Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Questions for Clink

One of our Psychology Today readers sent me a number of questions for our podcast, but since Dinah is away and we won't be podcasting for a week or so I thought I'd answer the questions here.

Snowtigress62 asks:
1. I am curious to know where a psychiatrist would go if they needed to seek professional help for personal problems they might be having.. would you go to a fellow psychiatrist you know or someone you don't?

---Depending on where the psychiatrist practices, the psychiatrist may not have any more choice about health care professionals than anyone else. The psychiatrist might be the only psychiatrist (literally) for hundreds of miles. When there is a choice, the psychiatrist would probably always choose to be treated by someone other than a professional acquaintance.

2. Is there stigma in the psychiatric community about a psychiatrist seeking
help from another one?

---I don't think so, at least not to the degree that one might find among the general public or among other professionals. Many psychiatrists seek out therapy as part of their training experience and this is generally accepted. Many states also have physician assistance programs affiliated with the state medical board that can help doctors with substance abuse or psychiatric problems, and the treatment is provided confidentially.

3. Do you feel in general that psychiatrists and psychotherapists are becoming too quick these days to dispense medication due to patient overload rather than working with them to deal with their problems without use of medications? what did we do before anti depressants where around?

---I don't think psychiatrists are quick to dispense medication, although this decision can be affected by the treatment setting. A doctor working on an inpatient unit will be under pressure to keep length of stay down and initiate treatment as soon as possible. The psychiatric inpatient will also generally be more ill than someone treated in an outpatient setting and may require medication sooner. Outpatient doctors, on the other hand, are more at leisure to gather more information, observe the patient for a longer time before making a diagnosis, and to wait to see if symptoms start to resolve spontaneously. As a general rule though I think people don't go to see a psychiatrist now unless they've had symptoms that are severe or longstanding. Less severe syndromes are more likely to be treated by a family doctor, internist or nurse practitioner. When people talk about psychopharmacology they often forget that most psychotropics are now prescribed by non-psychiatrists.

Regarding what people did before antidepressants were invented: they suffered. Although untreated depression can resolve spontaneously, episodes can last for months and can be extremely debilitating. In the "old days", patients were sometimes admitted purely for custodial care since there were no actual treatments available. Non-pharmacologic interventions were pretty crude: cold wet packs and insulin shock. Although electroconvulsive therapy has been around for a long time, it can still be an effective treatment for immobilizing, life threatening or treatment resistant depression.

4. What would you say to someone who is the victim of a violent crime and is furious when they find out that the person responsible for the crime is getting free psychiatric and mental health care through the prison system, and they can't get a psychiatrist for help getting dealing with their trauma from this crime due to lack of medical insurance and lack of psychiatrists?

--I don't think this reaction is limited to the victims of violent crime. Many people don't understand why prisoners get free treatment when non-criminal citizens don't (at least, not here in the United States). Prisoners don't have a right to treatment per se; the government is just barred from blocking access to care. If you incarcerate someone in a facility with no doctor, the state has effectively barred that person from seeking care on his own because he has lost his freedom. An analogous free society situation would be if the state called out the National Guard to surround your local hospital and prevent people from entering. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that it's unconstitutional to bar prisoners from access to medical care.

Fortunately, some states have something known as a victim injury compensation board. This board reviews applications submitted by crime victims, and provides limited financial support for things like therapy, medical treatment or funeral expenses. Victim assistance programs also may provide referrals for support groups for families of homicide victims.

5. Do you deal with prisoners on death row and if so how does this affect

---Yes, I've treated death row inmates although the state that I work in has not carried out an execution in many years. I've seen little difference between death row inmates and other violent offenders other than differences based on age. Death row inmates are often older, calmer and more philosophical than young newly incarcerated violent offenders.

How does it affect me? I enjoy working with prisoners. In order to be a forensic psychiatrist one has to have a certain level of tolerance for hostility, impulsivity, immaturity and occasional bloodiness. It goes with the business.

Lastly, from snowtigress62:

That's all for now. I wanted to say I really enjoy your pod casts, they're
great and a lot of fun. I have recently downloaded all 55 (?) episodes and
have been enjoying them on the way to and from work. I am curious tho, I see
they are coming out less often... please tell me your not going to stop doing
them?? I loved the Dr. Phil one, your laughter cracks me up!

---Thanks! Wow, all 55---that's a lot of commuting time. We are definitely still doing the podcasts. We took a one year hiatus while writing our book "Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Discuss Their Work." Now that the book is done we plan to be more regular about our podcasting schedule.

Thanks for your questions.


Anonymous said...

great post and very informational! I am one of those that for years went to my family Dr. for my anti-d's but also did CBT on the side with a psychologist. It was this recent episode - 6 months of Hell and working with my psychologist, that both he and I suspected that I had a bipolar mood disorder. I finally got in with a psychiatrist and the suspected diagnosis was confirmed... I wish that I had done it years earlier- met with a psychiatrist. I can't even tell you how many times I have white knuckled it, and waited for things to get better, even with therapy.
So in my case, the psychiatrist was not quick to throw meds at me. This Dr. spent 2 hours with me on the first visit and went over everything. It was a heck of a lot more than the 10-15 minutes that I got from my family Dr. I spent more time with the psych in one appt. than I do with the family Dr. in an entire year.
I was one of those that suffered for a long time... and now am doing better with the help of mood stabilizers. I still meet with the psychologist as well, and am working on managing my stress load - always a hard one for me - what's too much on your plate and what's not enough... always balance. I am also working on my diet and exercising.

DG95 said...

I think that stigma here is not the most important part. Using mental health is a "reportable offense" to the state boards and might create problems in the future

tracy said...

Anon i, too, suffered 11 months with a Psychologist who KNEW i was suffering with severe depression and anxiety , as well as OCD, yet did not even bring up the idea of a Psychiatric consult. It was my first experience in therapy and i didn't know any better. i finally went to a Psychiatrist, who literally saved my life. i swore i would NEVER see a woman or a non-MD again. This was "back in the day", when most Psychiatrists actually did therapy. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this post and found the questions to be very interesting. I too am concerned about the huge increase in the use of SSRI's, benzo's and other psych meds in our culture today. It seems that there is a pill for everything..

Have we as a society forgotten or become incapable of handling daily problems and stresses without the use of a pill or two, or three?
(FYI I'm not including serious mental health conditions in this post)

Perhaps our world is changing so fast that we're unable to keep up and the stresses of daily life become too overwhelming...

Or maybe we're just being lulled into complacency by the world of big Pharma through it's bombardment of advertising and promised wellness with the latest and greatest new pill.... but at what cost to our health?

Thanks for the great article..

Sarebear said...

I really enjoyed this. Not that I don't enjoy Dinah, but it's refreshing to have Clink's perspective, too!