What is Biomedical Therapy?

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:34 Drug Therapy
  • 1:47 Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • 2:16 Psychosurgery
  • 2:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Biomedical therapy may sound like a complicated topic to understand, but it's really pretty straightforward. This lesson will help you get the facts straight and organize your thinking on this topic. After the lesson, test your understanding with a brief quiz.


When you hear the word therapy, you might think of a treatment such as physical therapy, to heal muscles after an accident, or perhaps going to a psychiatrist for depression. You're on the right track!

Biomedical therapy focuses on treating and reworking the brain. It falls under the branch of mental health, which is an often stigmatized topic. Biomedical therapies are meant to help patients with physiological symptoms and psychological disorders by using drugs, electroconvulsive treatment, and psychosurgery. Let's take a closer look at those three interventions.

Drug Therapy

The use of medicine to treat mental disorders is known as psychopharmacotherapy. Therapeutic drugs are used for an array of psychological issues and can be grouped into three categories:

1. Medicines meant to treat depression or alter moods are called anti-depressant drugs. People who use anti-depressants are more than just sad. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor to treat clinical depression, a mood disorder characterized by feelings of extreme hopelessness and lack of interest in life. Anti-depressants include drugs such as Zoloft or Prozac.

2. Medicines used to relieve anxiety are called anti-anxiety drugs. Anxiety is a condition characterized by chronic worry, unease, or nervousness. You may feel mildly anxious before a test or major life event, or maybe you've experienced extreme anxiety for longer periods. Doctors prescribe anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium or Xanax.

3. Medicines used to treat larger psychological issues, like schizophrenia or psychotic episodes, are called anti-psychotic drugs. Patients with these mental disorders can suffer from delusions, confusion, hallucinations, or other extreme conditions. Antipsychotic drugs include Mellaril, Haldol, and Thorazine.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

A second type of biomedical therapy is electroconvulsive therapy, better known as electric shock therapy. It was first used by doctors in the 1930s to treat depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia by altering brain waves.

Electroconvulsive therapy delivers a shock to a patient's brain through electrodes placed on the temporal lobes. After the shock is delivered, the patient has a convulsion, or brief seizure, and becomes unconscious. Results varied, and the device is rarely used today.

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