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You Are Here: Home » Psychology » Should You See a Psychiatrist?

Should You See a Psychiatrist?

- 17 February 2014, 03:02

Almost everyone knows of a child who is taking Ritalin, an aunt on antidepressants or a friend with an eating disorder. Psychiatric illness seems to be all around us. In the last few decades especially, public interest groups, the psychiatric community and Big Pharma have all worked to make mental disorders an inevitable part of modern life.

While greater visibility and awareness around these disorders is great for those who have previously missed out on treatment, psychiatry is nevertheless a young and imperfect science.

If you have been considering seeking psychiatric help for yourself or someone you care about, remember first that the you have the right to be an informed consumer. As with most things, psychiatric medication comes with benefits as well as serious risks. While there are people every day whose lives are greatly improved by psychiatric intervention, the unhappy truth is that many people are also misdiagnosed and incorrectly medicated.

To ensure that you are making the best mental health choices, carefully consider the symptoms at hand and whether seeing a psychiatrist is the best next step for you. The vast majority of difficulties experienced by mankind can and have always been addressed with the help of friends, family, community or church.

A human being is a remarkably robust creature, and time is often all that’s needed for equilibrium to return, for the issues to resolve themselves. In our over-medicalized culture, sometimes it’s easy to forget that pain, sadness and anxiety are all normal parts of life.

When to give psychiatric help a miss

A psychiatric diagnosis is a game changer, and certainly not something to be taken lightly. Before you book an appointment with a psychiatrist, consider whether the problem has any hope of resolving on its own, without psychiatric intervention. If you have evidence that this problem has been overcome in the past, give yourself a little time to resolve it on your own terms, before rushing to the doctor’s office.

Feeling empty and sad after someone passes away is totally normal, for example, and very seldom benefits from medication. Likewise increased stress around times of change or transition are all to be expected.

While life events can sometimes trigger psychiatric disorders, there will never be a medication for divorce, losing your job or a loved one’s death. Many health care professionals are loathe to admit it, but sometimes even the most advanced psychiatric treatment is no real match for support from family, spiritual comfort or a good old cry with friends.

If your sleeping and eating habits are more or less OK, if your issue is less than a month old, and if you can point to a definite external event that triggered your symptoms, perhaps hold off on consulting a psychiatrist.

When to seek help

Timely psychiatric care can save lives. A correct diagnosis with the appropriate medication in the right dose can add unimaginable quality of life to someone suffering from a mental disorder.

If your symptoms are more serious than anything you’ve experienced before, consider that the problem may benefit from medication. If any of the following apply to you, a psychiatric opinion is likely what’s called for:

  • You have thoughts of killing or hurting yourself or other people
  • You feel down and depressed and can’t really pinpoint a reason. Things that used to cheer you up seem to have no effect anymore.
  • People have remarked that they are worried about you and that you no longer seem like yourself.
  • You are unable to work because of your symptoms, and the symptoms have begun to affect your ability to socialize or take care of your children.
  • You have lost or gained a substantial amount of weight or have disturbances in your sleep patterns.
  • You no longer care about your personal hygiene.
  • You are seeing or hearing strange things.
  • You have begun to deal with your symptoms by drinking or using other substances.
  • Your primary care physician is strongly urging you to consult a psychiatrist.

If any of the above apply to you, see a professional. Remember that you can always get a second opinion. A good psychiatrist will happily answer all of your questions and will be able to explain their diagnosis and justify any prescription. If you feel bullied into a diagnosis after only a short interview, or feel that the psychiatrist has missed something, speak up or find another health care worker who you feel more comfortable with.

More people are being diagnosed with mental disorders today than ever before. To avoid getting lumped in with the latest fad diagnoses, or taking medications that can ultimately do more harm than good, take your time to find the right psychiatrist.

Lastly, trust in your own resilience and ability to cope with the demands of everyday life – sometimes, the best medicine is time.

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