It was just last week, that a patient came to me with complaints of tension, sadness, crying spells, decreased interest and loss of sleep. When I probed her, she told me that it had been just 30 days since she had started her 10th std. She suddenly felt so pressurized and scared that she was plagued by thoughts like she wouldn't be able to cope up with her studies and it is likely that she will fail, these feelings were persistent since three weeks. She was in such distress that the first thing that she told me is that I don't know why I'm here, I'm not mad.
After three weeks of regular medication and counselling she felt better and told me I am glad my parents took timely decision to come and meet you, I am feeling much better now.
Many people who consult a psychiatrist are not suffering from a serious mental disorder or illness. They may be undergoing certain transitions in their life that may be quite overwhelming for them to handle and it may be difficult for them to cope and adjust to these changes. The most common reasons for visiting a Psychiatrist can be interpersonal issues, work stress, conflicts at work or home, divorce, conflicts between a parent and child, health issues– chronic or recent, conflicts with friends, death or loss of a loved one, ending of a romantic relationship, addictions, anger, having trouble making decisions, career choices, anxiety, depression.
To some people, these may seem like everyday issues, the part and parcel of life, but for the individual who is undergoing mental health issues, it can be agonizing. These stressors can hamper the individual’s daily functioning, mood, sleep and appetite and in order to rectify such chain reactions a Psychiatrist needs to be consulted.
The brain is a painless organ, most of the mental health issues are perceived by patients as their weakness and not disease. Even though you can't see an injury, there is something that is causing you distress which is further leading to certain chemical imbalances in the brain and to correct these imbalances, Psychiatrists prescribe medicines.
MYTH 1: Psychiatric medication is bad and a complete no no:
Many patients and their relatives are opposed to and skeptical about consuming medicines prescribed by a Psychiatrist. It is absolutely important to understand that when we have a physical injury, like a fracture, there is a certain procedure that we need to follow. We need to get an X-Ray done, then a plaster and consume medicines to get better and dull the pain. In the same manner, when there is any stress, anxiety, depression or any other cause, the part that is affected the most is the brain. This leads to chemical imbalances which may further lead to negative thoughts, trouble with sleep, mood and appetite and in order to correct these, medicines are essential and vital.
MYTH 2: Psychiatrist = Shock treatment:
The role of a Psychiatrist is negatively represented in movies, which can be very misleading for viewers. Certain movies show a very misleading depiction of Psychiatrists and their mode of treatment. Movies show that patients who visit a Psychiatrist need to be admitted to the hospital and treated with gruesome shock treatments or Electroconvulsive Therapy(ECT). Not everyone who seeks treatment needs to be admitted, there are certain cases where the patient may be extremely violent, uncooperative and refuses to take medicines or suicidal. The shock treatments shown in movies are also not a correct depiction of reality. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a procedure wherein a small electric current is passed through the brain while the patient is under anesthesia. ECT helps in correcting the brain chemistry. It is one of the best treatment for above mentioned mental health emergencies and has stood the test of time and practiced for 70 years.
MYTH 3 - Mental Health conditions are an exaggeration of problems, the individual just needs to be positive:
There is a lot of stigmas attached to the field of Psychiatry or Mental Health. It is the need of the hour to understand that our brain is one of the most important organs in our body and if something affects our brain then that also has to be controlled and cured. Like any physical injury that we may have, we need to visit or physician or specialist in order to get better. In the same way, the injury is in the brain, we may not be able to see it but it needs to be treated so that we can feel better.
MYTH 4 - Going to a Psychiatrist or Psychologist is an indication that the individual is "mad":
Often people refer to individuals who are suffering from psychiatric illnesses as “mad”. Although certain disorders like Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder can make a person behave in an odd manner, which may not be accepted as per societal norms, still to call them mad or refer to their behavior as madness is taking things too far.
Most of the patients who visit us are intellectually bright, so calling them names is just being ignorant. It's high time that we as responsible humans try to understand the situation the other person is in, understand that this situation is not something that they have brought upon themselves it is an illness which like any other physical injury or physical disease needs to be supported and the person sufferings needs to be taken care of supported and loved.
Visiting a Psychiatrist is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and self-awareness. It does take a lot of courage to seek help and taking a step forward and doing so for yourself is the mark of great courage and valour.