8 Important Things Neuropsychiatrists Do

Updated August 21, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Psychiatry – a branch of medicine focused on studying, diagnosing, and treating mental illnesses – is made up of several fields, with neuropsychiatry being one of them. While psychologists mainly rely on talk or behavioral therapy to treat patients, psychiatrists prescribe medication. In this post, we will discuss what kind of treatments a neuropsychiatrist can offer and how people can reap the benefits.

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Neuropsychiatrists Treat Brain Injuries Using Medication

What Is Neuropsychiatry?

Psychiatrists diagnose mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) and need to have a careful evaluation of their patients to ensure a proper diagnosis. The DSM-V contains almost, if not all, major mental health disorders. Once they diagnose the person, a psychiatrist can then be able to treat them through medicine, psychotherapy, and may electrical therapy, as well. 

A neurologist is someone who diagnoses and treats disorders that are connected to the nervous system. When there is an abnormality in the brain, spinal cord, or nerves, a neurologist hopes to treat it. Examples of neurological disorders include weak muscles, lack of sensation, seizures, pain, paralysis, different levels of consciousness, and more. You may have heard of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease – all of which can be considered neurological disorders.

Neuropsychiatry focuses specifically on treating mental disorders that are connected to problems within the nervous system. It combines neurology and psychiatry, both of which are usually separate practices.

How Can Neuropsychiatrists Help You?

Recently, there has been a debate as to whether or not psychiatry and neurology should be practiced together or separately. According to those who want to combine the two, the separation of neurology and psychiatry has little to do with science, and more to do with beliefs. The beliefs come down to this: psychiatry is all about the mind, and neurology is about the brain. However, the mind is made possible by the brain, so it makes the separation seem odd to some people.

Whatever your belief is concerning the relationship between the brain and mind, it is quite fascinating to learn about how the two studies have been integrated and how neuropsychiatrists can help many kinds of people living with challenging symptoms. Let’s explore some of the conditions that a neuropsychiatrist can treat.

Neuropsychiatrists Treat Brain Injuries

The brain is powerful but quite sensitive. Any injury to the brain can change how it functions and how you see the world. The idea of becoming something else just because you injured your brain is quite scary, and there are many types of brain injuries one can experience.

Some brain injuries are inherited, caused by a degenerative brain disorder, or have to do with brain trauma, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. An acquired brain injury (ABI) occurs after one's birth, and can be either traumatic or non-traumatic.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is when your brain is altered because of a force outside of the body. TBIs can result from a fall, car crash, shaken baby syndrome, assaults, injuries, or any other impactful bump, jolt, or blow to the head. Non-traumatic brain injuries are internal, caused by strokes, seizures, tumors, lack of oxygen, poisoning, drug overdose, and other factors..

As there are many types of brain injuries, and everyone responds to them differently, this means that you will never have two brain injuries that are exactly alike. While many studies suggest that once brain cells (neurons) are destroyed or damaged, they rarely regenerate, is possible for some brain injuries to heal over time. Other times, it may not heal, or it can be treated but never cured. Neuropsychiatrists help by looking at your unique situation in order to determine a path of treatment.

Neuropsychiatrists Treat Mental Disorders Stemming From Brain Injuries

Often, brain injuries can lead to the formation of a mental disorder. Someone who has dementia, for example, may experience depression or paranoia. Someone who has epilepsy may live with episodes of psychosis. A person who has a brain injury may feel more anxious or struggle with concentration. As you can see, many factors can influence the mind, and it's up to neuropsychiatrists to help the person who is living with such challenges. They can accomplish this through medicine, therapy, and by brain stimulation.

Neuropsychiatrists Study How The Brain Changes

After an injury, the brain’s structure and functioning can undergo considerable change. A neuropsychiatrist is designed to look at all the changes the brain makes and see how an injury will transform the brain. These observations allow for the neuropsychiatrist to make a treatment based on the new makeup of the brain, or they can learn how to prevent the injury in the first place.

How do neuropsychiatrists understand the impact that brain injuries can have on the nervous system? Working within any medical field requires significant education, but a neuropsychiatrist will undergo considerably more training. After obtaining their master’s degree and Ph.D., they will enter a four-year residency in psychiatry. Once that is over, they will stay for one year in a neuropsychiatry residency.

