We are multidimensional beings, why is mental health treatment two-dimensional?Nov 04, 2022
We innately know as human beings how rich and colourful our internal lives are. The face we present to the world barely scratches the surface of who we truly are. There are so many aspects to us that it is no surprise that our mental health issues can stem from a myriad of possibilities. Some causes might lie in the brain networks which were laid down at birth, while other problems could stem from physical external factors like injuries or infections. On a more psychological level, our environment growing up and beyond shapes us and shapes our self-concept and schema, and negative experiences etch these unhelpful schema into our very existence and shape how we see ourselves and the world. On a more subtle level, a sense of disconnection from the universe, or lack of purpose or meaning can plague many people despite lives which are outwardly good.
Unfortunately, most mental health treatments used nowadays are designed to address only a small part of the problem, and simply fail to do justice to the range of experiences we as humans have.
As we see, unfortunately, mental illnesses do not fit into neat categories. They are complex creatures that can affect every layer of our existence. Yet, medications and talk-therapy can only access a very small part of the human experience.
‘’What is the solution?’’, you might ask. It is time to recognise that we are multidimensional beings and our solutions need to be multidimensional as well. However, it is not my intention to throw the aby with the bath-water; we have made enormous progress in the last century in regards to medications and talk-therapy which have helped many. But guess what? We are 20 years into this century and new techniques of healing still remain in the fringes. Psychiatry and Psychology textbooks have not changed much in the past 20 years. Maybe there has been an ‘es’ added to ‘citalopram’ or a ‘des’ added to ‘venlafaxine’ to produce new drugs, but nothing else seems to have oved. It is time to bring lesser known techniques into the mainstream and encourage robust research where needed. Here is a brief synopsis of techniques which have proved promising in alleviating mental illness and deserve more uptake:
- Neurofeedback: I consider neurofeedback the Cinderella of mental health. It has vast untapped potential but has largely been ignored by mainstream practitioners. It is a form of biofeedback for the brain. Simply put, it is gym training for the brain. As one receives visual and auditory feedback about one’s brain waves in real time, the brain learns how to self-regulate and create more efficient networks. Neurofeedback is effective in conditions as varied as Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-concussion syndrome, depression, anxiety, PTSD and developmental trauma and even chronic fatigue and chronic pain conditions. I believe it is time for neurofeedback to be introduced into the curriculum of postgraduate psychiatry and psychology.
- rTMS and tDCS: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) uses large magnets to create local depolarising currents in specific brain regions, which results in clinical improvement. It has been found to be effective in depression, anxiety and to some extent in post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD). It is gaining popularity rapidly due to its efficacy and non-invasiveness.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), on the other hand, delivers a weak direct current similar to that from a 9V battery to the brain, which increases neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to heal itself. There is ample research on the use of tDCS on a variety of mental health conditions. It is promising especially when combined with other neuromodulatory techniques to produce synergistic effects.
- EMDR, and Brainspotting: Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a technique which facilitates the processing of traumatic memories through rapid rhythmic eye movements, which dampen the emotional valence of a traumatic memory. A similar treatment is Brainspotting, which locates points in the visual field that help to access unprocessed trauma in the brain’s subcortical regions. Although very powerful for the treatment of PTSD, they are still considered fringe therapies and not enough mental health professionals are trained in them.
- RESET therapy: Developed by Dr. George Lindenfeld, RESET therapy (Reconsolidation enhancement through stimulation of emotional triggers) uses a device which delivers a disruptive auditory frequency to the ears while a memory is being evoked. The fear circuits are disrupted and the reconsolidated memory loses its emotional significance. RESET therapy has been researched on war veterans and has shown to result in improvement in just four sessions.
- Emotional Freedom Technique: Subsumed under the umbrella term of Energy Psychology, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) uses the body’s energy meridians to effect change in emotions. It involves a tapping sequence on some defined acupuncture points coupled with ‘setup statements’ which result in reduction of distress and symptoms.
These are just a few of many new and emerging solutions that can change the way we treat mental illnesses. They are all non-invasive and side-effect free, and easy to implement into clinical practice.
Which techniques appeal to you the most and which would you like to try? Do you have any solutions to add to this growing list?
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