Mental Health conditions affect as many as 1 in 5 adults in an average year, and sadly, 25% or more of our veterans. And please don’t forget about children- according to the CDC, almost 20% of children aged 3-17 suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. In the current year, with political uncertainty, divisiveness, and Covid-19, the CDC estimates as many as 40% of us are now suffering from a mental health condition.
It is important to understand that mental illness, like any illness, is a health condition that should be diagnosed and can be effectively treated. And of note is the fact that Functional Medicine practitioners can offer testing and treatment not generally available in a conventional primary care setting. As I’ve addressed previously (see post explaining a bit about Functional Medicine), Functional Medicine practitioners are trained to evaluate and treat ALL components of health using a process that considers mind, body, and spirit. Most health conditions didn’t develop out of thin air, and the same can be said for mental health conditions. Unfortunately, our society has historically viewed (and in some respects continues to view) mental illness as non-medical, “self-inflicted”, and “attention seeking”- I could go on. The fact is, mental illness is a disease with many potential causative factors.
Personal and family environment, a history of traumatic events, and behavioral history are often evaluated as part of diagnosing a patient with a mental health condition. But what about genetics, hormonal imbalances, neurotransmitter imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and medication interactions or adverse effects? These are several of the aspects of health that a Functional Medicine practitioner will consider when evaluating a patient. Did you know that addressing these aspects of health can improve or eliminate symptoms?
For example, a 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating Vitamin D and depression concluded that correcting Vitamin D deficiency was in many cases comparable to anti-depressant medications in treating depression. Another example is the relationship between the neurotransmitter serotonin and mental health disorders. Did you know that the bulk of serotonin is “manufactured” in the gut? Have depression or anxiety and also have gut issues? Think about the potential connection.
Do you have a teenager with acne who was prescribed medication and subsequently developed a mental illness? Use of some common medications used to treat acne (as well as a host of others for unrelated conditions), can cause mental health related adverse effects.
Are you suffering from post-partum depression or menopause related mood changes? Has anyone monitored your sex hormones, cyclical changes, and their relationship to mood? Lots of correlations between hormonal imbalances and mood.
Thyroid imbalances, much like sex hormone imbalances, are often correlated with mood disorders.
By now, I think you see that a multitude of factors can influence mood.
What about treatment? Most of us think that prescription medications are the only treatment for mental illness, and in many cases these medications can be quite helpful. Important point- medication/substance use disorder is frequently a symptom of a mental health condition- much more about that in a future blog post. Behavioral therapy is a frequently recommended yet often under-utilized component of treatment. Studies show that prescription medications are most effective in combination with behavioral therapy. I strongly urge my patients dealing with mental health issues to seek treatment with a behavioral therapist. But what about the multitude of adaptogenic herbs, medicinal mushrooms, and other nutraceuticals that have been shown to help with mood disorders? These are often overlooked, yet when used appropriately and with consideration of other medications can be very effective.
What about correcting hormonal imbalances and managing thyroid function as an effective treatment for anxiety and depression?
And then there’s sleep- see my previous blog about sleep disorders and know that chronic insomnia can have a profound impact on mood.
And to me, most importantly, is the power of prayer.
Using a Functional Medicine approach to evaluate and treat disease is not a guarantee of success, much like any other medical treatment. But it sure can help, especially with identifying and correcting those imbalances that can contribute to mental health disease. As I say to my patients- it’s generally multiple issues that contribute to illness and disease, and the more you can identify and treat, the better the results will be. Please note that if you suffer from severe depression or other severe mental illness, a psychiatrist must be an essential part of your care.
During the month of October, our office is offering a complementary Functional mental health screening tool from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Click on the link below to print your copy of the detailed questionnaire with scoring. And if you would like to discuss your results and how Functional Medicine can potentially improve your symptoms, give us a call.
D/A/S scale with scoring
*If you are unemployed or in financial need, our office may be able to offer reduced charge appointments. Contact our office to discuss.
Are you depressed, anxious, or even considering that your life is not worthwhile? Know that you are not alone, and that help and treatment is a phone call away. Below is a list of resources that you can take advantage of today, now.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Useful Links & Resources:
Depression, Anxiety and Stress Questionnaire & score sheet: