How Occupational Therapy Can Improve Mental Health

While you might think of occupational therapy (OT) as something that mainly benefits the physically disabled, OT can also be of immense benefit to people suffering from mental health problems like bipolar disorder and depression. Working with a skilled occupational therapist can help you more completely understand your own capabilities to work, perform the activities of daily living and generally take care of yourself. It can also help you establish your goals for mental illness treatment, and determine which environmental and lifestyle adjustments and adaptations are necessary to help you live a full life while managing your mental illness.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy includes treatments that help you recover or develop and maintain your living and work skills. In addition to skills related to your career and professional life, occupational treatment can also help you build the skills necessary to navigate every aspect of daily life, from taking care of yourself physically to managing your money, nurturing your relationships and pursuing personal fulfillment. The goal of occupational treatment is to help you live as meaningful and full a life as possible.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Mental Health

People who suffer from mental illness often have difficulty managing the tasks of daily living, much less pursuing personal and professional fulfillment. If you struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or another mental illness, you’ve no doubt experienced times when you’ve struggled to prepare meals for yourself, maintain personal hygiene, take care of your house, nurture your friendships and relationships and meet the demands of your job or education. You may have trouble concentrating or remembering things, maintaining appropriate routines, or taking pleasure in things you once enjoyed. OT can help with all of that.

With the help of an occupational therapist, you can gain a deeper understanding of the true limitations your mental illness places on your ability to function in society and care for yourself. Goals for treatment might include such things as establishing a regular routine for sleeping, eating, bathing and exercising. OT can help you develop the skills you need to manage your money, hold down a job and advance in your career, communicate effectively with those around you, and set realistic life goals for both the long and short terms.

Your occupational therapist may recommend that you make adjustments to your home and work environments, just as you would if you suffered from a physical disability. For example, if you have trouble remembering things, OT might help you learn to write things down. If you’re struggling with intense emotions, OT might help you develop some coping mechanisms. Your family and caregivers might also benefit from occupational therapy education about your condition and your special needs.

OT can also help you monitor your response to any psychoactive medications you may be on, so you can find the dosages and medications that work for you more quickly. By helping you to establish healthy routines, habits, and coping skills, OT can also protect you from a mental illness relapse.

Paying for Occupational Therapy

Most insurance companies will pay for OT for mental illness, but many will assume, at first, that you are seeking OT for a physical disability or for physical rehabilitation. If there is confusion with your insurance company, our occupational therapists can explain the purpose of your treatment and the role of OT in mental health rehabilitation to your insurance company. Once they understand your condition and the value of OT for treating mental illness, most insurance companies are receptive to covering the costs.

Occupational therapists typically collaborate with other professionals as part of an integrated and comprehensive treatment process. You will also receive mental health treatment from a psychotherapist and medical treatment from a psychiatrist. Working together, the team can help you gain control over your mental illness symptoms and return to a happy, healthy way of life.

Occupational therapy is just one of many services we offer to help our clients recover from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse disorders. If you or someone you love is suffering, there’s no time like the present to seek help.

Call us today at 888-415-0708. 

Can Love Protect You from Depression Symptoms?

If you’re suffering from depression symptoms, psychotherapy and medication can help you feel like yourself again. But, according to new research from the Universities of Jena and Kassel in Germany, a stable, loving romantic relationship can help strengthen your mind and stabilize your personality if you tend to be neurotic and prone to anxiety and depression symptoms or low self-esteem.

Romantic Relationships Can Reduce Neuroticism

Today, most psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions to the human personality: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. The extent to which you possess each of these core personality traits plays a huge role in determining your mental health, perspective and overall personality. A person who is highly neurotic is someone who tends to be anxious, irritable, moody, sad and generally unstable emotionally.

Neurotic people tend to react more strongly to negative events than people who are more emotionally stable. When facing an ambiguous situation, neurotic people will tend to leap to the worst conclusion, rather than being optimistic or even neutral. As a result, neurotic people are more prone to mood swings, emotional instability and depression symptoms.

The good news is that a loving, stable romantic relationship can bring about lasting and fundamental personality changes in neurotic people, making them more stable, more confident and more optimistic. That’s according to the results of the German study recently published in the online edition of Journal of Personality.

During the study, researchers followed 245 couples ranging in age from 18 to 35 years for nine months. The researchers interviewed each partner individually at three-month intervals to determine both each partner’s level of overall neuroticism and his or her satisfaction with his or her relationship.

