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Psychological Treatment

Biomedical Therapies

Group Therapies

Biomedical Therapies, page 2

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Biomedical therapies include drug therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and psychosurgery.

Drug Therapies

Drug therapy, or psychopharmacotherapy, aims to treat psychological disorders with medications. Drug therapy is usually combined with other kinds of psychotherapy. The main categories of drugs used to treat psychological disorders are antianxiety drugs, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

Antianxiety Drugs

Antianxiety drugs include a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, or tranquilizers. Two commonly used benzodiazepines are known by the brand names Valium and Xanax. The generic names of these drugs are diazepam and alprazolam, respectively:

  • Effects: Benzodiazepines reduce the activity of the central nervous system by increasing the activity of GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Benzodiazepines take effect almost immediately after they are administered, but their effects last just a few hours. Psychiatrists prescribe these drugs for panic disorder and anxiety.
  • Side effects: Side effects may include drowsiness, light-headedness, dry mouth, depression, nausea and vomiting, constipation, insomnia, confusion, diarrhea, palpitations, nasal congestion, and blurred vision. Benzodiazepines can also cause drug dependence. Tolerance can occur if a person takes these drugs for a long time, and withdrawal symptoms often appear when the drug use is discontinued.
Antidepressant Drugs

Antidepressants usually take a few weeks to have an effect. There are three classes of antidepressants: monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclics, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Include phenelzine (Nardil).
  • Tricyclics: Include amitriptyline (Elavil). Tricyclics generally have fewer side effects than the MAOIs.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): The newest class of antidepressants, including paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), and sertraline (Zoloft).

Antidepressants are typically prescribed for depression, anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • Effects: MAOIs and tricyclics increase the level of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. SSRIs increase the level of serotonin.
  • Side effects: Although antidepressants are not addictive, they often have side effects such as headache, dry mouth, constipation, nausea, weight gain, and feelings of restlessness. Of the three classes of antidepressants, MAOIs generally have the most side effects. People who take MAOIs also have to restrict their diet, because MAOIs interact negatively with foods that contain the amino acid tyramine, such as beer and some cheeses and meats. SSRIs have fewer side effects than the other two classes of antidepressants. However, SSRIs can cause sexual dysfunction, and if they are discontinued abruptly, withdrawal symptoms occur.
Antipsychotic Drugs

Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. They include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), and haloperidol (Haldol). Antipsychotic drugs usually begin to take effect a few days after they are administer ed.

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