Psychology, Brain Diseases, And Mental Health
By: Julia Thomas
Updated February 10, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Psychology, brain diseases, and mental health are all related to what we call the mind. They each represent different approaches to the ways people think, feel, and behave. So, what do these three concepts mean, and how can they help you live a better life? It helps to have a clear understanding of each term and how they work together.
What Is Psychology?
Psychology is a relatively new science. However, even though psychology wasn't thought of as a scientific discipline yet, philosophers have been studying the mind and behavior since ancient times. Different experts have given the word different meanings, but they all view psychology as the study of the mind and behavior. The first scientific research on psychology was done in the 1830s, so as a science, it's less than 200 years old.
What Do Psychology Professionals Do?
Psychologists, therapists, and others in the psychology field study the mental processes, how they determine behavior, and how behavior can be changed. They experiment, investigate, and theorize about various themes, including personality, motivation, the unconscious mind, and development.
Psychologists and counselors who work directly with people who have mental health conditions offer treatments that are based on these studies and theories. They may provide psychological testing, mental health care, and psychological services for schools and various industries and institutions. Most practicing psychologists offer some form of talk therapy and provide consultations.
What Are Brain Diseases?
Brain diseases are physical problems that may or may not affect thoughts and behaviors. They are caused by illness, genetics, or injury. The brain controls not only thought, but also speech, memory, movement, and many biological functions. Even basic functions like breathing are controlled in the brain.
Here are just a few of the many brain diseases:
- Brain tumors
- Alzheimer's disease
- Brain abscess
- Brain injuries
- Intracerebral hemorrhage
- Brain aneurysm
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Huntington's disease
- Pick's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease
- Mental disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia
All of these diseases can affect the processes that the brain usually carries out. Some affect the physical body most, while others have a greater impact on thought and behavior. But in nearly every type of brain disease, the consequences are, to some degree, both physiological and mental.
Who Treats Brain Diseases And How?
Neurologists and neurosurgeons play a major role in treating physical brain diseases. They are doctors trained to help with the physiological problems that affect the brain. They may do tests, like the Tensilon test to observe muscle movements, the lumbar puncture to test the spinal fluid, or the EEG to observe the brain's electrical activity.
After the neurologist makes a diagnosis, they and the neurosurgeon make a treatment plan. The plan may involve medications, surgery, and various types of therapy. Usually, it takes a team of experts working together to treat brain diseases.
Often, a neuropsychologist is a part of the treatment team. The neuropsychologist can diagnose and treat psychological problems that result from brain diseases. A psychiatrist may help with psychiatric medications and other treatments. Other psychology professionals, such as a counselor or occupational therapist, may help with the treatment as well. Although not all brain diseases can be cured, certain therapy treatments (such as clinical trials and brain stimulation) can help most people either recover or deal better with the disease.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is the condition of your mind. It includes your psychology, your emotions, and social functioning. If you have good mental health, you can manage your thoughts, feelings, and decisions in positive ways. You can handle stress well, have good relationships, and make the decisions that are right for you. You can be productive in your work and reach your highest potential.
Types Of Mental Illness
Mental illness is very common. In any given year, 1 in 5 adults will experience some type of mental illness. Some types of mental illness include the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders
What Do Mental Health Professionals Do?
Mental health professionals seek to help people develop the skills to improve their mental and emotional well-being. As clinical psychologists, other mental health professionals usually offer some form of talk therapy, with many variations. For example, an art therapist might use talk as a part of the therapy, but what sets them apart is their use of art to help people understand themselves better and find solutions to their mental health problems. Likewise, a therapist working with someone who has PTSD might use a desensitization technique, exposing the patient gradually to the thing they fear, but they will also use talk as a part of the process.
How Psychology, Neurology, And Mental Health Are Related
The most obvious connection between the three types of specialties is that they all have something to do with the patient's mental capacities. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and other mental health professionals focus on psychological symptoms. Neurology professionals, and psychiatrists to a certain degree as well, focus on the physiological genetics, structures, electrical activity, and chemical reactions in the brain.
