When Did the Brain Become Disconnected From the Body?by Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, MEd, MS, FAAN | March 23, 2007
Mental health is often a taboo subject. It is a hushed topic for behind closed-door discussions and definitely not something for public consumption. Take look at any health insurance policy and you will see the unspeakable nature of these types of illnesses first hand. Most policies set limits on the amount of care a patient can receive in a calendar year. A good policy could contain 20 to 30 visits, however many do not cover this type of care at all. While many other medical conditions also have limited coverage, most requiring intensive care are covered. Surely, a heart condition would not have a yearly limit in care and an ear nose and throat doctor’s services would most likely be covered, but for some reason, mental illness is not seen as a medical condition worthy of normal policy coverage.
Somewhere along the way, health care providers and insurance companies have disconnected the brain from the rest of the body. They have made mental illness a condition and not a true medical illness, using the terminology disorder but not disease. If you asked a diabetic to stop treatment and go off all medication, yet still live a normal life, it would be simply absurd. They would have severe reactions to this disruption in their care and could end up having very serious complications because of it.
Quite often, patients with mental illness are made to feel that their illness is inferior to other serious medical problems. In reality, treating a mental illness can take years of therapy and adjustments in medication before an adequate treatment is realized. And more often than not, this extensive care mounts huge medical bills that are rejected by insurance providers. In order to make strides in the treatment of mental illness, much education is needed.
One important thing to remember when discussing mental illness and the problems associated with various disorders, it is to use the same terminology that would accompany a discussion on any other medical illness. If a heart patient has a blocked artery, they will have shoulder pain, chest pressure, general weakness, shortness of breath and various other symptoms that will lead a doctor to the correct treatment plan. In the same manner of thinking a patient with a mental illness will elicit various symptoms that should lead a doctor to treat a chemical imbalance.
The sooner the general public views the problems associated with mental health issues as symptoms rather than behaviors, the closer it will be to reconnecting the brain with the rest of the body and receiving the proper long term care needed to assist the thousands of people who so desperately need the proper treatment.
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