Common Misconceptions About Psychiatric Treatment

Dr. Trudy Hardman   |  

Common Misconceptions About Psychiatric Treatment

While people are now more aware of mental health issues, adult patients (and the parents of child patients) face several barriers to successful treatment. First, people have difficulty accepting they have a mental disorder that needs treatment, especially parents of children or adolescents. Second, even after accepting that treatment would be helpful, patients often struggle to commit to and fully participate in their treatment. Often, it is not easy, and results may appear only after weeks or months. Treatment is ongoing, requiring regular return visits to monitor progress.

Other common mistakes are the following.

Parents often feel ashamed and blame themselves for their child’s illness, as if it is their fault. Except for gross abuse or neglect, this is not true. A child’s behavioral or psychological issues are complex, with many possible causes. For example, a child may inherit a tendency to respond to stress with depression or anxiety. A child's mental state comes from both their biology and the sum total of their experiences. These influences include family dynamics, school and social environment, media and social media, traumatic events and others. While a family's response to a child's behavior can make it worse by increasing the tension in the household, parents do not cause mental illness. Most parents have loving intentions and do the best they can.

With both children and adults, the psychiatrist works to tease out all the contributing factors to a patient’s distress to arrive at a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. The goal is to help the patient return to healthy functioning and normal development.

Adult patients believe that they should be able to address their own problems. When an adult wants treatment for a mental health problem, he often feels ashamed that he cannot solve the problem himself. He may also believe that mental illness means he has a weak character, or that with his success in life, he should not have problems. If he has everything he wants, he has no reason to be depressed or unhappy. He would never think this way about a physical illness.

Problems can arise for no apparent reason. For example, depression does not need to begin with a specific negative event. If there is a family history of depression, a patient may have a genetic predisposition to develop depression as a stress response. Similarly, if the family history includes bipolar disorder, a person has a real risk of developing the same disorder.

Many mental health challenges stem from early negative experiences, such as neglect, abuse, bullying, parental conflict or parental mental illness. Adult problems can also stem from an earlier experience the person does not remember.

Reluctance to take medication from fear of addiction. Most often people hesitate to consult a psychiatrist because they fear the stigma of taking psychiatric medication, or they assume they will become addicted. Yet, the vast majority of medications used in psychiatry cannot cause addiction.

Also, patients mistakenly believe taking prescribed medication shows there is something fundamentally wrong with them or their child. Psychiatrists recommend medication when they believe it will help relieve suffering and return people to healthy functioning.

Assuming medications are a quick fix. Many people think or hope that medication will quickly fix a problem. Even when medication works, it is never the whole answer. Research shows people get the best results when they do a combination of therapy and medication (when it is appropriate.) Sometimes therapy alone is enough to relieve symptoms.

Even when the patient and doctor decide together that medication is the appropriate next step, it still takes time. They must work to find the right medication, at the right dose, with the fewest side effects. Often it takes up to six weeks to determine if the medication is working and is well tolerated.

Once a patient is in remission, (few presenting symptoms remaining), he should continue on medication for nine to twelve months. Then he may try to taper off. If he stops taking medication too soon, his symptoms may return.

To avoid these and other mistakes related to psychiatric treatment, call me with your questions. I provide diagnostic evaluations and medication treatment for a variety of mental disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, ADHD/ADD, panic, OCD, and psychoses. My first priority is high quality and effective mental health treatment in a supportive atmosphere. I am happy to help you. To learn more about my services or ask questions about treatment, please call me at 650-321-8797 or get in touch with me by clicking here.

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