Most people have minor emotional disturbances that are not recognized but, because of their effects on the general health, have medical significance. Many people in industry, in labor, and in public life get along, although they suffer at all times with difficulties of adjustment to their environment. An analysis of the people who come to doctors’ offices revealed that from 30 to 60 per cent come as patients primarily because of complaints due to emotional disorders, which are reflected as physical disorders. Therefore, frustrations, anxiety, and fear may appear as headaches, ulcers of the stomach, asthma, or similar conditions. Indeed, emotional factors may be present in the great majority of physical illnesses. Treatment is not fully satisfactory unless it takes care of the mental as well as the physical factors.
Our population has become an aging population. People live much longer than was common fifty years ago. As people get older they tend to develop more emotional experiences, and this has greatly multiplied the need of psychiatric help. According to the available figures one out of every twenty people will need advice or guidance from an expert for severe emotional illness at some time during his lifetime. This is indicated by the fact that more than one half of all the veterans in veterans’ hospitals are psychiatric patients. Thirty-seven per cent of releases from the army for medical reasons were for psychiatric disorders. A total of 51 per cent of all medical separations from the military service were due to personality disturbances. In addition, people who are mentally disturbed constitute about one-half of all of the patients in hospitals in the United States.
While modem medicine has much knowledge of psychiatric conditions, far more still remains unknown than is actually known. Methods of treatment developed in recent years include the successful use of the tranquilizing drugs (see below), electric shock, psychoanalysis, the use of occupational and recreational therapy. Since the number of competent experts capable of treating such patients is insufficient, study is now being made of the treatment of mentally ill patients in groups. This is called group psychotherapy.