Treating the Symptoms vs. Treating the Disease


The most common question I receive about Neurotherapy is, “If this works so well, why aren’t more providers offering this?” My answer to this is, “Adoption takes time and the current standard of psychiatric practice out there is devoted to symptom management.” Symptom management is our first approach to the treatment of any disease process. In other forms of medicine, symptom management is how we discovered anti-inflammatories or anti-pyretics. We use medications and natural supplements to lose weight, improve sleep quality, keep pain under control, and provide a means to better manage disease processes with which we have a limited ability to treat directly.

Psychiatry is one of many medical specialties which is constantly working toward maximizing quality of life through symptom-based medication management. Until we fully understand the root cause of a disease, treatment options are geared toward symptom management. Psychiatric medications are developed using a concept known as the Monoamine or Serotonin Hypothesis. In 1965, Joseph Schildkraut put forth the hypothesis that depression was associated with low levels of norepinephrine, and later researchers theorized that serotonin was actually the neurotransmitter of interest. Psychiatry knew that mental health optimization was achieved by optimizing communication in the brain. Logically, by manipulating neurotransmitters, we can control mood disorders and how they manifest. Psychologists, therapists, and counselors assist this process by providing education and guidance relating to behaviors, coping mechanisms, cognitive processing techniques, and goal oriented follow through so that the patient can re-assume his or her own mental health management. It was not until the late 1990s did we look toward optimizing neurons instead of neurotransmitters to facilitate better brain communication.

Somewhere along the way, psychiatry has confused the symptom with the disease. Ask yourself, what disease do psychiatrists treat? The first answer that comes to our minds is depression. That is technically incorrect. Psychiatrists prescribe medications designed to manage the symptom known as depression. That’s right. Depression is the symptom, not the disease. Then what is the disease? This is where Neurotherapy comes into the picture. New imaging technologies have enhanced our understanding of how the brain communicates and specifically how mood disorders manifest in the brain. We’ve finally been able to address the “mechanical” issues which produce feelings of depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and elements of OCD. Up until the last 15 years or so, we’ve been using medications that manipulate neurotransmitters in the brain with the goal of improving neuronal (brain cell) communication. Here is why this approach yields limited results. Think of the neurotransmitters as cars and the neurons (brain cells) as roads. Nearly all antidepressant medications are designed to add cars to the road, but the roads are closed.

Neurotherapies such as Minimally-Stimulated Ketamine Infusion Therapy (MSKIT) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS/iTBS) function like a catalyst triggering a process of self-optimization in the brain. Neurotherapies stimulate the growth of new, undifferentiated neurons and assist neurons with limited communication ability, which we now understand to be the source of the depressive symptoms, to reawaken and communicate optimally. These poorly communicating neurons we are repairing are known as neuronal lesions. So while depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and OCD are symptoms, the neuronal lesions which inhibit communication in the brain are the disease. We all have neuronal lesions in our brain. These lesions (areas of poor communication) develop in response to traumatic events and prolonged periods of anxiety. Non-trauma related lesions typically manifest during puberty but have the ability to appear at any time throughout the lifespan. Over years, these lesions can accumulate, producing an atrophy of the prefrontal cortex leading to what we call age-related or idiopathic dementia. Neurotherapies are utilized in the treatment of mood disorders, chronic pain, dementia, stroke and traumatic brain injury recovery, and have shown much promise in the treatment of post-acute coronavirus syndrome.

For decades, mental health management practices have been built around the management of symptoms rather than the treatment of the disease. MSKIT and rTMS/iTBS are the two most effective means of enhancing neuronal communication which manifests as optimized emotional control (doing good elicits good feelings/neglecting self-care feels worse), improved clarity and cognitive function, and the patient’s own perceived ability to be present and enjoy the moment. Neurotherapy is not a replacement for psychotherapy or psychiatry. Instead, we are the missing piece that allows patients to reclaim his or her own mental health self-management. Scenic City Neurotherapy is here to provide a better way.