These days psychiatry gets a bit of a bad rap -- as psychiatrists we are relegated to the roll of pill pushers.
I know a lot of us do work that way, with a quickie conversation and then out comes the prescription pads, this role is often dictated by the insurance industry.
I would like to try and put a more human face to psychiatry and change our role from drug pushers to actual health care providers.
To me humanizing psychiatry includes recognizing that anything that happens to us since we came into this world leaves a mark.
Our responses can be adaptive, maladaptive or just survivalist.
Our developing neurobiology is affected by life experiences and marred by trauma. If we experience too much trauma, or sometimes just enough trauma with limited resiliency at a very early age... we are prone to have the fight or flight switch turned perpetually in the ON mode. This can prove to be draining both physically, emotionally and spiritually as well as having a negative impact our relationships.
Oftentimes I'm surprised at how clients minimize their trauma -- assuming it's only trauma if it's overt and in your face. In my practice I learned that the more covert trauma is, the more damaging it can be.
Examples of covert trauma are neglect and the almost passive but chronic negative messages that one can experience, for instance, children that were raised in hyper critical households who always heard they're not good enough. Those individuals tend to develop a negative repetitive tape in their head, and it's very difficult to stop the tape. Over time this can become something they understand as a truth and lead to how they might perceive themselves and that is both very hard to unlearn and effects many of the choices they make in the future.
Throughout our lives we face many challenging experiences -- based on our interpretation and our innate resilience, we integrate these experience in to who we are and how we respond to the world around us.
Learning to identify and accept our personal strengths and weaknesses can reduce suffering and encourage us not to struggle with things that are out of our control.
We all live in this stressful sometimes chaotic world together. As we are social creatures and tend not to live in isolation -- we can experience damaging relationships from lovers, parents and bosses and friends. We unconsciously attract and try to reenact some of the difficult experiences we have had in the past in hopes of having a better outcome.
As part of learning to embrace our humanity, I feel it is important to identifying our reactions as part of the human response spectrum... as opposed to feeling we have a disease -- that were sick and there something wrong with us.
If we think about some common disorders -- substance abuse, eating disorders, personality disorders, PTSD. Most stem from an attempt to compensate for something that doesn't feel right.
We tend to develop defenses as protective mechanisms, and they generally serve a purpose for a while. We get accustomed to using them and get to know them as our normal even when they are no longer useful.
As we age, when we no longer need them, they can instead be damaging and limit our ability to connect or have healthy relationships, so we then need to unlearn them, which can be very difficult and counter to our identity.
When I am with clients or peers I feel passionate about putting a more user friendly face to psychiatry.
To steer the conversation from what is wrong and how to fix it - -to understanding that we are skin and bone, love and shame, forgiveness and anger -- all here just trying to figure out life every day.
Self medicating for life's difficulties is a temptation and addiction is a slippery slope.
I try removing the fear, guilt and discomfort from discussing what we really want
and the actions we engage in try to feel better, even if they are causing more harm than good.
And to open a dialogue enabling us to re-examine who we truly are, what we want and how we move forward to achieve our goals.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.