The researchers also asked the study participants to explain how quotidian, but fictitious, life circumstances and events might affect their own relationships. Dr. Christine Finn, who used the framework of the study to write her doctoral dissertation, explained to Science Daily, “This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently.” For example, they have stronger negative emotional reactions in response to external stimuli, and tend to stay in a bad mood longer after something happens to trigger it.

Over time, the researchers found, neurotic people in strong, loving romantic relationships exhibited fewer neurotic tendencies and greater emotional stability. For people prone to depression symptoms, this means that a stable romantic relationship can have a protective effect against depression and anxiety and can provide the emotional support necessary for lasting change.

How Do Relationships Protect Against Depression Symptoms?

“The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality – not directly but indirectly – as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change,” Dr. Finn said.

Why? The researchers point out that partners in a relationship tend to support one another through life’s ups and downs, which can have a protective effect against anxiety and depression symptoms. Over time, that emotional support builds confidence and allows people in stable, loving relationships to face the world with greater hope and optimism.

The positive effects of romantic love on personality were visible in both male and female partners. Of course, the longer the relationship, the more beneficial the effects on personality; while shorter romantic relationships can certainly have a positive influence, changes in personality take time to develop.

It’s important to note that, in order for a romantic relationship to bring about positive personality changes and help stabilize a person who is prone to depression or anxiety, that relationship must be a healthy and loving one. Abusive, toxic or otherwise unhappy relationships can have the opposite effect. Furthermore, while this study shows that personalities can change and negative thinking habits can be unlearned, people suffering from anxiety or depression need mental health treatment for their symptoms. The support of a romantic partner alone is not enough to help you overcome anxiety or depression symptoms; in fact, your mental health symptoms could place such strain on your relationship that it may not survive.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or other mental health symptoms, there’s hope. You don’t have to suffer alone. With treatment, you can overcome your depression and learn to love life again.

Call 888-415-0708 today.

Kids with High Risk for Bipolar Disorder Benefit from Family Therapy

Bipolar disorder most often appears in young adults and older teens, but that doesn’t mean that kids aren’t vulnerable to it, too. Kids as young as six years of age have been known to develop bipolar disorder. Having a first-degree relative with the condition raises a kid’s risk of bipolar disorder – but research shows that family therapy can help kids at risk for the mental illness.

Benefits of Family Therapy for Kids with Bipolar Disorder

Researchers from the UCLA School of Medicine and Stanford University School of Medicine found, in a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, that a form of family therapy known as family-focused treatment or FFT could help middle-school-aged children at risk for developing bipolar disorder. The children and adolescents in the study were already struggling with symptoms indicative of major depression or sub-threshold bipolar symptoms. Each of the children were considered at high risk for developing bipolar disorder, due to having a first-degree relative with the illness.

The 40 study participants had an average age of 12 years. Their diagnoses included cyclothymic disorder, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified. Each study participant had a first-degree relative, most often a parent, who had been diagnosed with bipolar I or II disorder.

The researchers randomly assigned the participants to FFT. The treatment involved 12 sessions of family therapy over a period of four months. During the family therapy sessions, the children and their families learned strategies to manage mood swings, solve problems and communicate. Those were not assigned to FFT were assigned to complete one or two family information sessions.

More than half –60 percent – of the children were taking psychiatric medication when the study began. They continued taking their medication throughout the study period.

The researchers found that the children who participated in FFT recovered from their depression symptoms in an average of nine weeks, compared to 21 weeks for those who did not participate in FFT. Over the course of a year, the children who received FFT experienced more weeks of full remission from their depression symptoms, and more improvements in mania symptoms as well.

The researchers also rated the children’s families according to how emotionally expressive they were. Children living with families who were rated highly emotionally expressive – those families who expressive more critical comments or were more emotionally overprotective of their children – were found to need almost twice as much time to recover from depression and mania symptoms than those living with families who were rated as less emotionally expressive. However, FFT was found to help children from highly-expressive families enjoy more weeks of remission and improved moods throughout the study period, just as it did for those children from less expressive families who received the FFT.

The researchers stressed that the children’s mental health symptom at the time of the study and follow-up could not be used to determine whether these children would later develop bipolar disorder. Though the children studied were considered to be at high risk for the disorder, not all children who display mania, depression or other sub-threshold bipolar disorder symptoms go on to develop bipolar disorder.

