For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been finishing up the psychiatry and neurology block of medical school. I have to say that I noticed some significant differences between clinical psychiatry and psychiatry research. For those of you that don’t know, I spent nearly all 4 years of my undergraduate career studying how schizophrenia affected neuronal circuits by utilizing electron microscopy. I found psychiatry research to be fascinating; it was basically uncharted territory. There were so many theories and proposed mechanisms and I was helping in elucidating them.
However, that excitement was not there for me in clinical psychiatry. I felt as if I was trying to fit people into a box. It was really strange to sift through patient information and count how many criteria they met to qualify for illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, etc. To me, the emphasis was more on the diagnosis, rather than the pathophysiology. To be completely fair though, the underlying mechanisms behind many psychiatric illnesses are still not understood and so it’s understandable why it’s not entirely useful or high yield. Still, I felt as if something was missing.
One thing I did take away from psychiatry was that mental health is still stigmatized. It’s unfortunate that we often take our mental acuity for granted. Mental illness is a real issue, and we should take it more seriously. Physicians are not impervious to mental disease as well. In fact, our work environments can certainly put many of us at risk and push a number of us over the edge. We shouldn’t be afraid to seek help, and we certainly shouldn’t view our colleagues who do seek help with disdain!