I recently started my psychiatry rotation. When I first learned the basics of psychiatry in my 1st year of medical school, I was fascinated, but still a little skeptical. I hate to admit it, but I’ve always been one of those people that never really believed that psychiatric conditions, especially those treated on in the outpatient setting, were “real”. It is so commonplace in the general public, and even in the medical community itself, to discount psychiatry. I could list so many friends and family members that, to this day, don’t even believe that psychiatric problems are real.
It is very easy to ignore or disbelieve a field like psychiatry because there is a blurry line between normal and abnormal. The cut off when a behavior, compulsion, or thought becomes pathological is often arbitrary and variable depending upon the patient. The other limiting factor of the believability of psychiatry is that much of the pathophysiology remains unknown. It is difficult to believe in something that doesn’t have a concrete scientific explanation.
It used to seem to me that psych conditions were over-diagnosed. Many of the problems that people complain of are things that almost everyone has felt or thought at some point in their life. It seemed almost overly critical to lump these feelings and thoughts into a category as pathological or diseased. It has taken me a long time to see that it’s is not just one feeling or thought that makes a condition psychiatric, but a conglomeration of many in the context of the person and the negative impacts it has on their lives.