If someone is a behavioral neurologist, a person who studies how brain disorders affect language or behavior, they will complete three years in neurology and one year of behavioral neurology. There are even programs for both neurologists and psychiatrists.

Neuropsychiatrists Treat Many Symptoms

As one might imagine, even a slight change in the brain can result in significant disruptions to one’s processing and behavior. Here are some examples of symptoms commonly experienced by people with brain injuries:

  • Depression – a common and serious mental health condition that negatively impacts the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves.
  • Mania – a state of intense euphoria commonly associated with bipolar disorder that causes irrational thinking and/or behavior.
  • Insomnia or sleep disorders – lack of sleep can lead to mental symptoms like irritability, low motivation, and poor concentration, as well as physical symptoms such as lack of coordination and digestive issues.
  • Anxiety – a common mental health condition which causes feelings of fear, discomfort, paranoia, and, at times, chronic pain.
  • Interpersonal difficulties – experiencing a brain injury often means that the person will need to make significant life changes, such as abstaining from certain activities. Some people will require a caregiver, at least for a short time period. Some people do not respond well in the face of unpredictable moods and behaviors, which can lead to a person with a brain injury feeling isolated. 

Neuropsychiatrists Counsel Individuals And Families

Neuropsychiatrists counsel the patient to help them better understand their brain injury. They can provide a safe space for sharing difficult emotions or challenges, as well. Counseling can be a valuable tool in treating many mental disorders and giving the patient a place to speak and the counselor to listen.

A neuropsychiatrist will often collaborate with the patient’s family to make sure they receive the best care possible. The family may not fully understand how the patient has changed, and a counselor can help by teaching them patience and the ability to stay cool under pressure. The family may need to step into care-taking roles, and the therapist can support them in making that transition.

Neuropsychiatrist Monitor Medicine Regimens

Many medications come with risks and/or irritating side effects. A neuropsychiatrist can evaluate your entire medication routine to explore how different medications interact to cause troubling side effects, like headaches, restlessness, or nausea. If the medication doesn't work anymore, a neuropsychiatrist can adjust the dosage or suggest an alternative. Some people are skeptical about medicine, but medicine is important in treating many mental disorders, especially those about brain injury.

Neuropsychiatrist Can Help You Change Your Thinking

One of the best ways to improve your mental health is through cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This involves eliminating maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns that can hold you back. For example, if you're feeling depressed, your negative thoughts and inactivity can exacerbate the condition. A therapist tries to help by making sure your behaviors change and your overall mental health improves.

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Neuropsychiatrists Treat Brain Injuries Using Medication

How Can I Find A Neuropsychiatrist?

Sometimes, you may need a referral to see a neuropsychiatrist, but for most general situations, you probably won't need one, so there's some peace of mind for you. Working with a psychologist – whose treatment approaches don’t involve prescribing medication – can be worthwhile in addressing emotional challenges associated with a brain injury. In fact, in a systematic review of 62 studies focusing on interventions for people surviving a traumatic brain injury, CBT was identified as the most widely used approach.

While many people seeking therapy for brain injuries will have received an official diagnosis from their physician, you do not need a diagnosis to work with a therapist. Online therapy may be a particularly useful avenue for people living with brain injuries, as platforms like MyTherapist eliminate the need to travel to and from an in-person therapist’s office. This advantage can be helpful to people who experience motor or visual difficulties stemming from a brain injury.

Additionally, users can schedule virtual counseling sessions with their dedicated therapist at convenient times. The cost of online therapy is also considered to be more affordable than face-to-face therapy, which can be an important consideration for people spending money on medication for the treatment of brain injuries.

Whether you’re interested in online therapy for mitigating symptoms of depression, memory loss, or interpersonal challenges, the licensed counselors at MyTherapist are trained to help people in various circumstances. Online CBT has helped many people overcome such issues. One recent study recruited 21 people diagnosed with mild or moderate TBI and depression to engage in a six-week, internet-based CBT treatment; after a year, participants sustained improvements in symptoms of depression.

Takeaway

It can feel frightening, confusing, and lonely to navigate life following a brain injury. Having a strong support network is invaluable to recovery, and working with an online psychologist has helped many people who have also taken medication prescribed by a neuropsychiatrist. Every brain injury is different, and you deserve the opportunity to heal both physically and mentally. If you’re interested in learning more, you can reach out to a compassionate online counselor at MyTherapist today.

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