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The Role of Neurology in the Delivery of Mental Healthcare

“Human beings are powered by emotion, not by reason. Study after study has proven that if the emotion centers of our brain are damaged in some way, we don’t just lose the ability to laugh or cry, we lose the ability to make decisions.”

Donald Calne

What’s the difference between a neurologist, psychiatrist, and neuropsychologist?

Although neurologists, psychiatrists, and a neuropsychologists will all deal with aspects of brain health, their practices differ significantly. A neurologist specialises in conditions that affect the nervous system impacting the spinal cord, nerves, and the brain. Thus, the term “neuro” meaning nerve/nerve system. Although there are multiple disciplines associated with neurological conditions such as a neuro-ophthalmologist, neurophysiologist, neurosurgeon, and neuropsychiatrist, for now let’s focus on a neurologist. If a patient is suffering from severe migraine, memory loss, head injury, or showing symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, seizures, or stroke, they’ll be signposted to a neurologist. A neurologist will treat physical injury caused by damage or disease to the nervous system and brain, however they usually don’t treat conditions associated with brain chemistry. That’s where a psychiatrist comes in.

A patient will be referred to a psychiatrist when exhibiting symptoms of clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, or addiction, who will then make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate medication and treatment path for the mental illness. A neuropsychiatrist also works with patients with mental health disorders, but which originate from brain malfunction and injury. The Royal College of Psychiatry defines the different branches within psychiatry as follows:

  • Forensic psychiatry
  • Old age psychiatry
  • Learning disability psychiatry (treating intellectual disability)
  • Medical psychotherapy
  • General adult psychiatry
  • Child and adolescent psychiatry

American Psychiatry Association clearly states: “Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (an M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems.” APA continues: “Because they are physicians, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical, laboratory and psychological tests which, combined with discussions with patients, help provide a picture of a patient’s physical and mental state. Their education and clinical training equip them to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses and the relationships with genetics and family history, to evaluate medical and psychological data, to make a diagnosis, and to work with patients to develop treatment plans.”

Patients will seek the aid of a psychiatrist for the following:

  • Addiction/addictive behaviours
  • Prolonged anxiety and severe panic disorder
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Behavioural disorders
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Long-term sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal ideation and/or suicideattempts
  • PTSD, complex PTSD, severe trauma

A neuropsychologist specialises in the understanding of the immense complexity of the relationship between the physical brain and behaviour. For example, a brain disorder or injury to the brain and nervous system can impact behaviour. Why is that? That’s the job of the neuropsychologist to understand and treat. A neuropsychologist will work very closely with neurologists and medical doctors and typically will carry out a neuropsychological evaluation when seeing a patient for the first time, observing brain function such as problem solving, cognitive function, reasoning, personality change, emotions, and memory.

Patients will be referred/self-refer to a neurologist for the following:

  • Facial pain
  • Insomnia
  • Problems with coordination and movements
  • Re-occurring dizziness
  • Persistent fainting
  • Tinnitus
  • Physical numbness
  • Persistent tingling sensation in the limbs and/or other areas of the body
  • Chronic back and neck pain
  • Deterioration of memory

How can a neurologist support the provision of mental health treatment?

In the last ten years, distinguished neurologists such as Rudolph E. Tanzi PhD—Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, have been more visible on mental health panels regarding brain hygiene, neuroplasticity, and mindfulness practices. Dr Tanzi is often quoted for saying: “Neuroplasticity is better than mind over matter. It’s mind turning into matter as your thoughts create new neural growth.” There has increasingly been an overlap of the various medical disciplines in nervous system/brain treatment, neuroplasticity, and mental health on panels and at conferences in recent years with some medical doctors airing their views on the future of a computer chip to improve physical brain disability (think Neuralink).

A neurologist can support the provision of mental health treatment by confirming a psychiatrist’s diagnosis of a mental illness. This alone can be immensely beneficial to both the psychiatrist and patient and minimise the risk of misdiagnosis. Mental illnesses can often be linked to physiological disorders since everything is connected by the brain, so a neurologist may for example, diagnose a brain tumour which could be the cause of certain depressive symptoms. There’s still much research needed to offer the best possible treatment for long-term depression in individuals. Going beyond the established model for the treatment of depression such as the monoamine hypothesis (which is now deemed to present significant limitations because the human brain has over a hundred neurotransmitters and billions of connections between neurons) has been under discussion and review for some time now.

Understanding the neurobiology of depression helps scientists learn more about how depression progresses and explore new treatments. An example of scientists broadening their study ofthe causes of depression in a groundbreaking way  can be found in an article published this year by Neuroscience News titled Over 200 New Depression-Related Genes Identified. The article states: “A groundbreaking study has uncovered more than 200 genes linked to depression, shedding light on the complex nature of the condition. This global research effort, the first of its kind, analyzed genetic data from nearly one million participants of diverse ancestry groups. The study identified over 50 new genetic loci and 205 novel genes associated with depression, offering potential drug targets and insights into its development. Importantly, it emphasizes the need for diverse genetic datasets to better understand and treat this widespread mental health disorder.”

The article continues with words from the lead author Professor Karoline Kuchenbaecker (UCL Psychiatry and UCL Genetics Institute): ‘“Here we show beyond doubt that our understanding of such complex diseases as depression will remain incomplete until we overcome the Eurocentric bias in genetics research and look for causes in diverse people across the world. Many genes previously found to be linked to the risk of depression might only actually affect depression risk in people of European origin, so in order for genetic research to contribute to new drugs that can help people of all ancestries, it is vital that our genetic datasets are suitably diverse.”

Many high-net and ultra-high-net-worth individuals have experienced depression at some stage in their lives, and some have found themselves concurrently battling with an alcohol and/or drug addiction. Among peak performance athletes and celebrated artists, clinical depression is widespread. In recent years, Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, Katy Perry, and Bruce Springsteen, have publicly shared their struggles with clinical depression. Executives and CEOs aren’t immune either, with Google’s Daryll Henrich being open about his long journey through recovery from depression and anxiety. Nor are the professionals who diagnose andtreat depression: in a survey of 7000 medically trained individuals, The BMJ reported a staggering 58% of health clinicians reported having symptoms of depression and/or another mental health condition. At Addcounsel, we’ve worked closely with individuals suffering from all types of depression and know how tough it is to discuss and come through.

Contact us to start your mental health treatment

Mental health is a generalised term, covering an extensive range of issues which can appear to be completely unrelated, but which are in fact, interconnected. The reality is that most people will experience some kind of mental health problem at some point in their life. Anxiety and depression are extremely common, and often go pretty much untreated—the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 320 million people globally are living with depression as part of their everyday lives.

At Addcounsel, we understand the impact that depression can have on all facets of your life. Without rehabilitation treatment by trained professionals, clinical depression can result in serious consequences both for you, and for the people who love and depend on you. You don’t have to go through this alone. Our seasoned experts have developed a “whole person” approach to the treatment of depression, addressing not just the symptoms, but the underlying contributory factors that originallyled to the depression. We help you develop effective, lifelong coping strategies and self-management tools, to ensure a sustained recovery.

Our dedicated team will help and guide you through the entire process in the comfort and anonymity of our luxury and private mental health treatment accommodation in Mayfair, Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Notting Hill in London, UK. The individuals we treat for mental health issues are often concerned about the reputational consequences of their problems. For high-level executives and others who live under public or professional scrutiny, the perception of mental illness can be damaging. At Addcounsel we guarantee absolute privacy; your sense of security is of the utmost importance to us.  

Contact us today to start your recovery journey.

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