While reviewing for the AP psychology exam, you have likely learned about the history of treatments for mental illnesses. Early treatments such as trepanning or leaches of course were ineffective or harmful, but they began the exploration into the connection between mood and behaviors and the body.
Over time, physicians and researchers explored the way that the body and brain affect and produce mood, behavior, sensation and thought. Although there is still much to understand, these advances allowed psychological disorders to be treated via medications, and in some cases surgery.
Many medications that treat psychological disorders or symptoms affect the action of neurotransmitters in the brain. They may increase or decrease the activity caused by a certain neurotransmitter.
One type of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increases the overall action of serotonin. They do this by blocking one receptor in the nerve cell—the receptor responsible for reuptake of unused neurotransmitter.
With more serotonin available in at the synapse (since less is reuptaken), more can bind to the receptors. In this way, the effect of serotonin is increased, and that relates to improved mood and anxiety symptoms.
The placebo effect is also strong with medications. It’s been estimated that up to 30% of the effectiveness of some medications is due to the placebo effect—meaning that just the act of taking a pill and believing it will work can affect symptoms of psychological disorders.
As you continue to study for the AP Psychology exam, notice advances in medical treatment for psychological disorders, as well as the remaining mysteries.
Good luck on the AP Psychology Exam!