Can Mental Illness Be Treated with Psychosurgery?

Mental Illness Be Treated with Psychosurgery

According to the American Psychiatric Association, each year, around a quarter of the adult population in the US is diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Thanks to the latest advances in medicine and psychiatry, new and alternative treatments are helping people regain their general health. And, today, there is a renewed interest in psychosurgery. 

Although the field remains controversial and some countries have abandoned psychosurgery altogether, some specialized centers in nations such as the US and the UK are reviving this category of interventions to address cases of treatment-resistant OCD, depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. 

Here is what you need to know about psychosurgery in the treatment of mental health disorders. 

What is Psychosurgery?

Psychosurgery, which is sometimes referred to as functional neurosurgery, is a form of surgical treatment used for treating certain mental illnesses. These surgical interventions aim to alter brain function by targeting the limbic system, which involves brain structures such as some thalamic and hypothalamic nuclei, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the orbitofrontal cortex. Most operations involve removing or neutralizing a small area of the brain, usually the one related to a certain mental illness. 

Some types of psychosurgery operations include cingulotomy, capsulotomy, temporal lobectomy, and amygdalotomy. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapies might also be considered a form of psychosurgery. 

How Does Psychosurgery Treat Mental Illness?

Although psychosurgery became a popular practice during the early 1900s, neurosurgical interventions entered a period of decline in the 1970s, mostly due to the lack of evidence regarding its safety and effectiveness. 

However, over the past years, the scientific community has shown a revived interest in these practices and, in particular, in neuromodulation (selective stimulation) procedures. 

Unlike ablative psychosurgery, in which brain tissue is removed or destroyed to reduce the symptoms associated with some psychiatric disorders, neuromodulation psychosurgery involves the implantation of a modulation device. These medical devices influence the electrical pathways in the brain to modify behavior and modulate the neural networks to address treatment-resistant mental health conditions.

These interventions, which are known as deep brain stimulation, are considered to be less invasive and more efficient. What’s more, over the past years, the Food and Drug Administration has approved DBS for the treatment of conditions such as essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and epilepsy. Recent clinical trials are also looking to prove the effectiveness of DBS to treat chronic pain deriving from affective disorders such as depression. 

Is Psychosurgery an Effective Treatment Option for Mental Illness?

Although it has become clear that medications aren’t the only solution for mental health disorders, a lot more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of psychosurgery in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. 

Currently, studies conducted on the cases performed after the 1970s showed a 50% efficacy and a lack of adverse effects. The overall success rate of modern psychosurgical interventions remains between 25% and 60%. When used to treat OCD, deep brain stimulation operations can lead to improvements in 50-85% of cases at 1-year follow-up appointments. 

Today, only around 15 ablative procedures are performed in the US each year, also thanks to the increased availability of pharmacologic treatments. Nonetheless, clinicians have started to reconsider selective modulation procedures to help patients with treatment-resistant conditions. 

Risks and Benefits of Psychosurgery

Although psychosurgery remains controversial and not widely performed, clinicians have started to acknowledge the potential of far more modern and accurate surgical procedures to improve the quality of life of people with psychiatric disorders. These interventions are much better regulated than the procedures performed during the 1950s, which included surgeries such as lobotomy. 

But while these surgeries are now less invasive, more efficient, and much safer, they still come with some risks and complications. Although these vary depending on the kind of surgery performed and the underlying clinical condition, major side effects of psychosurgery include:

  • Personality changes (likely in 10% of patients)
  • Epileptic episodes and seizures (likely in 6-10% of patients)
  • Urinary incontinence 
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Intellectual disability 
  • Nausea, vomiting, and headaches
  • Amnesia and memory impairment
  • Transient hallucinations
  • Mania
  • Weight gain (likely in 52% of patients)
  • Apathy 
  • Disinhibition issues
  • Problems with speech and balance

Disabling complications, paralysis, and death are some of the rare side effects. 

Beyond the clinical side effects seen above, it is also important to understand that psychosurgery operations aren’t widespread or performed regularly, and they come with long rehabilitation and recovery periods. Although this might vary, patients are required to remain in the hospital for weeks after the intervention and might display childish behavior for months after the surgery. The full outcome of psychosurgery interventions is only visible around 12 months after the operation. 

What Are the Alternatives to Treat Mental Health Disorders?

While the international scientific community continues to study the field of psychosurgery and refine its effectiveness and safety, patients can take advantage of a wide range of mental health treatment options. These include psychotherapy, medications, self-help plans, alternative medicine therapies, and behavioral and cognitive therapy.

