What is Orthomolecular Psychiatry?

The term “Orthomolecular”“ was first coined in 1968 by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, PhD, in Orthomolecular Psychiatry, an article published in the journal Science. The literal translation of the phrase is “Right Molecule,” and he used it to refer to thinking about psychiatric disorders by first addressing the nutrient environment of the brain. He believed that an optimum nutrient environment was necessary to promote healthy mental functioning. On the cellular level, there are millions of chemical reactions that occur throughout the brain on a daily basis. He encouraged first optimizing the use of molecules normally present in the human body to correct any deficiencies which might be playing a role in the mental condition. Today, orthomolecular therapy expands on these basic principles, integrating each person’s unique behavioral, emotional, interpersonal, spiritual, genetic, nutritional, environmental, and lifestyle factors into the overall plan of the individual. Conventional medications are prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider when necessary; however, focus is on the assessment of the underlying cause of the illness, thus minimizing the use of traditional medications.

How is this approach different from the drugs traditionally prescribed by psychiatrists? Conventional medications prescribed in the psychiatric field today work on the receptor level of the brain, modifying uptake and concentration of neurotransmitters in the spaces between neurons. However, they do not address the possible deficiencies at the cellular level that may play a significant role in mental illness. Orthomolecular therapy works at the biochemical level of the brain, supplying the needed nutrients and cofactors for proper cellular reactions and functioning, aiming to address the root of the problem. An orthomolecular approach also differs from traditional psychiatry in that it aims to use natural substances to relieve symptoms. It isn’t a method for diagnosis or treatment.

What mental health symptoms can be evaluated with an orthomolecular approach?

All of them. Whether it is anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, or other mental health symptoms. The goal of orthomolecular evaluation is to address the root of the problem in a holistic manner that can be tailored individually to promote well-being. In essence, we look for the right molecules for each person to function at an optimum level. As mentioned previously, traditional medication can be prescribed by a licensed health care provider and used with the natural methods if requested or needed.

What about side effects?

Since natural substances are utilized, side effects are usually minimal. Interactions with traditional medications are also usually minimal, and traditional medicine can be used with orthomolecular therapy if approved by your licensed healthcare professional.

Can you integrate other therapies with orthomolecular approaches?

Yes. It is important to realize that orthomolecular therapy is only a piece of the puzzle. An orthomolecular assessment of each individual is done, and a comprehensive holistic plan can be developed. This may include referral to other holistic and traditional therapists or licensed healthcare providers if you don’t have one in order to address all of an individual’s needs.

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