Addressing Chronic Mental Illnesses

More and more, we find ourselves with the need to explain, both clinically and forensically, what a long-term illness is, since approximately 40% of mental illnesses are chronic.

The characteristics of chronic mental illnesses

(EMGD) is characterized by the fact that the symptoms last a long time, impairing the ability to carry out meaningful daily activities and routines in people who suffer from it.

Many patients we treat ask us why they suffer from this type of disease. The answer is not simple, because the causes are many; that is, they are due to different biological, psychological and social factors. All involve alterations in normal functioning causing damage to the integrity of the patient.

The most common are bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorders, although there are other illnesses that are also considered long-term such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or fibromyalgia.

How to detect a psychopathology of this type?

In general, patients who come to our health center know some of the symptoms they are suffering from and know how to recognize mood swings, anxiety or other symptoms.

However, the diagnosis in these cases is fundamental so that the patient understands what is the cause of this symptomatology and begins the psychological treatment to manage and work on his pathology. When we tell them the diagnosis, they thank us, because they are aware at that moment of what they are facing and they stop feeling great anxiety because of the uncertainty that caused them.

During the evaluation process, we must keep in mind that patients can be diagnosed with more than one disease. It may be an interaction between the two and, therefore, an aggravation of both disorders. This is what is defined as comorbidity or associated morbidity.

Certain illnesses such as depression and personality disorders can be associated with dysthymia. Or, for example, the patient may suffer from an addiction associated with another mental illness. And he can even be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hyperactivity disorder at the same time. In these situations the diagnosis is more complicated, but necessary to adjust the psychological and pharmacological treatment.

How are they treated in therapy?

Remember that the treatments that are recommended are diverse and complementary to each other.

Sometimes people think pharmacology alone is enough; however, psychological treatment is essential, because it helps us to work on the awareness of the disease, how to identify and anticipate crises, how to eliminate or alleviate the symptoms, in short, or to be fully functional and autonomous whatever antes. It is recommended to do this from a global health model, since each patient has a different personal development and will overcome the disease in a different way.

The effective is to work with the patient, the therapeutic method or the necessary practice that benefits him at that moment. This type of disease not only affects patients, but also families; it is vital to be able to count on them and to devote the time they need to them.

The family must know the patient’s illness, with the goal of learning to interpret inappropriate responses or non-adaptive actions. To achieve the different treatment achievements, you need to adjust your expectations and be consistent with the work. Even in some cases, a legal opinion is necessary, because in schizophrenia or in certain personality disorders, economic aid, internment or simply protection of the patient by guardianship is necessary.

Thanks to the two specialties that we work together in the center (medical and forensic), we can take care of these patients from different fields. This allowed us to control and protect those affected and their families.

It is important that there is a follow-up, although therapy has ended, as the disease is chronic and support is needed to maintain the changes achieved. In addition, relapse (which is part of psychological treatment) is common in chronic illnesses.

The patient should know how to act to minimize the symptoms and recover as soon as possible. I want to emphasize that in my experience, even if sometimes the disease does not disappear completely, you can achieve stabilization and have a good quality of life.

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