|Are psychiatrists just pill pushers?|
If you're not a consumer, you probably have preconceptions about what psychiatry is all about and what psychiatric treatment might entail. Those ideas were probably shaped by readings, specifically Sigmund Freud or other well known psychiatrists. Your notions of what psychiatric treatment is about were probably shaped by what you see on television - cop shows, law shows, medical shows, etc.
I'm here to tell you that all of those images of what you think psychiatric treatment is are false.
Before I got involved in the psychiatric pipeline, I had some exposure to various counselors. They were actually more in line with my preconceptions of what psychiatric analysis was all about.
I had beliefs that my mental health provider would delve into my past, examine my relationship with my father and mother, see how I related to my family, ask how my societal interactions were, learn what went on in my marital relationships, query how I viewed the world, find out what my fears were, examine what my illusions were, check for what bad tapes were in my subconscious that were sabotaging my progress, etc. Guess what? None of those questions and issues were ever addressed by a psychiatrist that I have used. None.
My diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder came from a suggestion I MADE. Otherwise, it would have slipped by the standard psychiatric evaluation, which is woefully lacking in depth and devoid of a real effort to get at the root of an ailment.
A standard psychiatric evaluation consists of the same basic questions. I've been through them dozens of times:
- How are you sleeping? (If you answer "poorly" a sleeping pill is prescribed.)
- How do you feel? (If you answer "poorly" or "depressed" an anti-depressant is prescribed.)
- If you provide information, not asked by the psychiatrist that suggests you may have manic moods and depressive moods, then a prescription for a mood stabilizer is prescribed - Lithium being the most commonly prescribed mood stabilizer. If you hear voices or see things that don't exist, you get the Schizophrenia combo meal of pills. Same for Borderline Personality Disorder and the others.
- Do you have thoughts of hurting anyone? (If you answer yes to this, they ask you who. If it is a person that is accessible - living within your region that you can get to - they give you a pink slip.)
- Do you have suicidal thoughts? (If you answer yes to this, the follow up question is "Do you have a plan?" If you answer yes to that, then you get another pink slip.)
I flunked question #5 and got my trip to the psyche hospital in September of 2010. Since I was admitted on a Friday night and no psychiatrists would be available until Monday, my weekend didn't count against the 72 hours.
On Monday, however, a social worker came in with forms and said, I was remanded to the hospital involuntarily for 72 hours by law. I can choose to leave or choose to voluntarily stay. If I choose to leave, they would take my paperwork to a courtroom downstairs in the building, where a judge sat and forcibly remand me to the hospital for further evaluation. I was staying, no matter what. I spent three weeks there before they felt I was well enough to leave.
While at the hospital, I was given a variety of drugs. The first attempt the doctors made was way over the top. I became like jello and could barely walk or speak. They adjusted the medications and simply said, "I think we over shot on our first attempt." Over shot? They nearly killed me.
Since my "voluntary" stay in a state facility, I have had numerous meetings with my revolving list of psychiatrists. I go through the same questions. Answers of "yes" or "no" gauge whether my medications will be increased or stay the same. They have never said, "I don't think you need this anymore."
I have run out of my medications for up to a month or more, due to not having the money to pay for them. I did not notice any difference. There is only one pill I take for anxiety that has a noticeable impact on my demeanor - the rest could be placebos for all I know.
The greatest impact on my mental health has been my involvement in Recovery International, a group started in 1937 by Dr. Abraham Low. His teachings were designed to give consumers workable tools to overcome some of the impulsive and habitual traits related to mental illnesses and keep the patient out of a psychiatric facility and possibly relieve them from having to take medications.
I had a severe anxiety problem that plagued me for over 15 months. Medication would help for some of the attacks, but I had larger issues that were not being addressed with my current treatment plan. Recovery International gave me workable tools that helped me overcome the majority of my affliction in less than three months. I still have mild relapses, but the tools and taking the medication squelch more substantial symptoms, which rendered me completely dysfunctional.
What is the goal of modern psychiatry? I really don't know. I have yet to see any of the seven psychiatrists that have been my mental health providers offer any suggestions, methods, actions or insights into my mental functioning and mental health. I answer questions, I get a prescription.
I know that a hospital in Cleveland is replacing retiring psychiatrists with LPNs (I think that is the designation - the nurses that can write scripts.) The nurses will execute the same perfunctory questions to mental illness patients and adjust medications accordingly. That is the future of mental health care - nurses pumping out pills.
At the community facility where I get my free psychiatric care and some of my medications FREE of charge, the nurse who weighs me and hands me the pills has done more for my mental health than any of the psychiatrists. We talk, I get to explain my concerns and challenges and she offers great advice. Why isn't the guy/gal with all the degrees doing that?
Psychiatry in the post-Shock Treatment age has simply become a distribution channel for pharmaceutical companies. It's a dart throwing game of trial and error with little verbal analysis and absolutely no chemical analysis of what might be amiss in the patient's body chemistry.
I have never been given one test ordered by a psychiatrist that has looked for chemical imbalances in my system. However, I'm taking horse pill size Lithium capsules that are challenging enough to swallow to make a seasoned porn actress go, "Damn."
I am not alone in my analysis of the psychiatric community. I've attended several NAMI (National Alliance For Mental Illness) meetings and I hear the same complaints. "My psychiatrist isn't listening to me." "I'm on a medication that makes me too lethargic." "My medications forced me to go back to the hospital." "I had a really bad reaction to the treatment."
There are a number of patients where the pieces of the puzzle come together and their treatment plan works for them. In those cases, it is like winning the lottery. Yeah, it worked!
To this day, I have yet to meet a psychiatrist who does not have a prescription pad front and center on his or her desk. Pills are the preferred alternative, even though talk therapy, group therapy, exercise, diet, socialization, challenge therapy can produce real results.
Some patients need medication. They cannot live without it. It is their only alternative. But I think there is a gross reliance on pharmaceutical therapy that is completely misused and may be the preferred method because of kick-backs or inculcation by the pharmaceutical companies.
When will psychiatry live up to our images? When will mental health providers deeply examine the issues of the subconscious mind, the unconscious mind and their relationship to what is manifest in the conscious mind? Without a noticeable change in the simple questionnaire that is commonplace in psychiatric evaluation, I have to ask, "Is psychiatry just Amway for the pharmaceutical companies?"
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