We brand our approach to mental health as "behavioral neurology" and we are often asked what that means. Mental illnesses are two-fold issues. On the surface we see the behaviors that are caused by mental illness, but there's always an underlying cause. When our brains are experiencing abnormalities, whether it's a chemical imbalance or neurological damage, it is often accompanied by abnormal patterns of thought and behavior. Behavior and neurology go hand-in-hand. Our neurological health and function have a huge impact on our behaviors, which makes sense considering the starting point for everything we do is our brain. On the flip side, our behaviors can have a powerful impact on our neurological health! Countless studies have indicated that positive, healthy behaviors can contribute to overall mental health, especially when they are repeated over time.
Not only do our experiences and actions correlate back to our brain, but we can also diagnose and understand mental issues better by examining an individual's behaviors. Let's look at addiction as an example. The brain of a chemically dependent person has key differences from the brain of a typical non-addicted substance user. That's not to say those differences are good or bad, they're just different. Unfortunately, these particular differences can lead to some pretty unpleasant behaviors that cause a lot of stress and discomfort. It can be extremely difficult for an addict to change their behaviors if their brain function is exactly the same as it has always been. Conversely, while taking medication can help, it doesn't lead to an immediate change in behaviors. That comes with making the active choice to do something different. When we approach addiction from the mindset of treating the brain AND changing the behaviors, we see dramatic improvements and overall recovery.
Basically, we have a two-way street between our behaviors and our neurological health. They impact each other, and to discount one doesn't do the other any favors. At Aftercare Doctors, we take an approach to mental health and addiction medicine that considers individual behavior and neurological function. We understand that through medications we are directly treating your brain, however we also prioritize treating the behaviors connected to it by encouraging changes in behavior that complement the medical course of treatment. The brain-behavior connection is crucial in any treatment plan, and by addressing both ends of it we see outstanding results among our patient population and their quality of life.
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