Neuropsychiatry Programs The Best of Both Worlds?

Neuropsychiatry programs

Historically, neurology and psychiatry have operated in completely different realms: one in the brain, and one in the mind.

Those might sound like the same thing — and maybe they’re even located in the same geographical area, biologically speaking — but when it comes to mental health, their approaches could not be more different.

Neurology focuses on the electrical and chemical processes that occur in the brain, while psychiatric doctors of more Freudian traditions focus on how the mind inside our heads processes life on the outside. One is about structure and science, the other is about thoughts and feelings. In essence, it’s the old nature versus nurture debate.

Neuropsychiatry programs, on the other hand, work to combine both of these opposing agendas to the greatest extent possible. Neuropsychiatric evaluations of patients take into account both biochemical processes and environmental life conditions. They attempt to combine what’s happening in the brain along with what’s happening to it.

For example, nearly 7% of adults in the U.S. — about 16 million people — experienced some kind of major depressive episode in 2012. A strict neurologist would attribute this to an imbalance of brain chemicals or some kind of malfunction of signals between areas of the brain. A resolute psychiatrist might only think about repressed anger or environmental influences like past trauma. Neuropsychiatric doctors would look at the patient from both sides.

Another example is the attribution of anxiety disorders. Though it’s the most common mental illness in America — an estimated 18%, or 40 million, people struggle with anxiety — an estimated two out of three people never seek treatment. Perhaps they fear being told by a psychiatrist that it’s the fault of their parents or some kind of strange suppressed sexual frustration. On the other hand, not everyone wants to be reduced to a chemical formula, put on a prescription, and sent to the pharmacy for a medication fix.

Neuropsychiatry programs focus on bringing human elements back into the brain and applying scientific concepts to the mind. They attempt to paint a fuller picture of the patient’s experience from a psychiatric and neurological standpoint together. They bridge nature and nurture, and with it, might offer a more comprehensive understanding of human psychology in all its complexity.

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