CAM - What it is and how it can help you.
The past decade has seen a burgeoning of articles in the psychiatric literature on the use of CAM treatments as nutrients (e.g., fatty acids, folate, vitamin D), yoga, light therapy, acupuncture, and exercise.
CAM treatments have been discussed for a range of disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHA, dementia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
But what does it mean to treat the whole person or overall health? it means considering the full array of factors that can impact health, including:
- Energy influences
I also means therapeutically addressing the individual through all channels that can affect mental health for the better, including:
Each individual is unique. No human physiology is exactly like another, and no life experience is the same for any two people. So in we almost never find a 100% response to any treatment. What may be effective therapy for one individual, such as the adjustment of neurotransmitters, may be ineffective or deleterious for another.
Thus the advantage of the CAM toolbox - a variety of approaches that account for human individuality and that may be able to raise overall health sufficiently to tip the scales toward recovery. If someone with depression can get 10% improvement each from nutrients, diet change, exercise, acupuncture, and yoga, we have a 50% gain without side effects and with improved physical health.
While to some psychiatrists CAM may appear to be a random series of "new age" therapies that whimsically catch media attention, the larger message that has emerged is that CAM reminds us to look at the entire individual rather that just the brain when treating psychiatric disorders.
The additional advantage of CAM is that, while pharmacology can help manage symptoms, it does not necessarily raise overall health and can, in fact, mask signs that unhealthful conditions exist. This can worsen health and well-being in the long run. The CAM approach lets us look at the whole person to increase the chances of those negative conditions being uncovered.
The person's job for instance can be a risk factor - chemicals that have toxic effects on the brain, such as farming, metal plating, laboratory, mining, and certain types of manufacturing. Where one lives or one has recently been can be important. Toxic waste, a paucity of certain nutrients in the region's soil, political upheaval or other environmental threats can and do make a difference to mental well being.
Religion plays a major role in the lives of a great many, and it can have profound effects on the mental health of its adherents. Individuals can suffer great anxiety and depression over a religious issue, be it from guilt from transgressions, abortion, infidelity, pornography addtiction, dishonesty, child abuse, divorce or other weighty matters. Fear od going to hell or being excommunicated can become an obsession. They may not think to mention such things to a psychiatrist since he is a doctor and not a priest/pastor/rabbi.
Addressing the Mind
The concept of mindfulness or being in the present has been imported from China, India, and neighboring regions and encourages quieting the mind rather than engaging it or delving into it continuously for solutions.
Therapy Though Perceptions
Sight, hearing, smell, ect. - provide a channel for accessing cerebral activity and processes. Numerous modalities have arisen that utilize these pathways to manipulate mental processes in often simple but powerful ways - Aromatherapy has been used effectively to calm and improve behavior. Lavender oil, for example, reduces agitation in 60% of dementia patiens.
Music therapy takes many forms, from listening tomusic to performing it. It has been found helpful for many disorders and diminishes symptyoms of schizophrenia and depression.
Light therapy is now an established remedy for Seasonal Affective Disorder and is a simple option to medication for some
Massage therapy is a combination of touch and muscle manipulation that can have a relaxing effect. It has been found to significantly reduce symptoms of depression.
The importance of Hope
Hope is an essential element of recovery. Patients and caregivers who have hope have less depression and more reason to believe they will succeed.
A patient who is given one therapy as his only option can lose all hope if it fails. Many psychiatric patients (like myself) live lives of quiet desperation, suffering side effects from meds they dislike but feeling they have no other choice.
A client who is told there are other possible modalities of treatment- such as CAM therapies that can boost chances of symptom reduction or recovery - is given hope.
For many, hope is the most powerful medicine of all.