Mental health treatment can be broadly defined as any type of intervention intended to help individuals with mental health issues. Throughout history, these treatment practices have gone through immense changes, influenced by factors such as cultural beliefs, religion, political temperatures, and scientific advancements. In this blog post, we’ll explore how mental health treatment has evolved over time.
Early Treatments for Mental Illness
Some of the earliest recorded treatments for mental illness come from Ancient Greece. Since mental illnesses were not well understood at the time, these early treatments were often based on superstition or misinformation.
Ancient Greek physicians believed that mental illnesses were a result of demonic possession or imbalances in the ‘four humors’ of the body – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Consequently, treatments included archaic practices such as bloodletting, purging, and a variety of herbs and medications.
The Middle Ages saw a rise in religious interpretations of mental illness. Mental illnesses were seen as a form of divine retribution for sin. As such, treatments included exorcisms, trephination (drilling holes in the skull to let out the evil spirits), bloodletting, flagellation, exorcism, and confinement.
Modern Treatments for Mental Illness
It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that attitudes toward mental illness began to shift to a more scientific-based approach. Thanks to the work of pioneers like Dorothea Dix and Philippe Pinel, people with mental illness started to be seen as sick people in need of help, not as outcasts. These pioneers advocated for more humane treatment of the mentally ill, including better living conditions and access to medical care.
In the early 20th century, psychiatrist Sigmund Freud introduced the concept of psychoanalysis, which helped further our understanding of mental illness. Freud posited that mental health was largely influenced by past human experiences and traumas.
While Freud’s theory about the unconscious mind and past human experiences playing a role in the development of mental illness was highly controversial at the time, his work paved the way for more modern approaches to mental health treatment and is the foundation of what is now known as psychotherapy or talk therapy.
The mid-20th century saw the introduction of several different types of psychiatric medication, including antipsychotics and antidepressants. These medications have evolved over the last few decades, proving to be invaluable in treating mental illness and helping people live relatively normal lives. In addition, talk therapy became increasingly popular during this time as a way to help people deal with their emotions and traumatic experiences.
And with continued research and advancements in mental health care, we hope to continue making strides in providing adequate treatment and improving the quality of life for those living with mental health conditions.
The Bottom Line
Throughout history, our understanding of mental health conditions and their treatments has changed dramatically and for the better. From superstition and religious beliefs to scientific discoveries and modern medicine, our approach to mental health treatment has come a long way in the last few centuries.
One of the most recent advances in mental health treatment has been the introduction of psychedelic therapy with medicines such as psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine. At this time, ketamine is currently the only psychedelic that you can legally take in the United States, as long as it’s under the supervision of a medical provider. Ketamine has been considered a breakthrough medicine for treating conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. To learn more about how ketamine works, click here.
Despite this remarkable progress in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, there is still a long way to go in terms of reducing stigma, creating awareness, and providing adequate treatment for the billions of people living with mental disorders globally.