Why is it that going to a cardiologist for heart problems is easier than seeing a psychiatrist for depression or other mental health concerns? Is it the fear of psychiatrists due to derogatory representation in films? Or is it the social stigma that still surrounds mental health?
Psychiatry is a medical specialty that is not as well understood as other specialties. Unfortunately, this lack of understanding, combined with negative portrayals and social stigma, makes many people wary about seeing a psychiatrist for psychiatric help. Because there is a lack of understanding, this also leads to the perpetuation of psychiatric myths. Myths about psychiatric care are dangerous because they act as a barrier for those who could benefit from psychiatric treatment. Here are some common myths about psychiatry and psychiatric treatment:
Myth: Psychiatrists are for crazy, insane, or violent individuals
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, most people who see a psychiatrist are not “crazy”. Although there are some individuals who require more care than others, most patients see a psychiatrist to correct chemical imbalances and relieve symptoms. Often times, these people are indistinguishable from people who do not receive psychiatric care. According to MentalHealth.Gov, only about 3-5% of violence is caused by individuals with a serious mental disorder.
Myth: If you see a psychiatrist, you will be forced to take psychiatric medications
Fact: Seeing a psychiatrist does not automatically mean you will be forced into treatment with medications. Every patient is different, and depending on your individual needs, a treatment plan will be designed and proposed to you. If you are not comfortable with the plan, you can discuss this with your psychiatrist until you find a treatment plan that you are comfortable with. Although many people associate psychiatrists with medications, there are other forms of treatment they can utilize. One such treatment is talk therapy.
Myth: Psychiatric drugs will alter your personality
Fact: Psychiatric drugs cannot alter your personality as a whole, however, they will alleviate symptoms that have ingrained themselves in your personality. This basically means that if you are a punctual, organized, and detail-oriented person with an anxiety disorder, you will still be all those things but without the excessive anxiety. Conversely, if you are antisocial because of your depression, you can become more social after taking medication. However, if you are naturally an introvert, you will remain an introvert. If you have gone a long time without treatment and were unaware that your behaviors are actually symptoms, you may be confusing symptoms as personality traits.
Myth: Psychiatrists classify normal emotions as mental illness
Fact: While experiencing a variety of emotions is simply part of being human, there are instances when this can become problematic. For example, if certain related emotions are felt strongly for an extended period of time, if the emotions are affecting the person’s ability to function, or if they are causing a person to feel stuck in negative behavioral patterns, just to name a few. These cases can indicate the presence of a mental illness that needs to be addressed.
Myth: Psychiatric drugs are forever
Fact: How long a patient needs to take medication depends on a number of factors. For some people, a mental illness may be a short term experience that requires the temporary use of medications before transitioning to other treatment methods. While some individuals do require medications for their entire life, this can only be determined by discussing this with a psychiatrist
As you can see, there are many myths surrounding psychiatry and psychiatric treatment. Believing these myths is what prevents many people from seeking psychiatric treatment. In dispelling some of these common myths, we hope to form a greater understanding about psychiatry so that more people can feel comfortable getting the help they need. If you are still unsure, see “Overcoming the Fear of Sitting Down With a Psychiatrist”.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.