, pain management and more.

There are many types of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), norepinephrine/serotonin reuptake inhibitors (NSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Each type of antidepressant has unique benefits and side effects.

The most common antidepressants today are SSRIs, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro. These medications work by inhibiting the action of enzymes called serotonin transporters, which transport serotonin into cells where it can interact with receptors. Serotonin plays a role in mood regulation, sleep patterns, appetite control and social behavior. Inhibiting the transporter reduces the amount of serotonin available to bind to receptors. This increases the levels of serotonin in the brain and helps relieve symptoms of depression.

Non Pharmacological Treatments for Depression

Depression affects about 350 million people across the world. In the United States alone, it costs an estimated $193 billion per year and is one of the leading causes of disability among adults. Despite the availability of pharmacological treatments, many patients still experience insufficient symptom relief.

Recent studies have been done comparing CBT, exercise, mindfulness meditation and/or psychosocial support with antidepressant medication. Compared with antidepressants, CBT, exercise and mindfulness meditation were associated with significant improvements in depressive symptoms.

However, there was no difference in remission rates between CBT and antidepressants. Exercise and mindfulness meditation showed similar effectiveness to antidepressants. While CBT showed greater improvement in anxiety symptoms than antidepressants, there was no evidence that CBT had better effects on quality of life. When looking at non pharmacological treatments for depression, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, exercise and mindful meditation are promising treatment options. 

Pharmacological Treatments for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems affecting people around the world. There are different types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and specific phobias.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry about everyday events and concerns about future events. The two main pharmacological treatments for anxiety are antidepressants and benzodiazepines. 

Common antidepressants on the market today are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly known as SSRIs. They work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain which help regulate mood and behavior. When someone takes an antidepressant, the body produces less serotonin. This makes the person feel happier and calmer.  There are several types of SSRIs, including fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro). SSRIs are typically very effective in treating anxiety.

Benzodiazepines can be used to help individuals who have quick on-set anxiety, for example frequent panic attacks. They act as depressants on the central nervous system and cause the body to slow down its flight or fight response. There are several types of benzodiazepines, some of the most prescribed are Valium, Xanax and Klonopin. It’s important to be careful when taking these medications due to their highly addictive nature.

Non Pharmacological Approaches to Treating Anxiety

The diagnosis of anxiety and related disorders is complicated by the fact that there are many different types of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders affect people differently and some symptoms may be less noticeable in older individuals. For example, older adults may experience anxiety differently than younger adults because of changes in cognitive function and social roles.

There are a variety of non pharmacological, as well as, psychological approaches to treating anxiety. Psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy, have also been found to be effective in treating anxiety disorders.

Some alternative, non pharmacological therapies that can help treat anxiety include, mindfulness meditation, yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback, and music therapy.

BrainHealth Solutions Offers The Best in Pharmacological and Non Pharmacological Mental Health Solutions

Medications are important tools for managing health conditions. They help people feel better, live longer, prevent disease and improve quality of life. 

The use of non pharmacological therapies has also seen a lot of success in treating mental health disorders. However, there are many different types of treatments and no one type of treatment works best for everyone. Dr. Bota and his professional team at BrainHealth Solutions know how important it is to understand each approach and how they can benefit you.

Call us today to learn more about our different treatment options!

Comments


bottom of page