Over 970 million people around the world struggle with mental illness or drug use. And our current mental healthcare system is having trouble stretching to meet the demand for psychiatry services. That’s why some look to Artificial Intelligence (AI) – there might not be enough psychiatrists for everyone, but we can have AI robots, apps, and services ease some of the demand.
In this blog, we’ll explore how advances in AI can affect psychiatry within the next 5 years and beyond. The answers are very exciting. But first…
What is Psychiatry? And Why Should You Care?
Psychiatry is important because psychiatrists support the mental health of our communities and families. Every year, about 8 million deaths are attributed to issues with mental health. Without psychiatrists to prescribe anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, this number would be much higher.
So, what is psychiatry?
The Oxford Dictionary says Psychiatry is “the branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness.” Though this isn’t entirely accurate, it can be useful to think of a psychiatrist as a therapist with extra education and training around the brain, medications, and diagnosis processes.
In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 25,520 psychiatrists in the U.S. But as one study found, by 2024 there will be “a shortage of between 14,280 and 31,091 psychiatrists” in the U.S.
With such a massive need for more psychiatrists, some are looking to AI to fill the gaps.
AI: Tech That Takes Care of Itself
As you may know, AI refers to a system that can reason, learn, and plan independent of human input after a certain point. AI can mimic human and animal intelligence.
Thanks to recent advancements (such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT program), AI is getting more and more attention. And while there are countless ways AI could be used, few are sure what the future holds.
Because AI constantly improves upon itself with experience, it evolves at a rapid rate. This makes development hard to predict.
The human brain has trouble grasping compound interest, so it’s easy to lose track of the power of machine learning to improve itself. AI is like a snowball that compounds and produces new insights continually.
One thing you can be sure about: Within the next 5 years, AI will help mental health professionals diagnose and treat a range of concerns. In fact, it already is.
Using AI to Assess for Anxiety
In one small but promising study, researchers used AI to gather and process visual data related to anxiety. Indicators included knuckle popping, nail biting, hand tapping and more.
In concluding the study, the researchers found that AI algorithms could accurately assess anxiety over 90% of the time.
The major takeaway from this study is that there is real potential for AI to help psychiatrists diagnose certain mental health conditions. It seems that the use of AI in psychiatry is possible and will be very helpful in the next 5 or so years.
Additionally, as AI algorithms improve, these capabilities will also improve. As the growth compounds, AI is expected to become integral to all aspects of healthcare, including mental healthcare.
How is AI Already Being Used in Medicine?
Here is a quick list of how AI is already being used in psychiatry and mental health:
- Location tracking to predict suicidality and depression
- Speech and tone monitoring to discover depression (monotonality and some speech patterns are associated with depression)
- Using VR for exposure therapy, for example with fear of heights, spiders, or public speaking
- ChatGPT-4 has already been used to think through different treatment options by one doctor
- Robots that interact with and organize events for the elderly, easing the burden on human caregivers
- Analyzing sleep data gathered from a smart watch or other sleep device to produce valuable clinical insights
- And more.
How Will AI Be Used in the Future?
The potential for AI to analyze ever enlarging sets of data has unimaginably positive consequences for psychiatry. By noticing patterns that humans would not otherwise see, options for treatment grow substantially.
Here are some ways AI is expected to impact psychiatry and mental health:
- AI has shown promise in predicting dementia risk.
- AI will be used to develop new drugs with less side effects for diagnoses like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
- The insights that AI will offer can help psychiatrists predict a patient’s reaction to and tolerance of different medications using genetics.
- By using hospital admissions and other data, AI will predict suicide risk with high accuracy. And this will only get better with wider implementation.
- As AI develops and starts to more accurately mimic human emotion, it may be used in some contexts for therapy. While entirely replacing human interaction is not likely, this can help more people access therapy cheaply and conveniently.
- And more.
But there’s another benefit of the widespread adoption of AI for psychiatric purposes…
AI Can Reduce Stigma in Psychiatry
Because some people don’t want to talk to a human about their problems, AI seems like a good bridge to bringing more people in for therapy.
If you’re not comfortable talking to a real person, you might start off talking to an AI-powered robot. This has many benefits, including improved access to treatment, helping with initial assessments and recommendations, and providing support when human mental health providers are busy.
Eventually, patients may become more comfortable and seek out therapy with a human. But even if they don’t, therapy is enhanced with AI.
The support that AI can offer in therapy and psychiatry can make both more effective.
As one example, software engineers are developing apps that can serve as a companion to therapy. These apps can remind you to do any homework from your therapist, help you challenge negative thinking, and tune into your emotions.
They can also alert your doctor or therapist to check in with you. Studies show that having regular check-ins reduces risk of suicide.
Looking Ahead: AI and Psychiatry
Though there are dangers with artificial intelligence, with the right leadership and innovation, the field looks promising. A world where mental healthcare is accessible to all is possible in the coming decades. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for AI to find relief for your mental health. Here at Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles, we’ve been helping our clients achieve amazing results since 2014, even without the help of AI.
If you’d like to learn how we can help you, send us a message. And if you’ve enjoyed this blog about how AI might affect Psychiatry in the next 5 years, share it on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.