Nevertheless, early intervention for kids at a high risk of bipolar disorder can help them achieve the best outcomes in the long term. When bipolar disorder is diagnosed at its earliest stages, those symptoms that have already appeared can be stabilized, and the family can learn to cope with the child’s mental health symptoms and mood swings.

Managing Your Child’s Bipolar Disorder

Family therapy can help you learn to manage your child’s bipolar disorder, and can help other members of the family understand what’s going on. If your child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, make sure he or she takes his or her medication on schedule. You and your doctor should monitor your child carefully for side effects, since the medications used to treat this condition were developed for use in adults. Your child may also have special needs at school; he or she may need a lighter workload or special breaks during class. Your child may have to stop going to school until his or her symptoms are stabilized.

If your family is coping with bipolar disorder, whether it affects a child or parent, family therapy is an essential part of recovery. Mental illness affects the whole family, but with treatment, you can all get back to living normal, happy lives.

Call us today at 1-888-415-0708 to learn more.

Could Ketamine Be the Next Big Thing in Depression Therapy?

The drugs currently available for depression therapy have their limitations. Most antidepressant drugs take at least a month to work, so people suffering from severe chronic depression have to wait weeks for relief. And that’s to say nothing of those who are experiencing short-term depression – for these folks, the antidepressant medications currently available aren’t much use at all.

But researchers may have discovered the path to quick, effective depression therapy drugs. Soon, doctors may be able to administer antidepressant medications that bring relief in a matter of hours or days, not weeks. The breakthrough comes from an unlikely source – the club drug, ketamine.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. It was developed in 1963 to replace PCP. Most of the ketamine that’s sold on the streets and abused recreationally is diverted from veterinarians’ offices, where it’s used to sedate animals for surgery. Ketamine is also used as a human anesthetic.

Ketamine abusers like the drug for its alleged hallucinogenic effects, and for the feeling of disassociation it causes. High doses of ketamine can be deadly.

Ketamine Used as Depression Therapy

A study published last month in the journal Biological Psychiatry suggests that ketamine, administered through the nostrils, can bring immediate relief for symptoms of severe depression in patients who have proved resistant to other depression treatments. The double-blind, crossover study saw researchers treat 20 patients struggling with severe depression with either a single, 50mg dose of ketamine or salt water. The researchers measure the patients’ response to the treatment according to the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. Patients self-reported any changes in their feelings of anxiety or depression, as well as their response to the medication.

Eight of the patients treated with ketamine were found to have demonstrated a measurable improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms within 24 hours of the treatment. Only one of the patients given saline demonstrated any improvement. The patients were treated with either ketamine or saline for two days, receiving one dose each day.

Although ketamine is known for its dissociative effects and its ability to raise blood pressure and heart rate, the researchers noted that these side effects were minimal in the patients receiving the drug for depression therapy. The researchers chose an intranasal means of administering the drug because of its effectiveness and ease. This non-invasive, effective method of administration could make patients who need the drug to relieve depression symptoms more likely to use it, the researchers believe.

Could Your Depression Therapy Include Ketamine?

The researchers concluded that ketamine was safe for depression treatment, but that doesn’t mean that the drug, which is already popular on the club scene and has a high potential for abuse, will become the new gold standard in depression treatment. Ketamine is too easy to abuse, many experts say, and its status as a club drug could give lawmakers and health care providers alike cause to hesitate in making it available to people who suffer from depression.

However, it’s not the ketamine itself, but the way that it affects the depressed brain, that has most experts intrigued. Ketamine works as a depression therapy by blocking the NMDA glutamate receptor, which prevents the reuptake of norephinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of happiness, positivity, pleasure and well-being; most antidepressants already in use for depression therapy work by preventing the reuptake, or breakdown, of one or two of these neurotransmitters in the brain. Ketamine’s ability to prevent the reuptake of all three at once is what makes it work so quickly.

Ketamine itself may not be administered to treat depression symptoms, but its mechanism of action could inspire mental health researchers to develop another drug that also works as quickly via the same mechanism. Ideally, this drug would be easy to administer, would relieve even severe depression symptoms within a day or two, and would have few side effects and, crucially, little potential for abuse.

In the meantime, people who suffer from depression can still find relief with a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. While many people may not begin to experience an improvement in symptoms for several weeks after they begin therapy, some experience relief sooner.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, call 888-415-0708 now to get help.