Is There Hope for Complex Mental Health Conditions?

Comorbidity

Many people think of mental health disorders as isolated conditions. When we hear someone say, “I have depression,” or “My husband has anxiety” it leads us to think that there’s a specific solution for each of these problems that would help people feel better. But it’s not quite that simple.

For instance, if someone had only depression, you might think antidepressants would be the simple solution to reduce symptoms and boost their mood and energy. But more than half of depressed patients don’t get the relief they want from taking antidepressants, according to a large study. Similarly, if someone has ADD/ADHD, you might think that prescription stimulants are the easy answer to their issues. But they often aren’t. Why are the standard treatment models ineffective for so many people?

Increasingly, physicians and other clinicians recognize that most patients with psychiatric conditions have complex conditions that don’t fit into the tidy categorical boxes described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM)—and for a good reason. Many people with mental health issues have an array of symptoms that can occur in a variety of disorders and confound the diagnostic process.

Here’s an example of the same symptoms which can be seen in different mental health issues:

Depression Anxiety ADHD Bipolar Disorder TBI
Irritability x x x x
Insomnia x x x x
Poor concentration x x x x x
Impulsivity x x x
Restlessness x x x x x
Behavioral problems x x x

 

Having More Than One Psychiatric Diagnosis is Common

While there are other symptoms that cross diagnostic categories too, recognizing that most mental health problems are not single or simple disorders is helpful in understanding why so many people struggle to get adequate relief of their symptoms.

A 2019 research study published in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry, reviewed the mental health history data of more than 5 million people and found that having one mental health disorder increased the risk of having another. This means that comorbidity (having two or more conditions) may actually be more common than having just one.

Comorbidity (having two or more mental health conditions) may actually be more common than having just one. Click To Tweet

This means it’s common for people to have multiple conditions at the same time, such as depression and anxiety, ADD/ADHD and depression, panic disorder and bipolar disorder, addiction and anxiety or depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and an eating disorder, and so on. Having multiple psychiatric disorders is referred to as dual diagnosis, co-occurring conditions, or co-existing disorders. Treating only one of the conditions will never be adequate. All of the issues need to be treated in order to get well.

While it is still not yet known why mental health problems are more complex than originally believed, there are likely some genetic influences and environmental experiences that make some people more vulnerable to them.

Mental Health Disorders Have Multiple Causes

However, what we do know, is that a person’s mental health is directly linked to what’s going on in their brain. During the past 30 years, many people have sought treatment at Amen Clinics after they’ve had several failed attempts to feel better elsewhere. This is largely because of traditional psychiatry’s reliance on the limited DSM symptom-cluster approach to diagnosing their patients. Plus, most psychiatrists don’t use advanced imaging technology, such as SPECT (single-photon-emission-computed-tomography) to actually look at their patients’ brains to assess for the biological underpinnings of their symptoms.

Consequently, many people are misdiagnosed and/or inadequately treated because underlying brain problems are missed altogether. Using the example of depression again, to accurately treat a patient, it’s necessary to identify what could be driving a person’s symptoms, since there are several potential causes, including these:

Because of this, what works well for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else. There is not a one-size-fits-all treatment for depression—nor for any other psychiatric disorder—because of the complexities that come with each condition as well as the uniqueness of each person’s brain.

A Game-Changing Discovery

Another discovery that helps to explain the problems with treatment response also comes from the extensive brain SPECT imaging work done at Amen Clinics, which now has a database of more than 183,000 patient scans. One of the most important findings is that some of the more common mental health conditions have several identifiable subtypes, which are based on specific brain patterns.

The doctors and researchers at Amen Clinics have identified:

What makes this work so important is that each of the disorders and their subtypes has different characteristics, which require individualized treatment plans that take into consideration a patient’s symptoms as well as their brain biology and clinical history. Without having SPECT scans as an adjunct tool, it would be much more difficult to accurately diagnose and treat patients.

As Dr. Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics, has said, “How do you know unless you look?”

By having incorporated such a comprehensive evaluation process for each patient—including the valuable information from the scans—the doctors at Amen Clinics have successfully helped tens of thousands of people finally find relief from symptoms of multiple conditions, so they can live more fulfilling and healthy lives.

Complex mental health problems can’t wait. During this ongoing time of uncertainty, your mental well-being is more important than ever.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

8 Comments »

  1. After reading this article I think that my friend has bipolar, I’ve experienced the mania describing she can get very nasty, she wants a fight, and her eyes change. How do I tell her though???

    Comment by Jo — June 12, 2021 @ 1:54 AM

  2. Just read your article I am interested in getting more information on my twenty five year old grandson who have had ADHD and now said he is bipolar I am interested in having him take the spect and will like to know the cost please

    Comment by Patricia delves — June 16, 2021 @ 5:35 AM

  3. I’ve tried to find the right fight for a therapist and have not been successful! I’m so discouraged, Im beginning to believe there never will be a therapist for me!

    Comment by Maria — June 16, 2021 @ 7:00 AM

  4. This is such good information. We battled with my son’s problems since he was 6. He was diagnosed early on with ADHD and OCD. We went years with medication changes, psychological evaluations, therapy and very scared of suicidal conversations that started at a early age. We read everything about his problems and diagnosis. (In West Texas we have a huge shortage of Psychiatrists, Physiologists and so on.) Our son was seventeen going on 18 and we bit the bullet and contacted Amen Clinics. So glad we did. The SPECT scans have given us a wealth of information to include additional diagnoses. My son is on new meds and supplements, watching his diet, exercising and he is about 90% better. We are so happy. Thank you Amen Clinics!

    Comment by Neta Hansen — June 16, 2021 @ 8:35 AM

  5. Hello Patricia, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information about cost and how we can help schedule an appointment for your grandson. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 16, 2021 @ 12:03 PM

  6. Interested in the cost of a brain scan and further treatment for my daughter who is 30 and has a borderline personality disorder diagnosis along with depression and anxiety.

    Comment by Vonna nelson — June 17, 2021 @ 7:23 AM

  7. Hello Maria, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 17, 2021 @ 2:26 PM

  8. Hello Vonna, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly with more information regarding cost and scheduling an appointment at one of our 9 clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 17, 2021 @ 2:28 PM

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