Bipolar blogger Natasha Tracy offers exclusive insight into the world of bipolar disorder.See all posts »
Saving Yourself from the Sins of Psychopharmacology – Part 2
Natasha Tracy continues into her explanation how you, the patient, can save yourself from the sins of psychopharmacology.
Continuing from last week, here are more ways to avoid the sins of psychopharmacology.
Sin: Not understanding a patient’s background
Fix: Better communication between doctor and patient
In all honesty, better communication fixes every sin. So many problems can be averted when a doctor and a patient are on the same page. However, this sin in particular can be fixed through communication.
Patients often feel like their doctors don’t understand them, and while this is often the fault of the doctors for not inquiring or not listening, we, as patients, can help fix this by being more forthcoming.
Yes, some doctors will be really good about asking us about life circumstances in regards to how they affect treatment, but some won’t. So we need to be more assertive. We need to talk about what we think a doctor should know about us. We need to be clear about what we feel a doctor doesn’t understand. We need to tell a doctor when we feel the doctor isn’t listening.
This assertiveness isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to feel like a doctor understands us better than a petri dish.
Sin: Thinking medication solves everything
Fix: Recognizing that other treatments can help
If a patient sees a doctor, they often expect to walk out of his (or her) office with a prescription in-hand, and, in fact, some patients may even be angry if this doesn’t happen. But we, as patients, need to recognize that we may need more than a little square pill to get better.
In my opinion, at the very least, every person with a mental illness also needs therapy, but there are typically lifestyle changes that go along with this that also aid immensely in treatment.
So as much as we want doctors to be more than “pill-pushers” we also have to be open to more than just pills as treatment.
Sin: Lack of communication
Fix: Ask more questions – become an empowered patient
You may have noticed a running theme here—talk, talk, talk, talk.
Yes, it’s true, I like to talk, but that’s not why it matters. It matters because patients don’t do enough of it and doctors don’t do enough of it either and the result is one big chasm between doctor and patient.
Yes, it’s partially doctors that have to close this gap, but we can do our part by being more forthcoming and asking more questions. It’s simply not right when a patient leaves a doctor’s appointment with more questions than they went in with—or the same questions they went in with. And a doctor can’t possibly answer questions you do not ask.
I recommend writing down questions about treatment before you go to your appointment as I’ve found that as soon as someone with a white coat sits in front of you all questions miraculously vanish from my head. And once you’ve written these questions down, be sure to ask them and tick them off during the appointment.
Don’t leave that room until your questions have been answered to your satisfaction. Don’t let your doctor get away with a lack of communication. Communicate for both of you until you’re satisfied.
Sin: Not keeping up with the field
Fix: Do some reading
OK, to be fair, there is really nothing you can do if your doctor doesn’t keep up with his field as you can’t possibly be expected to keep up for him.
However, what you can do is read up on your diagnosis and treatment options and take any questions about them to your doctor.
It’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to study the latest treatment data, but you can make an effort to read layperson’s articles to see what’s going on in the field the best you can.
(And really, if your doctor doesn’t keep up with the field, it sounds like it’s time for a new doctor.)
Avoiding the Sins of Psychopharmacology
In the end, avoiding the sins of psychopharmacology is about deciding what’s right for you and working with your doctor in an open and honest fashion to make that happen.
You direct the treatment. You set the agenda. Your doctor works for you and not the other way around.
Yes, you need him and his knowledge, absolutely, but only you have the in-depth knowledge of your condition as no one lives in your head but you.
Until you can both understand where the other is coming from, it’s likely you will fall victim to these sins, but working together you can both ensure the best treatment possible—which is what every patient deserves.