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

— Follow Us —

Up Next

Opioid Effects on Mental Health

Opioid Effects on Mental Health

The opioid epidemic emerges as a growing challenge, casting profound shadows across the mental landscapes of individuals affected.

This narrative explores an insight into the deep psychological consequences of opioid dependency, weaving through the complex relationship between substance abuse and mental health. It’s a quest for awareness, understanding, and, ultimately, a pathway to healing.

The Hidden Connection: Opioids and Mental Health

Opioids, often perceived as a remedy for physical discomfort, conceal a darker truth beneath their surface. The solace they provide is fleeting, unveiling a terrain scarred by psychological strife. The journey into dependence is a quiet one, laden with promises of relief that gradually en

Up Next

How Exercising With Your Dog Improves Your Mental Health

How Exercising With Your Dog

In the intricate landscape of mental health management, the integration of physical exercise with canine companionship emerges as a distinguished method for augmenting psychological wellness.

This scholarly discourse aims to elucidate the complex mechanisms through which engagement in physical activities with a dog serves not only as a catalyst for improved physical health but also as a significant boon to mental and emotional well-being. Through a detailed exploration of this symbiotic relationship, we uncover the nuanced benefits that canine-assisted exercise bestows upon human psychological states, thereby offering a refined understanding of its value in a comprehensive mental health strategy.

Up Next

From Therapy Room to Boardroom: 10 Steps for Psychologists Transitioning to HR

Steps for Psychologists Transitioning to HR

So, you have done your time in the therapy room, and you are now considering applying the training and knowledge you’ve acquired as a psychologist to the field of Human Resources. It is a big, brave and possibly scary step. Therefore, we reckon you might welcome a bit of guidance.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in HR, it’s important to understand what skills, experience and qualifications employers are looking for. Therefore, knowing how best to transition from your current position to one in human resources will go a long way towards helping you to secure job interviews and more confidently embark on your new career path.

In this guide, we’ll shine a spotlight on the human resources industry, highlighting some of the advantages of transitioning to a role in this field, and revealing ten of the best pathways to make your career change as succ

Up Next

A Beginner’s Guide to Sigmund Freud’s Theory of Dream Interpretation

Sigmund Freud's Theory of Dream Interpretation

Freud is more than the oddball father of psychoanalysis we know him as but has become a cultural phenomenon. Everyone has heard of Freud, from the stranger to psychiatric science to the Master of Mental Health graduate, and with good reason. Before Freud, most psychotherapy simply consisted of getting the mentally ill and psychotic out of the way of “normal” society. This involved shipping them off to asylums where they were largely ignored and left to degenerate. It was Freud’s works and early studies of psychoanalysis that paved the way for the modern therapy and counselling we have today. Among the most famous, was Freud’s contribution to dream analysis, as published in his 1899 work “The Interpretation of Dreams.”


Up Next

Exploring a More Natural Approach to Mental Health Treatment

Natural Approach to Mental Health Treatment

When we’re experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, we can take prescription medication to feel better. Many options available worldwide are recommended by healthcare professionals.

However, not everyone wants to rely on pharmaceutical companies to feel more positive about their future. If you’re interested in exploring more natural options to improve your mental health, you may like to explore the following: 


Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance found in some mushroom types. It’s commonly known as magic mushrooms. You might be eager to try psilocybin products like Neau Tropics af

Up Next

Culinary Comfort: How Cooking Soothes the Soul

Cooking Soothes the Soul

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, finding peace and comfort can often be a challenging endeavor. However, almost every home has an unexpected sanctuary – the kitchen. Cooking isn’t just about preparing meals; it’s a therapeutic journey that nurtures both the body and soul. Whether you enjoy vegan soul food or learning to bake, there are endless possibilities for your inner chef to explore. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the soothing effects of culinary creativity that can lead to a more tranquil and satisfying life. 

A Creative Escape

Cooking is a great way to show your creativity and express yourself. It’s not only about following a recipe but also about making something new by chopping,

Up Next

5 Social Media Marketing Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know Before

Social Media Marketing Facts

This is the age of marketing, and social media is probably the strongest tool or platform that marketers, irrespective of scale, are banking on. With such a lion’s dominance, even social media is evolving fast with time. Let’s try understanding it with one of the most sparkling social media marketing facts. 

According to Statista, businesses are spending around 270 billion USD in the year 2023 on social media marketing. Moreover, the figures may reach a whopping 300 billion dollars by 2024! 

Are you promoting your business on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn on at regular intervals? 

Then, in that case, you need to sync yourself with the socials’ evolution. The first step to it is to grow awareness. 

Expecting what can you get here?