Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Normal People

I was talking to my med school roommate last night. She's a regular doctor, and she was talking about how they need more psychiatrists where she works. They're getting a new one soon, but he scratches his chin and he sounds a little twitchy. Someone said something about psychiatrists being weird. My friend said, "I know a normal psychiatrist." I asked her who, and she said "You" meaning me. I'm normal? Roy likes that people say we sound like "normal people" when they listen to our My Three Shrinks podcast. Roy actually looks like a normal person. ClinkShrink looks like a nun. I don't want to know what I look like. There are moments when I think I'm normal. When patients ask me if they're normal, I generally respond "What's normal?" Actually, I think I equate Normal with Boring. Maybe Normal people equate Normal with Sane? Most days, I'm pretty sure I'm sane, I'm positive that ClinkShrink is sane, and Roy...oh, Roy is sane and he even looks like a normal person.

So does psychiatry make people abnormal or are abnormal people attracted to psychiatry?

Let's try a few, feel free to add some of your own thoughts:

--People are often attracted to fields relevant to their own lives, so they are more likely to be interested in psychiatry if they have a mental illness or know someone with a mental illness. With the lifetime incidence of mental illness above 50%, I'm not sure this accounts for "weird." And many of my patients easily meet criteria for "Normal Person." This is the obvious response to why shrinks are weird, so it's where I started.

---One gets a little bonkers listening to people's problems all day. Maybe. I still enjoy it.

---Everyone knows shrinks are weird, so weird people join the club. I'm not sure how this explains the nun amongst us.

---Psychiatrists analyze everything and all that introspection makes you relate strangely to other people. There are probably some variants on this theme. It may account for unusual interpersonal styles, but not for chin scratching and twitchy-ness.

---Twitchy people can't hold scalpels steadily so they have to be psychiatrists. Good point.

So do 'normal people' have blogs?
And I still have to comment on ClinkShrink's last post Coming soon.


Awake and Dreaming said...

A regular doctor? Is that something like a "normal" doctor???

In all seriousness though. I really like what you said. And as usual, I have a couple thoughts. First of all, I generally answer the am I normal question the same way you do. I also however tend to describe myself as "not normal". But somehow, I think that makes me normal. I know, it doesn't make sense.

I feel like it is too late for me to make much sense. Especially with a subject as complex as this. Perhaps I'll try again tomorrow.

ps I read your book, and it was awesome. It's pretty much exactly my favourite style of book, so that helped, plus I loved the tone.

Anonymous said...

I always think of "normal" in psychological terms not as mainstream and boring but as seeing the world as it really is, seeing yourself as you really are (& how you relate to others and the world), and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

I view my psychiatrist as "normal". He's not mainstream because he's way more intelligent than average. He also has an elitist taste in music, art, furniture, automobiles, food (and fine wine) (he's a foodie). He went into psychiatry because his sister is mentally ill and his father was Borderline P.D.

In the past I considered myself normal but I have too much distress and discomfort in my own skin at this point to feel I am normal now. I actually think I have gotten closer to being normal while going through all this growth & distress because I see the world and myself in it more clearly now. However, now I can also see more clearly how great the gap is between myself and people who were treated lovingly as children.

The Girl said...

I should also add that you three are a good advertisement for a career in psychiatry for those of us who don't have exposure to psychiatrists in any kind of regular way, and who want evidence that normal and happy people can go into psychiatry and remain normal and happy. :)

Anonymous said...

This is my first-ever blog post, entering the 21st century sort of.

I think what I said was that you don't look like a psychiatrist--you look normal. Not the same thing as "being" normal (whatever that means). Not sure what psychiatrists are exactly supposed to look like either, but some definitely do--you know it when you see it!

With love from your not-so-normal but-regular-doctor former roommate.

Roy said...

I was wondering that myself, Still Dreaming, "regular doctor"?

I took that to mean in comparison to being a psychiatrist. Is that not a "regular doctor"? Are we irregular doctors?

Or, perhaps, Dinah meant that her doctor friend practices on a regular basis, as opposed to having, say, Wednesdays off.

Or, maybe she meant that the doctor has a consistent bathroom regimen and is not bound up.

And, to The Girl with the Blue Stethoscope, that is a nice thing to say. We should be targeting medical students more, trying to get them to listen or read our stuff, so that they see that they can remain regular AND become a psychiatrist.

Now I'm off to eat my bran muffin.

Dinah said...

Roy: sorry to hear about the constipation problem, I didn't know. I hope it all comes out okay.

"Regular Doctor" you people are overly fussy: Internist/ Primary Care Doc/Family Doc/GP/ Marcus Welby. The person you call when you have the flu (or constipation). I didn't say "medical" doc because we shrinks are medical docs. Actually, roomie is a specialist in geriatrics, but I believe for the folks she sees, she is the main doc and other specialists are 'consultants' but I don't know this for a fact.


Still Dreaming: Thank you! I'm always happy to hear someone liked my novel.

shraddha said...

Some of the people I am closest to are Psychiatrists.
My college girl friend,she happens to be my bestest friend is a Psychiatrist and practises in Australia.
And she is the most well balanced, great looking, 'normal' in every sense of word!
'normal' does vary with every one but as far as I am concerned, most Psychiatrists fit my definition of normal.

