How do Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders differ?
If you visit your family physician with a skin problem, they’ll refer you to a dermatologist; if you’re wheezing to an allergist; and if your blood pressure is spiking, a cardiologist. However, what if you think something is wrong with your brain? That’s not an easy referral to make. Would you be sent to a neurologist or a psychiatrist, and what treatment will you receive?
Neurological vs. Psychiatric disorders
First, let’s understand the difference between these two disorders. Neurological disorders are biochemical, electrical, or structural abnormalities that affect the brain, the nerves throughout the body, and the spinal cord. Conditions can be genetic, congenital, or caused by infections, brain injury, spinal cord injury, nerve injury, etc. Symptoms, and illnesses, include paralysis, pain, loss of sensation, confusion, seizures, altered levels of consciousness, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, ADD, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and more. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are over 600 neurologic diseases.
Psychiatric disorders appear mainly as abnormalities of feeling, thought, moods, or behavior that produce distress or functional impairment. They also can seriously increase the risk of disability, pain, loss of freedom, or death. While there are over 200 classified types of psychiatric disorders, the most common are depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, and addictive disorders. According to a Mental Health America report, over 40 million Americans live with mental illness, yet more than half of them are not receiving proper treatment.
On paper, and after specific neurological tests, the difference between the disorders seems straightforward, but what happens when psychiatric disorders cause physical symptoms, such as headaches or back, stomach, or other unexplained pains? What if symptoms of neurological disorders include poor coordination, muscle weakness, confusion, pain, and altered consciousness levels? How can a doctor know if these are underlying symptoms of a neurological or psychiatric disorder?
The truth is that certain groups of specialists in both fields have been arguing for some time now that the two areas should merge. However, this is a complex topic on its own. Meanwhile, treatments for both usually involve a combination of medication and, in the case of psychiatric disorders, also psychotherapy.
Psychiatric genetic testing
In most cases of psychiatric drug treatment, the problem is that it’s a matter of trial and error. Patients have to endure the side-effects of different drugs that don’t agree with them until the right one, or a combination of several, is found. As such, companies like OmeCare have invested vast amounts of resources in developing genetic tests for psychiatric drug efficacy.
OmeCare’s OmePsychMeds is a DNA test for psychiatric medication taken by the patient at home via a simple cheek swab and sent to OmeCare’s experts for DNA testing. The test yields an analysis indicating the body’s likely response to over 50 commonly prescribed psychiatric medications, even to dosages. The results save time and eliminate the guesswork, helping physicians understand genetic sensitivities to various mental health medications and develop the most effective treatment plan for their patients!