What treatments are available?
The two most common forms of treatment are talking treatments and medication. There are also alternative treatments available, which you may wish to try.
Talking treatments provide a regular time and space for you to talk about your thoughts and experiences and explore difficult feelings with a trained professional. This could help you to:
- deal with a specific problem
- cope with upsetting memories or experiences
- improve your relationships
- develop more helpful ways of living day-to-day
You may hear various terms used to describe talking treatments, including counselling, psychotherapy, therapy, talking therapy or psychological therapy. These terms are all used to describe the same general style of treatment. There are many different types of therapy available and it’s important to find a style and a therapist that you feel comfortable with. For example, you may be offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is a relatively short-term treatment that focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and aims to teach you practical skills for dealing with your problems
“Talking things through with a counsellor or therapist really helps me to see things more rationally and make connections between reality and inside my head.”
The most common type of treatment available is prescription medication.
These drugs don’t cure mental health problems, but they can ease many symptoms. Which type of drug you are offered will depend on your diagnosis. For example:
- antidepressants – these are mostly prescribed for people experiencing depression, though you might also be offered an antidepressant if you’re experiencing anxiety, OCD, eating problems, or depression as part of another mental health problem
- minor tranquillisers or sleeping pills – these can help you sleep, or calm you down if you experience anxiety (sometimes called anti- anxiety medication)
- mood stabilisers – these help stabilise your mood when you experience extreme mood swings, for example if you have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder
- antipsychotics – these reduce distressing symptoms of psychosis, but are sometimes also prescribed for people experiencing bipolar disorder as they can help control mania
Many people find these drugs helpful, as they can lessen your symptoms and allow you to cope at work and at home. However, drugs can have unpleasant side effects that may make you feel worse rather than better. They can also be difficult to withdraw from, or cause you physical harm if taken in too high a dose.
Before prescribing you any medication, your doctor should explain to you what the medication is for, and discuss any possible side effects and alternative treatment options.
“Antidepressants helped once I found the right ones.”
Arts therapies are a way of using the arts – music, painting, dance or drama – to express and understand yourself in a therapeutic environment with a trained therapist. Arts therapies can be especially helpful if you find it difficult to talk about your problems and how you are feeling.
Complementary and alternative therapies
Some people find complementary and alternative therapies helpful to manage stress and other common symptoms of mental health problems. These can include:
The clinical evidence for these therapies is not as robust as it is for other treatments, but you may find they work for you.
What should I say to my doctor?
When you talk to your doctor it can be helpful to:
- be honest and open
- focus on how you feel, rather than what diagnosis you might meet
- try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed
- use words and descriptions that feel natural to you – you don’t have to say specific things to get help
- try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant –everyone deserves help and your doctor is there to support you
Be aware that doctor’s appointments are often short, so it’s a good idea to prepare in advance. You could write down what you want to say, and take your notes in with you. Using short bullet points rather than long paragraphs can help ensure you cover all the points you want to. highlight or print out any information you’ve found that helps you explain how you’re feeling Think about taking someone with you to support you, like a close friend or family member.
“The first time I went to my GP about my depression, I was completely terrified. I had suffered in silence for six months, and was so ashamed that I couldn’t ‘fix’ it myself. Thankfully my GP was lovely and really seemed to care.
Will I recover?
It is possible to recover from mental health problems and many people do – especially after accessing support. Your symptoms may return from time to time, but when you’ve discovered which self-care techniques and treatments work best for you, you’re more likely to feel confident in managing them.
If you’re experiencing a more serious mental health problem, it’s still very possible to find ways to manage your symptoms. For many people, getting better doesn’t necessarily mean going back to how your life was before, but learning new ways to live your life the way you want to, and gaining control over areas of your life that might have felt out of your control before. However, it’s important to remember that recovery is a journey, and it won’t always be straightforward. You might find it more helpful to focus on learning more about yourself and developing ways to cope, rather than trying to get rid of every symptom of your mental health problem. What recovery means to you will be personal, but for most people, the most important thing is to find ways to live the kind of life you want.
Further information about living with particular diagnoses is available in Mind’s Understanding booklets.
“With time you do learn to cope… I have struggled for 15 years with [my mental health problem], but every year I seem to get stronger and better at coping with it!”