Anonymous said...

If the lifetime rate of mental illness is 50%, then the definition of "mental illness" being used is way too loose.

Being "weird" doesn't necessarily mean having a diagnosable mental illness (and vice versa). However "weird" people have minds that work differently from most, so it does make sense that they may develop an interest in how the mind works. Nonetheless I think the "all psychiatrists are weird" thing is 90% myth.

Gerbil said...

So do 'normal people' have blogs?

Boring ones.

Anonymous said...

I think most psych's are weird only because when people realise they're talking to a psych, they change. They either become really excited interested or extremely self conscious. And when that happens everything becomes a little weird - that would include the 'person' who has chosen psych as a career.

Isn't it strange that when I change it seems as though you've changed? Perhaps the world does revolve around me.


Roy said...

t: re 50% lifetime mental illness... keep in mind that is lifetime and includes things like phobias. It's really not so high... wonder what the lifetime somatic illness rate is (I'm guessing north of 90%).

gerbil: lol

roses: this is why I don't immediately identify myself as a psychiatrist when doing a consult; otherwise the self-screening and defensiveness goes up so much that the info is not very valid. Once they talk to me for a few minutes and figure out I'm a psychiatrist, by then their positive experience outweighs their preconceived notions, and then we move forwards without all the "I don't need to see you, I'm not crazy" defensiveness.

Anonymous said...

Umm, Roy?
Aren't they there to see a psych anyway? How do you conceal that you're the one they've come to see if you're the one they're seeing?

The defensiveness? Yeah, like smiling at a dentist? They have that air about them don't they?


Roy said...

Roses, you may not be aware, but I'm a hospital-based consultation-liaison psychiatrist, which means that I get asked to see people who are in the hospital for things like pneumonia, COPD, heart attacks, stroke, etc. There is often a question of depression, confusion, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse. They don't come to me, I go to them. And there is no concealment. My badge says I'm a psychiatrist and I tell them my specialty if asked, but I'm there to figure out what is wrong (and half the time it is not "psychiatric" in the usual sense, but "medical", such as delirium and medication side effects). If I lead with "Hi, I'm Dr Roy. I'm a psychiatrist.", the response is often "I don't need to see you, I'm not crazy."

Graham said...

In order to understand what your patients are going through, how absolutely terrible and debilitating mental illness is, and to be a compassionate doctor willing to work with many challenging and frustrating illnesses, you have to have experienced some degree of mental illness or difficult emotional circumstance.

green tea said...

Interesting post and comments,
I guess my thoughts are that psychology/psychiatry often attract people with (family?) history of mental illness or psychological difficulties.

You didn't mention neurologists... I know a couple neurologists and they are very "interesting". Definitely unbalanced, particularly since many of them intend to reduce all personality foibles and mental symptoms to the biological. Ignoring situational and environmental causes leads to a most unbalanced way of evaluating a patient.

mmm bran muffins!



I am sorry, but you look so confused and naive, if not ignorant at all, that you may look plausible just something like a 3 years old blogger. Not somebody who's claiming to have doctors as friends.

Let me introduce mayself anyway, in case my faith in juvenile innocence is still intacted.

I am a real psychiattrist, and as any good psychiatrist should be, I am not only aware of what exactly I should do as my work and on my duty, but even the history of psycology and psychiatry.

It all started in Greece as everybody must know. After the big freaking Christian revolution the world started to live above perverted freaks dominion called Roman - Jewish Catolics.

Anyway all what you need to know in case you wish to remain alive after a visit to a psychiatrist is just a couple of basic two things.

The Russian psichiatric associacion finally manged to explain to the whole world that not only normal people are Sane in mind and body, and that Rational minds are in rational bodies before 1917.

But also that anybody who is a criminal is just mentally ill person, who is acting in a criminal way just becouse his mind is too weak to find himself a decent job and family and live like every nomrla person should do.

Unfortunately after 1917 the so called revolution started in RUssia and all th egood psychiatrists were forced to escape or die like enemies of the state.

Today is about 100 years after the Russian revolution of the freaks, and the whole world is controlled by mentally ill and ugly freaks.

If you see anybody who is looking weird anyway, or just a little bit confused, he is a cazy freak, even in case of psychiatrists or psychologistst. ANd not becouse they are attracted by science of mind health. On th econtrary they are so dumb and crazy, they still didnt get that only mentally sane people can be responsable of mental health.

Becouse of the fact that mentally ill people are in charge of public security, there are still prisons for criminals instead of LUnatic Criminal Asylums for them.

And ignorant, crazy criminals still cosider themselves mentally sane and are still holding thousands of prostitutes who are still giving plenty birth of crazy sons of bitches who are allready inside the parliaments of all the world and are busy in terroristic and criminal actrivity, including prostitution.

It's easy to demonstrate, like here above:

Laws of mentally sane mind:

1 People must protect themselves.

2 People must protect their goods.

3 People cant harm or kill others.

If this is not enough, you might also think for a moment that apart of clothing and food, there are absolutely nothing on the world market today that is possible to call flawless and that is working perfectly as it should be working.