Treatments for mental disorders

April 22, 2014
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Mental disorders are generally characterized by changes in mood, thought, and/or behavior. They can make daily activities difficult and impair a person’s ability to work, interact with family, and fulfill other major life functions. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health data — 2014 (PFD | 3.4 MB) shows that 43.6 million adults ages 18 and older experienced some form of mental illness in the past year, or about 18.1% of the adult population.

SAMHSA’s Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) provides funds and technical assistance for community-based mental health services to adults with serious mental illnesses and to children with serious emotional disturbances. SAMHSA also funds a number of other grant programs to help individuals with or at risk of developing mental disorders. For more information about these programs, read about SAMHSA’s grant opportunities and the grant application, review, and management process.

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders range from specific phobias, such as the fear of flying, to more generalized feelings of worry and tension. This group of disorders includes panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder.

The use of medication to treat anxiety disorders may be recommended, and while medication alone does not address the underlying reasons that a person develops an anxiety disorder, the use of medication can help keep symptoms under control while other forms of treatment are implemented. Examples of medication that may be used as part of a treatment approach to anxiety disorders includes anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) such as clonazepam, lorazepam, and alprazolam. Anti-depressants such as fluoxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine may be used. In some circumstances beta-blockers can also be prescribed to reduce physical symptoms such as sweating. Importantly, medications work differently in different people and need to be prescribed and monitored by appropriate medical personnel.

Effective treatments for anxiety disorders also include various forms of counseling, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapies that help people address their fears by modifying the way they think and respond to stressful events
  • Mindfulness therapy that helps patients stay focused in the present and to stop struggling to control distressing thoughts and feelings resulting in greater self-acceptance
  • Exposure therapies that use a method of gradual exposure to fearful situations that leads to decreased anxiety

Exercise and relaxation techniques such as meditation can be useful for people with this disorder because they help to lower stress and to manage severe worry. Positive support from family, friends, and other peers also helps to reinforce anxiety disorder treatment.

Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder characterized by excessive hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattention. While ADHD is typically diagnosed in childhood, symptoms may persist into adulthood. ADHD is most effectively treated with a combination of medication and counseling. Prescription stimulants are the most widely used medications to treat ADHD. Seventy to 80% of children with ADHD show improved attention span, reduced impulsivity, and improved on-task behavior while taking stimulant medications.

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Mental Disorders | Treatments
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Treatments for Schizophrenia and Other Severe Mental Disorders
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