Depression, mania, cyclothymia, anxiety, oh my! I’m preparing for my Psychopathology midterm, and there is so much to learn.
Why do chiropractic and naturopathic medical students need to learn about all these conditions? More likely than not, we will be treating patients with mental health conditions whether we plan to or not. The whole body is connected, including the psyche! Even though many naturopathic doctors don’t prescribe pharmaceuticals (whether it be due to lack of licensure and prescribing rights, or personal choice) having general knowledge to be able to identify these conditions and provide natural solutions and appropriate referrals for counseling and is important. Also, many chronically ill individuals are taking or have been taking medications to treat these conditions, and they will come to us to address other aspects of their health.
How does naturopathic medicine approach the management of these conditions? For every single patient, regardless of their chief complaint, we address the determinants of health. It is essential to correct imbalances in the determinants of health to attain health. Some of the determinants of health include nutrition, hydration, sunlight, epigenetics, sense of community, and spirituality.
For example, depression is a condition that conventional medicine commonly treats with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs will increase the amount of serotonin available for the brain. In naturopathic medicine, we ask another question. Why does this patient not have enough serotonin? It turns out that the gut produces the majority of serotonin (about 90%). If a patient has a poor diet, imbalances in gut flora, digestion issues, etc., an insufficient amount of serotonin is produced, leading to the symptoms of depression. We would then treat the digestive tract with dietary changes and perhaps supplements to get the body on the right track.