If you have a mental health problem what should you do?

Take the drugs! Therapy is for wimpy crybabies!

or

Go see a therapist--talk out your problems! Don't poison your body and hide what is really wrong!

Well, the real answer is both, but first some background.

Many many years ago a man named Rene Descartes did a lot of thinking. He thought and he thought and finally he determined that there is a mind and a body--they are seperate--it just so happens that the mind resides (temporarily) in the body.

This idea has come to be known as the Mind-Body Problem in philosophy. I will not be going into it here, but suffice it to say--many words have been written about this problem and the only way to deal with them all is to agree to disagree.

The Mind-Body Problem has trickled down into many things in our world, but in this case we are looking at medicine and psychology. Unfortunately many doctors see the mind solely as a bunch of excretions and chemical changes and neuroelectrical charges. Along with this many psychologists see the mind as something "other." They feel that it just happens to be part of the body and isn't really influenced by it except by what we experience with our body and our senses.

Many psychiatrists (doctors) would have you believe that any and all mental health problems are due to chemical or electrical imbalances in the brain (the physical thing in your skull) and that they can be fixed by retuning the chemical balances or altering the charges that travel the brain.

Many psychologists would have you beleive that any and all mental health problems are due to traumas and difficulties experienced in life. The only way to deal with them is to talk about them and deal with them in the structure of our life.

Now, what if we take a page from John Searle's book and say "to hell with you Descartes! I think your vocabulary stinks and that its all one thing!"

What if it is all just one thing? What if consciousness comes out of the chemical and electrical action of the brain? What if consciousness could alter the connections and chemistry of the brain? Both of these statements have been proven already. When the brain stops functioning your consciousness dissolves--but returns once the brain starts working again. Science has already shown that if they look at the number of connections in your brain before you read a book and after--there are more after reading the book--your experience has altered the physical makeup of the brain.

Can we now assume that if you have some kind of chemical problem in your brain it is going to alter the way you interact with the world? Can we assume that if something traumatic happens to you that there will be chemical and physical changes in the makeup of your brain? If so we can move on to the finale.

If I have a chemical problem in my brain, I am going to experience life in a certain way. Those experiences are going to alter the chemistry and physical makeup of my brain. Those changes will alter the way I experience life... See the cycle?

If I am horribly abused as a child those experiences are going to leave an indelible mark on my brain. Those changes will alter the way I live my life and have new experiences. The new experiences will alter my brain... Got it now?

Because the brain and the mind (conscious experience) make up a feedback loop it is quite hard to determine where the "real" problem lies--it becomes a "chicken and the egg problem." So why just choose one way to help the system and just hope that you chose the right one?

Medication will calm the symptoms and behaviors down to a somewhat manageable level--from there therapy can help the patient to change their behaviors consciously and learn coping mechanisms for what they can't change yet.

Now, if you think this is too academic (what with all the name-dropping and such) how about a personal note - as someone who has two (possibly related) mental illnesses I found that the drugs helped the symptoms, but the drugs and the therapy made life livable and managable.

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