Missy Broome

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Psychiatry Through the Ages

Psychiatry is a medical specialty devoted to the study, diagnoses, treatment and prevention of mental disorders. People are often confused as to the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists. Both can treat varying disorders from anxiety to schizophrenia and both can perform psychotherapy. The main difference is that psychiatrists are also medical doctors.

Centuries ago, it was believed that psychotic traits were supernatural in origin. Religious leaders often performed exorcisms to treat mental disorders, using cruel and horrific methods. Specialized hospitals to treat the mentally ill were built as early as 705 AD in Baghdad, but rather than treating these poor unfortunates, they were merely places to house them.

In 1845, England enacted the “Lunacy Act 1845”. Mentally ill people would now be referred to as patients who required treatment and all asylums were required to have written regulations and have a resident qualified physician.

In the United States, New York passed a law in 1842 to create state asylums. Many were opened in the 1850s and 1860s and by the end of the 1890s, thousand of asylums had risen up in the United States and Europe. However, psychiatrists were pressured by the ever increasing patient population and so asylums once again became places to house, but not treat patients.

The 20th century brought new perspectives on mental disorders. Emil Kraepelin believed that all mental disorders are biological in nature and introduced the concept of “nerves”. Next came Sigmund Freud and his “Psychoanalytic Theory”. This theory became popular with psychiatrists because it allowed for patients to be treated in private practices instead of being warehoused in institutions.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy introduced legislation for the National Institute of Mental Health to administer Community Mental Health Centers for patients being discharged from psychiatric hospitals. Unfortunately, no plan was put into place to follow up on these patients and many ended up living on the streets, homeless.

One of the most popular psychiatrists in America today is Daniel Amen. He is the founder and CEO of Amen Clinics found coast-to-coast. He is also a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the highest award given. He is most noted for his research of brain damage of professional football players. His imaging and rehabilitation study is the largest in the world. Dr. Amen has written or co-written over 30 books and has had 9 shows about the brain on public television. Dr. Mehmet Oz, famed TV host, calls Dr. Amen “One of the most gifted minds in medicine.” Dr. Amen believes that brain health is core to all health and success. Pick up one of his books today and become a healthier person in mind and body.