Even so, neurology is related to psychology and mental health because the condition of the brain can influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. At the same time, psychological problems may or may not come from biological problems in the brain. Also, the consequences of a long mental illness can be physically harmful, such as when a person who has depression stops taking care of their physical health.
Symptoms Of Psychological Disorders
Psychology and mental health are different aspects of the same focus on mental processes. If your mind is causing you problems, a psychologist or counselor can help. But you might not immediately recognize that the problem is related to your mental health. Here are some symptoms to watch for if you think you may be having mental health or psychological problems:
- You're eating or sleeping more or less than usual.
- You have little energy to do the things you usually do.
- You feel helpless, hopeless, or worthless.
- You have unexplained aches and pains.
- You avoid social situations.
- You feel irritable, restless, confused, fearful, or upset more than you usually do.
- You're having trouble in your relationships, perhaps fighting a lot or pulling away.
- You have mood swings.
- You can't do the daily tasks you usually manage easily.
- You think of harming yourself or someone else.
- You smoke, drink, or use drugs more than in the past.
- You no longer find enjoyment, even in your favorite activities.
- You hear voices or see things that aren't there.
Symptoms Of Brain Diseases
Sometimes it's difficult to recognize that you have a problem with your brain. Other times, it's quite obvious. The symptoms vary from purely physiological to behavioral or emotional. It's important to remember that you need to see a doctor to be diagnosed rather than trying to figure it out for yourself. It's also helpful to know when an issue might be worth exploring.
Here is a list of some of the symptoms that can be present when you have a brain disease:
- Neck stiffness
- Muscle spasms
- Vision changes
- Stiffness in the arms, legs, and body
- Slow movement
- Unsteady gait
- Unstable posture
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Personality changes
- Mood changes
- Inappropriate speech or behavior
The Problem With Self-Diagnosis
People who have problems related to psychology, brain diseases, or mental health often try to determine for themselves what's wrong. They may panic themselves unnecessarily. Or, they may decide that it's nothing to worry about and ignore it. If you have lingering symptoms from either of the above two lists, especially if you have more than one of them, it's a good idea to ask a professional.
If you suspect you have a mental disorder or brain disease, the best thing to do is to get help immediately. Rather than trying to diagnose yourself, it's important to talk to an expert who knows the signs and can do certain tests to find out more. Then, if you don't have a problem, they can put your mind at ease. If you do have a mental health or brain issue, they can help you or guide you to the right professional for your condition.
If you find that your mental health issues aren't related to a biological condition, talking to an in-person or online therapist is a good way to resolve them. If you do have a physiological brain disease, a therapist can help you deal with the symptoms and may be a part of your team.
Your therapist can use their knowledge of psychology and mental health to help you understand yourself and your situation better. They can guide you to discover your solutions to your problems while at the same time using psychological techniques to help you get better.
Seeing a therapist remotely has the added benefit of not having to travel to a therapist’s office when you don’t feel well enough to do so. For example, with regard to PTSD, research with a Veteran population has shown that individual and group therapy via videoconferencing with a therapist yielded similar results in the reduction of symptoms as those found in traditional therapy. Research has also shown that there was a strong therapeutic alliance between the person receiving the therapy and the therapist. Online therapy can also help with other conditions, such as insomnia and anxiety.
Although a local counselor or psychologist may be able to help you. it might take months to get an appointment. If you'd like to address your problems sooner and in the comfort of your own home, you can connect with a counselor at BetterHelp for online therapy. Whichever you choose to do, you'll be happier and function better in life when your mind is as healthy as it can be.Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
“Robyn was able to give me gracious doses of support, help and advice when I was going through a rough period of anxiety, stress, relationship and family issues, as well as emotional trauma and PTSD. She’s insightful and gave me tools to better understand myself and my situation. She is easy to talk to and helped me put things into perspective in a way I didn’t think about before. Thank you, Robyn!!!”
“I have issues with extreme anxiety without having a history of it. Nerine has helped me by providing tools to decrease my anxiety and work through those symptoms. She also has helped me delve into exactly what started the anxiety and continues to walk me through, step by step, how to help myself. I’m so extremely grateful.”
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