Psychiatry is a branch of medical science that deals with the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Psychiatrists are specialist medical doctors who deal with treatment of psychiatric disorders. Delirium, Dementia, Schizophrenia, Substance dependence, Bipolar Affective Disorder, Psychosis, Depression, Anxiety Disorders , Stress and Somatoform disorders, Personality disorders, Sleep disorders, Eating disorders, Sexual Dysfunctions, etc are classified under the DSM and ICD classificatory systems in Psychiatric disorders. Despite modern advances in psychiatry globally and nationally in research and clinical care, there still exists lack of knowledge, misconceptions, stigma and discriminatory attitudes towards psychiatric disorders in the community. I have attempted to write this psycho-educative perspective in form of myths and reality which I hope can be helpful in reducing stigma and creating awareness towards psychiatry and psychiatric disorders in the community.
Myth 1: Only a mad person visits a psychiatrist!
Reality: This is a common myth held in certain societies that only mad people visit psychiatrists. Although it is true that psychiatrists do treat patients with certain chronic psychiatric illness who can appear emotionally, behaviorally and socially abnormal in society, however a lot of mental health has moved towards positive preventive mental health as well . Psychiatrists nowadays, cater towards all groups of patients such as children, adolescents, adults, elderly, etc. for mental health problems. Exam stress, financial stress, family stressors, relationship stressors are very common nowadays and can occur to anyone. Stress can lead to depression, stress disorders, anxiety disorders, addictions, etc. It may be a prejudiced and negative view to hold that only mad people visit a psychiatrist. Consequences of long standing untreated mental health problems could be even worse, if one ignores mental health issues and does not seek professional help at the right time from mental health care professionals just because of the stigma attached to it.
Myth 2: Psychiatry is an old outdated forsaken branch of medicine dealing with crazy people all the time!
Reality: Psychiatry has really advanced with Neuropsychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Consultation Liasion Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry etc. are emerging as sub and super specialty clinical care. Medically sick patients such as those with Cardiac Illness, Hypertension, Diabetes, Thyroid Dysfunction, Vitamin Deficiencies, Tuberculosis, Bronchial Asthma, IBS, Cancers, HIV AIDS, Epilepsies, etc can have psychiatric disorders because of their medical illness. There has been a broadened scope of mental health where today mental health plays an important role along with one’s physical and cosmetic health. It may be incorrect to hold a negative stereotypic attitude in today’s world towards psychiatry as a field and psychiatric disorders at large in the face of global and national advances in research and clinical care in mental health!
Myth 3: ECT( Electroconvulsive therapy) is given to all psychiatric patients regardless of their disorder!
Reality: This myth that the common man can sometimes have could be because of lack of awareness or hearsay stuff from his friends or relatives or an unfortunate unintentional depiction of such stuff which he may have come across from other sources of information. Psychiatric treatment has evolved globally and nationally. There exists proper guidelines and protocols for giving ECT . Psychopharmacology, Psychotherapy, Counselling, Occupation therapy and Rehabilitation are all modalities of care in mental health. ECT is a modality of treatment which has its own specific indications, advantages and disadvantages. ECT is certainly not given to each and every patient who presents to a psychiatrist for treatment. It is reserved for its specific indication when needed and clinical expertise as per school of training with proper protocol followed.
Myth 4: All that Psychiatrists do is to put their patients to sleep with medications!
Reality: Psychiatrist do a detailed history taking, clinical examination, and then plan some tests and assessments and make a clinical impression of the patients problem from a psychiatric and psychological perspective. Psychiatrists prescribe medications and also, do counseling and psychotherapy to patients and their families. The Psychiatrist uses his best knowledge to treat the disorder as well as take care of side effects. In today's generation, most people are working and a steady job forms an important part of everyone’s life, hence the psychiatrist will preferably choose medications that give less or no sedation Although it is true that for a lot of psychiatric conditions like Schizophrenia, delirium, substance withdrawal, depression, anxiety disorders problems in falling asleep (insomnia) can be a part of the disorder or a chief complaint and certain medications do cause excess sleep, it is untrue that all that psychiatrists do is to put all patients to sleep. Nowadays, there are so many advances in psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, counseling, all of which holistically work towards helping patients recover. However, when there is a serious psychiatric disorder, certain medicines may be given which can cause excess sleep to help the patient recover from the serious problem in the best way possible as per guidelines and expertise
Myth 5: All Psychiatric medications have to be taken life long for all psychiatric disorders!
Reality: Different psychiatric disorders have different course and duration of treatment as per guidelines. It is incorrect to consider that all psychiatric medications have to be given life long for all psychiatric disorders. It depends on the expertise, guidelines, type of disorder, severity, relapses and there are well formed guidelines on duration of treatment and tapering and stopping the medications for the psychiatric disorders for holistic care of the patients.
Myth 6 : All Psychiatric patients are dangerous and harmful!
Reality: Kindly note that many patients with psychiatric disorders can be the nicest, respectful and kindest people on earth. Society may wrongly judge them as being weird and misfitted . People can sometimes unknowingly hold discriminatory negative attitudes towards all patients with psychiatric disorders, because of lack of awareness and negative attitudes and tend to change their mindset only much later when they themselves or someone in their families gets affected with some problem. Remember depression, stress disorder, OCD, anxiety disorder, psychosis, delirium, addictions can happen to anyone anytime! Although a certain group of patients with psychiatric disorders can have some dangerous behaviors, it is untrue to hold a prejudice that all patients with psychiatric disorders are dangerous. However with proper treatment consisting of psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, family therapy, rehabilitation, outcomes may be improved holistically!
Myth 7: If someone is facing a psychiatric or psychological problem, it is failure of their will power!
Reality: It is sad that when people blame a person suffering from a psychiatric disorder that it has happened to him only because of failure of his will power and that he was not strong enough, etc . There are many psychiatric disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Affective Disorder, Depression, Anxiety Disorders, OCD, etc which maybe due to chemical abnormality in their brain such as their neurotransmitter systems and there maybe absolutely no role of will power failure in that. It would be incorrect to blame the person for something which may not be totally in their control!
Myth 8: If someone is facing a psychiatric problem, they and their family must feel ashamed and hide it and feel stigmatized about it!
Reality: In certain societies, because of misconception, the stigma can be very high! It is our duty to keep fighting the stigma! There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you or your family member suffer from a psychiatric disorder. Nowadays, there are many support groups available online consisting of patients and caregivers. Kindly do not let the stigma affect you!
Myth 9: If your friend or relative is having some psychiatric problem, one must avoid them and stay away from them!
Reality: If you genuinely care for your friend, you must help your friend and be there for them always irrespective of them having a psychiatric problem or not. Infact, your friend or relative may need your support and care and friendship even more when he or she is depressed, anxious or fearful. You must help them recover better by including them in your conversations, valuing their opinions, emotions and thoughts and avoid judging them as they are also a part of the same world that you live in!
Myth 10 : If your friend is having a psychiatric problem, its okay to make fun of them and crack jokes on them even when u know it is a problem.
Reality: Its often sad that some people make fun of patients with psychiatric problems and make jokes on them and their behaviors. Certain psychiatric illness can have associated deficits and disabilities in their speech, social behavior, emotions, intellect, etc. Certain disorders can have certain disability in social life, educational and occupational life. It would be wrong to make fun of them as they too have their dignity! One must give them their deserved respect and dignity in our family and work towards rehabilitating them in society!