The pandemic has shined a spotlight on various aspects of the human condition, including the state of our mental health. In 2021, Olympic athletes, celebrities, and other notable names put their mental health first in front of the world, opening the door to more-candid conversations on the subject.
A recent poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that one in four Americans are putting their mental health at the top of their 2022 resolution list. As committed as individuals have become to their mental health, leaders in the industry are also committed to finding new and innovative ways to help people cope with an ever-changing world.
According to Psychcentral.com, here are some emerging trends that we may see in the near future:
Trauma-Informed Care is a way of thinking about how to care for an individual. It shifts the conversation from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
The CDC notes that sixty-one percent of adults have experienced trauma in their lives, and one-in-six adults experienced four traumatic events during their childhood. The numbers increase with marginalized communities.
Trauma-Informed Care allows care teams to get a complete picture of a person’s trauma, both past and present. Patients engage more with their provider resulting in better relationships and a decreased chance of re-traumatization. There is, however, a concern that professionals may focus too much on a person’s trauma, instead of on their strengths, with this method.
Blood Tests For Mental Health is a ground-breaking method of diagnosing depression through blood tests. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein in the blood that influences memory and learning in people with mood disorders.
By testing for this protein, it’s possible to detect depression and its severity. Low levels of mature BDNF have been detected in people who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder.
Another study determined phosphate levels in the blood could identify Major Depression Disorder in adults and correctly diagnose depression eighty-two percent of the time.
While there is still a long way to go before blood tests are used to diagnose mood disorders, studies and current research are promising.
Psychedelic research will continue in 2022. MDMA, LSD, Ketamine, and Psilocybin have been used to treat anxiety and depression; however, with psychedelics still being classified as illegal in many countries, including the United States, it has been difficult to conduct thorough research. It wasn’t until the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) authorized an increase in the production of psychedelics that research was able to resume at a high level.
Psychedelics have been known to reduce symptoms of PTSD in adults. “Microdosing” and “Macrodosing” psychedelics have been reported to help with depression and anxiety.
Social Media Detoxing is something you’ll hear on almost every social media platform as people post about “taking a break” from scrolling. In 2021, a Facebook whistleblower testified before Congress about the dangers of Instagram on the mental health of teens. This propelled attorneys general from eleven states, including Texas, to investigate Facebook for knowingly physically and mentally harming children and teens.
In 2022, there will be more conversations surrounding setting boundaries for social media and how it influences ideas, attitudes, and behaviors, especially with younger audiences.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a significant role in almost every industry, and mental health is no exception. A study published in Science Direct, called ADAM-Sense: Anxiety-displaying activities recognition by motion sensors, was conducted in December 2021 using artificial intelligence. It found that AI could help detect anxiety symptoms through actions such as nail-biting, knuckle-cracking, and hand tapping. Although AI is likely to play a role either with a patient or with therapists who can use it to better serve their patients, it more than likely won’t replace traditional services done by humans.
Telehealth took a front seat in 2020 and 2021 as many providers offered the service to patients who couldn’t be seen in person due to situations surrounding the pandemic. Telehealth will continue to expand in 2022, especially for therapists experiencing full caseloads due to more people seeking help with their mental health. It also enables easier access to healthcare for autoimmune compromised patients as well as those with transportation and physical challenges. The virtual appointment method has even erased some of the stigmas behind “going to see a therapist.”
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is defined as a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. Magnetic pulses are used repeatedly on portions of the brain involved in mood control, ADHD, OCD, and depression.
TMS is used when traditional treatments for depression and other disorders have failed. Side-effects from TMS, although rare, could occur; some individuals have experienced seizures, mania for those with bipolar disorder, and hearing loss if inadequate ear protection is used during treatment.
Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t just for gaming anymore. The new technology is also being used to treat patients who experience chronic pain. The FDA recently approved VR as an alternative to opioids. Patients are placed into a virtual world where they move virtually and learn about pain sensations and how to deal with the stress of pain.
VR would be used in conjunction with medication, physical and behavioral therapy. There is still a lot to learn about how VR can help those dealing with chronic pain, but stay tuned for more research on the subject in 2022.