Is it possible to cure mental illness?

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Answered by: Sam, An Expert in the Treatment for OCD Category
Unlike physical illnesses which have a distinct cause, mental illnesses are much more complex in both their initiation and development resulting in them being much more difficult to treat. Unfortunately, there are no clear cut cures for illnesses such as Depression and Obsessive-compulsive disorder but there are many different options open for people experiencing mental health difficulties to learn to cope with their illness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to be relatively successful in treating a range of psychiatric disorders such as depression and phobic disorders, aiming to challenge a patient's individual way of irrational thinking. Unlike the seemingly miracle cure of chemotherapy, CBT acts as a long term solution avoiding the risks of addiction that follow drugs such as Prozac, which merely provide a quick and temporary fix. However, CBT involves a lot of effort to challenge your own thoughts which are not just confined to the therapy session; patient's learn techniques which are employed in their day to day life and sometimes this can put a strain on the patient.

Nevertheless, CBT is just one of many psychological therapies available for people experiencing mental health problems. For example, an effective method for treating phobic disorders is systematic desensitization which involves the patient making a list of least feared to most feared scenarios related to their phobia. The therapist then guides the patient into a state of relaxation and is asked to think about the least feared stimuli until their anxiety subsides; this is done for each of the feared scenarios starting from least feared and ending with most feared. The underlying principle is that through associating the fear with relaxation, when a person comes into contact with their previous fear they will no longer produce an anxious response. Although this may sound quite simple, psychological therapies require a lot of motivation on the patient's part to improve and get better and without this motivation the therapy may prove unsuccessful.

However, psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia are more serious than anxiety disorders and are often treated by a combination of drugs and a psychological therapy. This is because of the complexity of the disorder and an inability to distinguish its direct cause; some believe it is a result of anatomical differences in the brain whereas others argue the disorder occurs because the individual has experienced a maladaptive upbringing. The nature and nurture argument is an ongoing debate in the field of psychology and highlights the uncertainty in what exactly causes mental illness and if it is even going to be possible to cure mental illness in the future.

It is impossible to completely cure mental illness at this point in time; no treatment can definitively rid of the problem. However, there are many options available to someone experiencing mental health problems to help them cope in the everyday world, although no mental illness can be cured it can be managed to a degree whereby the sufferer no longer has to suffer. Seeking help for mental health concerns can be very daunting, but from past experience motivation to change can make the difference between simply being alive and living.

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