|   Answering your mental health questions

What Is the Treatment for Mental Illness?

Whether it’s because they are embarrassed about their symptoms and try to hide them, or they don’t recognize their symptoms as possible signs of mental illness and something they should tell their doctor about, or they lack medical care in general, too many people living with a mental illness don’t get the treatment they need. This is unfortunate, because once correctly diagnosed, many mental illnesses are highly treatable.

Most mental illness treatments can be conducted through outpatient treatment of varying intensities. However, in certain circumstances a stay in a mental health treatment center is the best option. Inpatient care is preferable or necessary when a patient’s condition requires close medical supervision and care for their own safety, such as when someone suffering from depression is in danger of harming themselves, or when someone suffering from severe alcoholism must go through potentially life-threatening detox, or when someone suffering from anorexia is so underweight that their internal systems have begun to shut down.

Whether on an inpatient or outpatient basis, medication, counseling and lifestyle adjustments are usually part of an overall mental health treatment plan.


Antidepressants can be very effective for treating mental illness. Depending on the type of mental disorder and the severity of the symptoms, a doctor or therapist might prescribe any number of other medications, including antipsychotic drugs, anticonvulsants, anti-anxiety medications or beta blockers. In some cases, nutritional supplements might also be recommended.


Therapists trained in a kind of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, use it to treat a range of different mental illnesses. CBT works to treat negative, distorted and irrational thinking patterns, which are a significant symptom of many mental disorders, by helping the patient to recognize these patterns and actively replace them with positive, accurate and rational thoughts and beliefs.

Did You Know?

Mental illness is responsible for more disability in developed nations than heart disease, cancer or any other illness, according to the World Health Organization.

Other kinds of therapy might also be part of mental illness treatments for certain conditions; for example, someone with OCD or a phobia might be treated using exposure therapy, in which they repeatedly face the source of their fear, or someone with depression or an anxiety disorder might benefit from mindfulness therapy, in which they practice focusing on and accepting both the positive and negative aspects of the present moment.

The therapist might provide family therapy sessions in addition to individual sessions, to help the patient’s spouse, parents or children better understand their loved one’s condition and needs, or to work on relationships that have been damaged by the effects of the mental illness.

Some people with mental illness also benefit greatly from the professional- and/or peer-based counseling they receive from group therapy sessions or from a local support group.

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor or therapist will likely suggest ways you can make your life more conducive to mental illness recovery and to the long-term management of your mental health. The particular changes that will best help you will depend on your circumstances and condition, but might include:

  • Changing the home environment to eliminate sources of anxiety, addiction temptation, etc.
  • Reducing work hours or changing jobs to ease stress levels
  • Improving amount and quality of sleep
  • Developing a regular exercise regimen
  • Practicing yoga or other relaxation strategies
  • Eating a more nutrient-rich diet
  • Increasing social interaction with your support network of friends, family and peers
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