Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Psychiatry 101: Misconceptions About Psychiatric Disorders
It seems the media and perhaps the collective unconscious carry many misconceptions about psychiatric disorders. As a psychiatrist, it often is very difficult to explain to people that what they believe is absolutely wrong as I've heard so many times that they'd rather believe what they see on TV than a highly trained professional. Notice that I chose to illustrate this post with a picture of Freud who wasn't, contrary to what most people believe, a psychiatrist: he was a neurologist!
So here are a few facts that everyone should know:
- Antidepressant medicines aren't addictive. 90% of them do not have a sedative effect. Anti-anxiety medicines and sleeping pills are, on the contrary, addictive. Antidepressant treatments are long treatments. In most cases, they have to be taken over at least a six-month period and sometimes up to five years or more. This is to prevent relapse and it is very important. More than half of the population will stop taking their treatment when they feel better. This is a mistake and it will lead to relapse.
- Multiple Personality Disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder) and Schizophrenia aren't the same thing. As a matter of fact, it seems everyone believes that patients suffering from schizophrenia have multiple personalities. This is wrong. Multiple Personality Disorder is classified amongst dissociative disorders which are considered a form of neurosis whereas schizophrenia is a psychosis. Dissociative Identity Disorder is mostly found in North America, it is a culture-dependent disorder (meaning it will only appear in some cultures as long as people believe it exists... Hollywood certainly played a role in the advent of this disorder in North America).
- Patients suffering from schizophrenia aren't dangerous. Serial killers aren't schizophrenic. They're usually either psychopaths or perverts.
- "My cousin used to take tons of pills. That is why she was sick". Honestly, do you believe that a physician would prescribe a treatment to make their patients ill? Do you believe that such a treatment would be sold in pharmacies? Do you believe that med schools would train students on how to make people ill? What you usually see is the tip of the iceberg: a relative who is not well and takes psychotropic medicine. Believe me, they would be doing far worse if they did not take any treatment. Sometimes treatments aren't 100% effective and some cases are more complicated than others. We, psychiatrists, as any other physician are not almighty and can't cure everyone. Would you say that a diabetic has high blood sugar because they take insulin?
That's it for today! More to come soon! Stay tuned!