I DON’T KNOW A PSYCHIATRIST WHO USES A COUCH!
The image originated with Sigmund Freud in the days when there was no scientific based treatment for mental illness.
Yep, Freud had all sorts of theories of the mind, eroticism, oedipal complexes (based on Greek mythology) but no scientific method. By Scientific method I mean presenting a hypothesis e.g. drug A helps with depression and then testing that hypothesis by performing a trial to determine if there is a statistically significant effect of drug A.
A scientific basis for mental illness was only possible after psychiatrists agreed on a taxonomy (a what?) classification system for mental illness so that psychiatrists agreed what system of signs and symptoms constitute a particular mental illness. This only started in the 1960’s.
So, what do we know now? Mental illness is extremely common 1 in 5 people will suffer from a mental illness in any year. It’s common, just like the flu is a common illness with a high natural rate of recovery. Mental illness takes many forms, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, alcohol and drug use problems, depression and anxiety, life-long personality problems, acquired brain injury and dementia. Unlike the common cold however the burden of illness (fancy statistical concept) meaning how much disability is caused means that mental illness is as damaging as cancer or atherosclerosis in our society!
Do you know anyone with:
- learning disabilities
- alcoholism or drug addiction
- eating disorders
- phobias, such as fear of heights
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- personality disorders
This is what psychiatrists who are medical specialists diagnose and treat. Psychiatrists are doctors who after graduating from medicine (meaning they understand the medical basis for mental illness) then focus on learning to diagnose and treat mental illness. Psychologists offer counselling but do not prescribe medications, they often provide counselling as requested by the psychiatrist or GP.
When patients are severely ill only a psychiatrist is permitted to admit them to hospital and direct treatment.
So when is it a good time to have a psychiatric review?
1. Are you taking medication for a mental illness? A psychiatrist is the expert at prescribing the most appropriate medication and therefore getting the best outcome
2. Is your mood or your mind having a detrimental effect on your day-to-day life? There is no reason to endure this and again a psychiatrist (often with the input of your GP or a psychologist) is the best way to recover quickly
3. Experienced a major stress or trauma recently? See a psychiatrist to ensure you have a plan in place to assist you in dealing with this difficult time
4. Seeing a psychologist? It’s good to get the diagnosis right and direct psychological treatment towards the most pressing problem. Your psychiatrist will work with your psychologist and make sure this treatment is as effective as possible
5. Experiencing side effects from your medication? Or have you failed to significantly improve after taking medication? Psychiatric input is likely to be useful
6. For a 2nd opinion. Sometimes a fresh look sees something that was previously missed
Remember, not seeing a psychiatrist could mean years spent suffering needlessly !
Life is meant to be enjoyed not endured so seek help today