Positive Psychiatry Treatment
“The goal is to produce mental health not to merely alleviate mental illness.” ~ George Vaillant
My Patients, Coping and Positive Psychiatry
As a psychiatrist, I found myself interested in the wellbeing of the patients who were struggling for long periods of time with chronic depression, anxiety or even ADHD. I observed that they usually did not develop a healthy way to cope with the stress of daily life, such as exercising regularly, having positive mindset, asking for help when needed, etc. I realized that the biological treatments, such as medications, and more recently Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, were able to bring the patient to a level where they could start being interested in developing other aspects of their lives that would then move them to better overall wellness. One type of Psychiatry I use, Positive psychiatry, as George Vaillant said, “is meant to produce better mental health and not only alleviate mental illness.”
Definition of Positive Psychiatry
One definition of positive psychiatry describes it as the “science and practice of psychiatry that seeks to understand and promote well-being through assessments and interventions aimed at enhancing the Positive Psychosocial Factors (resilience, optimism and social engagement).”
This points to the realization that we cannot just look at managing mental health in isolation-we must look to improve the overall health of the individual. The World Health Organization has defined health, not as an absence of sickness or disease, but as a state of complete mental, physical, and social well-being. And there is a growing body of research that shows that higher levels of positive psychosocial characteristics (PPCs) such as optimism, resilience, and social engagement are associated with objectively measured better health outcomes, which include living longer, as well as with people’s feelings of well-being.
Positive psychiatry is rooted in biology and tries to figure out the underlying biological causes of positive psychosocial characteristics and eventually tries to increase health and well-being through psychosocial/behavioral and biological interventions.
Positive Psychiatry and Promoting Well-Being
There are a couple positive interventions which have been reported to promote wellness, as well as preventing and treating mental illness. For example, research has indicated that setting personal goals, practicing optimism, and using character strengths have been shown to enhance well-being and relieve depressive symptoms.
Positive Psychiatry and Lifestyle Interventions
There are several lifestyle interventions which we encourage our patients to practice. The first is exercise. Exercise has been found to be as effective as medication for patients with mild to major depression and it is also shown to have longer lasting results. One study showed that moderate exercise may also help prevent depression. In addition to helping with depression, physical activity has been shown to optimize learning by improving impulse control, attention, arousal and also reduces learned helplessness. We also recommend some form of meditation. It doesn’t matter which kind you choose. Meditative practices such as tai chi, qigong, and mindfulness meditation also have a place in the clinical setting and have been shown to enhance positive affect, decrease anxiety and negative affect, and have potential benefits across a range of psychiatric conditions. Moreover, many people find that yoga has a beneficial impact in reducing stress and inflammation as well as improving immune function and overall health.
Research has also shown that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of severe depression, while junk food, sugar, and processed meats may increase depressive symptoms. And most of us know that of all diets, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with decreased risk of late-life depression and cognitive dysfunction.
Additionally, we encourage and educate our patients on the importance of good sleep hygiene. This can make a big difference in the quality of sleep and quality of life. Decreasing alcohol, nicotine and caffeine intake; increasing physical activity; and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like a cellphone, tablet or computer, are well-documented strategies to improve sleep.
Positive psychology is an integrative treatment approach that we practice here at Midtown Psychiatry & TMS Center. If you are interested in a consultation-feel free to contact Daniela White, M.D. Psychiatrist at 713-426-3100.
- World Health Organization. WHO Definition of Health. http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html. Accessed October 13, 2014.
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