The Shaky Evolution of Mental Health Therapies


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The Shaky Evolution of Mental Health Therapies

From trepanation (boring a hole in the head) to technology, a brief history of mental illness treatments

Before the Greeks: mental problems thought to be caused by "supernatural" demonic possession.

Primitive Therapies: The Ancients

  • Bathing: Greeks used to cure depression
  • Bloodletting: to cure psychosis
  • Trepanation: drill a hole in the head to let the demons out
  • Hysteria therapy: the wandering womb (Plato's cure-all for women…soothe the womb, solve the problem)

From 1450-1750: 40,000 to 100,000 executed as witches throughout Europe. Approximately 80% were women

Pre-Modern: Weird Therapies (Cruel and Unusual Punishment?)

  • Insulin coma therapy: load em up with insulin, then wake them up
  • Rotational therapy (spin out that illness)
  • Hydrotherapy (submerge the patient)
  • Mesmerism (magnetize the illness out of the body)
  • Malaria therapy (a feverish cure)
  • Chemically induced seizures
  • Phrenology (bumps on the skull indicated what was wrong)
  • And…of course the ever popular….ice pick lobotomy (quite popular into the mid 20th century)
  • 50,000: number of lobotomies total in U.S., most between 1949-1952
  • 2,500: of the 50,000 estimated number of ice pick lobotomies in U.S.


Mental Health: You think it's not your problem? Think again.

  • 1 in 5: American adults experienced a mental health issue: that's 57.7 million Americans EVERY YEAR.
  • 1 in 10: young people experienced a period of major depression
  • 1 in 20 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression
  • 10th leading cause of death in U.S.: Suicide.
  • 38,000: number of suicide deaths in U.S. annually. That is 2X deaths in U.S. by homicide.

Moving into the Modern Age:

  • Psychoanalysis: Enter Sigmund Freud…and "talking" therapy: Freud begat: [all broke from Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Carl Rogers
  • Medication: using drugs like lithium
  • Electroconvulsive therapy. Shock treatment. First used, 1938.

What we know:
450 million people worldwide have mental problems. 1 in every 16 person on the planet.
50% of all mental problems begin before age 14; 75% before age 25.
20% of young adults have mental problems.
35% of teen girls (7 in 25) have eating disorders.
8 of 100 teens have serious depression issues. [That's 2 of every 25]
8% of all teens have anxiety disorders
5% have ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]
3% have ODD [Oppositional Defiant Disorder]
But only 38% of teens get help

Spending on mental health, per person, per year:

  • $1.63 globally
  • 20 cents in low income countries
  • $44.84 in high income countries

But… does modern-day therapy work?: Yes..sometimes…

Success Rates:

  • 80 % of the time: with bipolar disorders
  • 70 %: panic disorder, depression, OCD
  • 60%: schizophrenia

The Future: Where Technology meets therapy

Automated therapy: interfacing with a computer program
Data mining and machine learning
Robotic companions
Automated emotion detection using video (using a webcam)
Virtual reality therapy: used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)

Interesting FACT: How therapists are using Google search data bases. Research shows… people (in the U.S.) feel better in the summer.

  • Eating disorder searches are down 37 percent
  • Schizophrenia searches decreased 37 percent
  • Bipolar searches were down 16 percent
  • ADHD searches decreased by 28 percent
  • OCD searches were down 18 percent
  • Bipolar searches decreased by 18 percent
  • Searches for suicide declined 24 percent
  • Anxiety searches had the smallest seasonal change – down 7 percent during U.S. summers.

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