Series

Questions I Bet Your Psychiatrist Never Asked You

Why I created this series:

Every psychiatrist has their own style, but I’ve always been interested in asking patients more open-ended questions if I think it will provide me with a greater understanding of who they are as unique individuals.  Unfortunately, I believe that the art of psychiatry has dwindled down to a checklist which subsequently churns out a diagnosis and treatment plan based on the minimum criteria needed to properly meet billing requirements.  Such a practice may lead to a lack of connection in the therapeutic relationship, therefore, I sought to create a series that explores the unspoken thoughts that a person may have when meeting with a psychiatrist.  If you would like to contribute to future questions in this series, please email me at freudandfashion@gmail.com or add me on Snapchat (freudandfashion).

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

How do you think medical doctors treat patients with mental illness differently than those without mental illness?

RESPONSES:

I didn’t really notice much of a difference in the way medical doctors treated me with a mental illness, until I had to get surgery on my wrist. My surgeon went on extensively that I was at a higher risk for abusing the pain medication post surgery. I had to go to lengths to prove to him that I would be able to minimize this risk, and wean myself off the pain medication as soon as possible. After this experience, I wondered if a patient without mental illness would have gone through as much scrutiny. 

~ Logan, pre-med student

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Doctors treat patients with mental illness differently than those without a mental illness.  From experience, doctors treat people with mental illness like they are stupid, incompetent, and incapable of doing anything for themselves.  They get treated with less respect as well.

~ Allyson, student

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It depends on how much the doctors actually know about mental illnesses. The majority, unfortunately somehow equate people with mental illnesses as mentally challenged individuals. Most doctors know, before they even meet you, that you have a mental illness due to the fact that the doctors generally see what kind of medications you are currently on prior to walking into the examination room.

I literally have had some very rude doctors that would be new to me and upon opening the door, they don’t say hello…my name is…or anything. They will have their nose in the charts or x-rays and then don’t look you in the eye and tell you what they recommend and then just walk out. It really pisses me off when they act so arrogantly. I generally never do return back to see a doctor who treats me like that. Then there are those that seem a bit nervous about meeting me; however, once I start talking like the college-educated woman that I am, they seem impressed and/or astonished that a person with a mental illness could have such insight.

So it angers me and depresses me that most doctors will tag a “stupid idiot” label on someone who is taking psychotrophic medications or acts as though nothing I say is true for I might be having delusions…yet, with each new doctor I encounter, I hope to go away feeling satisfied that I for one don’t meet the stereotype that our society has created for people with mental illnesses.

~ Anonymous

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My family medicine doc never follows up on anything, ever. I have to remind them of everything so if I don’t bring it up, it never gets addressed.  And when I try to bring it up, they look at me like I’m crazy.  I guess it’s a good thing that I’m smart, knowledgeable and know a lot, but I can’t imagine what it must be like for people who don’t know anything.  I just finished reading Black Men, White Coats and that book is really honest.  I see it happen all of the time.  I think patients are disregarded in all aspects and I think with African Americans, they treat us differently when it comes to mental health.  But i don’t want to pull the race card, this is my perception of what i see.

~ Sherita, pre-med student

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Personally, sometimes I think some people don’t consider mental health as important as physical health.  Maybe that’s why some doctors do not pay attention to this point.

~ Anonymous, student

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If you have any thoughts or experiences pertaining to the question, please comment below!

11 thoughts on “Questions I Bet Your Psychiatrist Never Asked You

  1. Well for me I believe there is a bit difference the way you communicate to a patient especially if it has mental illness since most of them were distress and it is important that the psychiatrist knows very well the signs and symptoms of the patient because that would be the basis of how you will communicate to them. Well I hate to admit that it is true that some patients with mental illness are treated with less respect based on my observation but not all some healthcare workers still has the heart to take care of these people and giving much respect as they deserve.

    ADG- Psychometrician

    • Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your observations ADG! I often coach my patients on how to communicate with their primary care doc, and even write letters for my patient to give to coordinate care. In my experience, some are dismissive, though I know several wonderful docs who are completely on board w/ addressing both physical and emotional aspects of a person’s health, as u mentioned.

  2. I notice that you are not asking about the difference one perceives regarding Medical Physicians versus Psychiatrists. I was “graduated” out of a mental health program because the administrators deemed me to be stable. Mind you, it was the administrators and not the psychiatrist who initiated the move. So….I am being “treated” by my family physician and although he is a nice guy. He has no clue as to what my condition is. I have been putting off getting a referral to a psych doc because I have committal issues. I don’t like to make new relationships if they are not going to be long-term. It would be a waste of my time.

    My doctor knows about the medications I’m on and he understands when I have side effects issues, but other than that he is not much use to me. God forbid I have an episode.

    • it’s unfortunate the way the healthcare system works. there’s a push towards the ‘medical model’ where the primary care doc is responsible for psychiatric med management with consultation from a psychiatrist if needed. i can understand the hesitance in seeking out a psychiatrist esp since it can be hard to find one these days who spends more than the 10-15mins that most healthcare systems allow.

      • It is a system-wide failure. To think that a person is supposed to be “treated” in 15 minutes or less!?! We need more doctors.

  3. So…I was in the ER per my doctor’s instructions for suicidal ideation. It was unfortunately not my first rodeo. I sat in my room, pretty calmly, until the kiddo on call (perhaps a resident?) came in to talk with me. He was trying to be casual and talkative, and he crouched down to talk to me. After a moment, I realized he was crouching in the corner as he discussed how they would transport me to the mental hospital. If someone had walked into the room, they could easily have drawn the conclusion that he was crouched in the corner out of sheer terror. Despite the situation…I had to laugh as soon as he left the room. He was terrified of me.

    • Thanks for sharing! I think it’s hard for people (and not just doctors) to grasp that almost ANYONE, esp someone that people may least expect, is capable of having suicidal ideations. Another one of my readers commented on how media and society’s portrayal of people with mental illness has driven such negative perceptions. I used to be fearful in my interactions with patients at first, until I started spending more time talking to patients hospitalized in the psychiatric ward and found ways to connect with all of them. Hopefully with experience the young doc won’t be so fearful.

  4. It’s this “look” that some doctors get as soon as they look at your chart – utterly dehumanizing. You vanish as a person and become what? A danger, a nuisance, an idiot, a pain in the ass…the gum on the bottom of his or her shoe. Women doctors are no better than men; I went in for allergy / sinus and was screamed at the entire (thankfully) brief visit.

  5. Luckily I have a great doctor. She does treat me differently since being diagnosed but I don’t feel that she belittles me. She is more thorough and caring.

  6. I’ve worked in the ED for a year now as a medical scribe and we get a lot of patients that are there for psychiatric screenings or for a 5150 hold. Unfortunately I have seen the difference in how the doctors treat people with mental illness over people without any known mental illness (based on charts). To start off, they seem to come in to examine them and do the H&P with a bit of an attitude or even a little guarded (not in a medical sense)
    Unfortunately I’ve also experienced nurses speaking about patients in such an awful manner. Some even calling them trash amongst other things and saying they would like to help them with thei SI.
    It has been a very bad experience.

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