How to Seek Help for Mood Disorders Related to Epilepsy
How Do I Know if I Need Treatment?
At times, everyone experiences some feelings of anxiety, irritability, or depression. However, if these symptoms last a long time, are severe, or interfere with your relationships or job, they probably require treatment. Start by telling the physician who treats your seizures, whether it is a family doctor, internist, or neurologist, about your feelings. Explain how often these symptoms occur, how they make you uncomfortable, and how long they last. If you can, bring in a calendar that tracks these symptoms, just like a seizure calendar. Ask your doctor whether these symptoms might be related to your epilepsy and what to do about them. Together, you and your doctor can decide whether you need treatment for a mood disorder.
Who Else Can Help?
If your doctor is comfortable treating mood disorders, he may prescribe counseling, psychotherapy, medication or other treatment. If it is not clear exactly what type of mood disorder you have, or you need more specialized treatment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist. These include psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, social workers, and counselors.
What is a Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in treating people with mood disorders and other psychological problems. Psychiatrists offer various types of psychotherapy and can prescribe medications such as antidepressants or antianxiety drugs. Psychiatrists have an MD or DO degree, like your physician.
What is a Psychiatric Nurse?
Some nurses specialize in helping people with mood disorders and other mental health problems and have earned a Master's degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. They work as Clinical Nurse Specialists or Nurse Practitioners and may provide education and psychotherapy, or act as case managers. In some states, psychiatric nurses work independently of physicians and can prescribe medications.
What is a Psychologist?
A psychologist is specially trained to evaluate and treat people with psychological problems. Some psychologists specialize in various forms of neuropsychological testing, while others offer different types of therapy. Psychologists do not prescribe medications, but may work together with a physician who can prescribe medications if needed. Psychologists usually have an advanced degree like a PhD, PsyD or EdD.
What is a Social Worker?
Social workers specialize in making sure patients have access to the services they need, such as transportation, home visits, specialized equipment like wheelchairs and funding for medications. Social workers help families cope with illness, disability, inadequate housing, and unemployment. Social workers may also offer counseling. A college degree is the minimum requirement for a social worker, and many have a Master's degree (MSW) or Doctorates (DSW or PhD) in social work. Social workers are employed by hospitals, managed care organizations, local governments, other agencies or are self employed. Some social workers specialize in helping people with epilepsy and in treating mental health problems like mood disorders.
What is a Counselor?
Counselors have a variety of educational backgrounds designed to help them understand your medical and psychological problems and assist you in coping with them. Specific types of counseling such as cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy may assist you in solving problems related to your epilepsy. Counselors typically have Master's degrees. Counselors work closely with other mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers) to address mental health problems. Social workers may also act as counselors. A counselor may be able to suggest a local support group that consists of other people with similar problems, which you may find helpful.
How do I Choose a Mental Health Professional?
Your doctor is your best source of information for referral. It is quite likely that your doctor already has a working relationship with the mental health professionals in your area and has a good idea who is most likely to be able to help you. If you need more information, you can ask your local epilepsy support group or contact the various organizations listed in Treatment Resources.
Should I Tell My Family?
Mental health issues can be very sensitive. Just as some people feel that epilepsy has a stigma attached to it, some people are embarrassed to admit that they have problems with depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, this can prevent people with mood disorders from seeking help when effective treatment is available. Depending upon your family situation, you may wish to tell them about your mood disorder. Although this might be difficult for them to accept at first, they will probably be interested because they care about you. It may be helpful for them to receive education about your mood disorder. It may even be beneficial for them to participate in your treatment. Your mental health professional will help you decide how to address these issues with your family.
How Will I Pay For Mental Health Services?
Insurance coverage for mental health services is very variable. If you are not sure whether these services are covered, contact your insurance company. If you don't have insurance, you may have to pay for these services. Some communities offer free mental health services, or fees may be adjusted depending upon your ability to pay. A social worker can help you find affordable treatment for mood disorders.
How Can I Get Free Care?
Another way to get high quality care is to enroll in a clinical trial that is evaluating a new treatment for mood disorders. Each clinical trial has different criteria for participation. Once you enter the trial, typically you will have regular check-ups and receive medication or therapy without charge. In return, you are expected to follow the treatment instructions carefully and attend all required visits. For clinical trials sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, go to www.nimh.nih.gov/studies/index.cfm or www.clinicaltrials.gov. Your doctor may also be able to recommend an appropriate clinical trial.