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How can a Psychiatrist help

Updated: Mar 7, 2023



Overview




Understanding what a psychiatrist does


The best psychiatrist may offer much more than you think. At the root, psychiatrists are physicians with a special emphasis on mental health. Society, at times, can confuse mental health with only relating to pathology or disease. However, that’s inaccurate. While pathology remains an important factor in understanding a person’s mental health at one snapshot in time, the disease does not paint the entire picture of one’s mental health throughout their lifetime or even in that current state.


When we think of physical health we may think of disease, but we also may think of terms like strength, cardio, endurance, dietary habits, etc. The view on physical health can be broad and include skills and attributes that protect and preserve appropriate physical well-being. Mental health is no different. So while it’s true that a psychiatrist will help you to understand any disease that may be lingering and the treatments available to you, would you believe me if I told you that the best psychiatrists today can also help you to preserve and protect your mental health beyond just diagnosis and treatment?


Understanding why you have improved may be more important than knowing why you have declined


When we feel ill and are not sure what’s going on with our body or mind, we reach out to a professional to help us understand what we are experiencing and what steps we can take to change that experience. The average psychiatrist will make a diagnosis and then present a treatment plan. But what about in the absence of disease, when we are healthy and we still don’t know what’s going on with our mind? What if you could change your experience of yourself to take your life to that “next level?” The best psychiatrists can help you explore that and understand that as well. For physicians, to understand clearly when a disease is present, we have to recognize when a healthy mind is present. This requires understanding the components and intricacies that comprise a healthy mind. The reality, is that most all of us have healthy segments, and understanding where this is, why this is, and how this is can allow us to strengthen our “healthy mind” and not only protect against disease in the future, but also understand who we are and what we want.


For example, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), has some of the most evidence (based therapy) to treat diseases such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder just to name a few. Understanding why the disease has come about and how the disease presents in you are very important factors on your journey. But as you improve and begin to strengthen skills through a treatment such as CBT, you will learn to familiarize yourself with what tools are helpful and why they are helpful for you. This can then be used as a template for helping you to improve not just in the face of disease, but also in times of improved health. Relapses in pathology can happen, but equipping yourself with the necessary skills to combat this can make the difference between limiting the disease and having a more meaningful engagement with your mental health after the disease is in remission.


Learning how to engage with yourself


When you look in the mirror what do you see? How are you viewing yourself? What words come to mind when you see yourself? What thoughts come to mind? How do you behave when you see yourself?


When you engage with the best psychiatrist for you, ironically you are actually engaging with yourself. The best psychiatrists provide a platform for you to explore yourself in efficient, productive, and meaningful ways. This requires you to face things you may not want to, and also to face things that you may not know you need to.


If you want to lead a multi-million-dollar organization, or advocate for clean energy on the political frontier, or hire quality employees that fit your vision, or understand how to take yourself to that next level, you have to know how you are engaging with yourself. To really understand how you can have better relationships with your career, other people, or other entities, you must first understand how to have a better relationship with yourself.


Benefits of ongoing care


Too often have I witnessed the classic story “I’m feeling better so I stopped my treatments.” Ongoing care and engagement in treatment are often times essential to maintaining your progress. We understand today that medications can play an important role for certain diseases. However, there is a lot of evidence that other treatment modalities are helpful as well: diet, exercise, structure, therapy, etc. There is also good evidence that the continual engagement with these modalities can help you to maintain and build a healthy mind. It’s not enough to know that you feel better, but you also need to explore and understand why you feel better and how to continue to feel at your best. This is a positive feedback loop: engaging in care will help you to understand this by giving you a safe space to explore yourself, and in doing so, will inherently help protect you against disease in the future and maintain your best healthy mind. Win-Win.


In addition, as a psychiatric community, we don’t have accurate, reliable biomarkers to periodically scan for disease or measure level of disease (for now). So having a professional who knows you and can consistently monitor for any pathology is one of the most effective ways to prevent relapse. Stay engaged in care, stay healthy, elevate your life.


Solutions oriented, problems anticipated


Growth in general requires a few fundamental ideas: acceptance of dynamic changes, anticipating changes, and adapting to changes. In your adolescent years you may have faced a time when you would like to obtain new sneakers. However, you know that your feet will be a different length in one-year time. So you may ask yourself some important questions. Do I buy a shoe that’s my exact size now or the size I’m anticipating I’ll grow into? Do I alter my purchase plan based on my anticipated growth? Do I wait altogether? Is it worth it for me to find the right fitting shoe now?


Although only a rough analogy, there are some strikingly important concepts that this analogy provides. Understanding that your view of yourself can be dynamic can help you navigate your world. What you value about yourself now may be different from what you value about yourself in future. Your identity can also change as you transition through stages in your life. Transition times can often times be a vulnerable time for people. Anticipating this change and the problems that may arise requires understanding how and why you grow and what you want to grow into.


More importantly, understanding solutions that have helped you through dynamic changes in the past can propel you to overcome most any challenge thrown your way. This is why engaging in yourself through a psychiatrist can help you develop the skills to understand thematic problems in your life, learn to anticipate these problems, and know what traditional solutions you have used that will continue to be helpful for you in your journey. If you want to take yourself to the next level, anticipate problems you may have and build/identify solutions (coping skills) you’ve used in the past as a template to solve these problems.


Giving yourself credit


You are your own mechanism for change and improvement. If you beat yourself up, what do you have left?


There may be many reasons why people don’t naturally thank themselves or appreciate their skills or progress. Some may believe that giving themselves credit will prevent them from progressing. Some may even believe that they don’t deserve the credit. Or even worse, some believe that they don’t have any credit to recognize.


The fact is that progress may not be linear. We can fluctuate in our health and we can also fluctuate in how we see ourselves. Learning to recognize when we improve and why we improve is tied together by recognizing that we have improved. Validating yourself in your efforts can recharge your mind. Our emotional and mental capacities are finite, so learning how to recharge, especially internally, is an essential step in progress. We teach people how to treat us, and equally we teach ourselves how to treat us. Recognizing our progress to ourselves and giving credit to our adaptive skills begets more progress.


What’s normal?


Probably one of the more popular terms used in my office is the word normal. Many people ask me: “What do normal people feel? What’s the normal reaction to this? I want to feel normal again.”


Sure, there’s a range that people fall under to describe many different measures in our society. A height range, a salary range, an ice cream preference range. The list goes on. But the idea of normal doesn’t take into account individualism and self. Rather than what’s externally normal in our population, a more helpful perspective may be: what’s my typical experience, what’s typical for me?


Your experience is valid regardless of what other people are experiencing. You may experience sadness different than other people. In fact, the way an individual experiences their emotions may be different than the person next to them. Each of their experiences are valid. If you want to understand more about your typical self, what does it really matter what other people are experiencing?


Summary


I wrote this article to give you a glimpse of what engagement with a psychiatrist looks like and what it can possibly do for you and your life. Oftentimes I hear about how psychiatrists are there to give you medications. And yes, psychiatrists can be that and do only that for you. However, if you have a vision to understand yourself and expand to the next step in your life, having the right psychiatrist for you may mean more than just a prescription pad. If you want to elevate your life and stay elevated, engaging with the right psychiatrist can help you engage with yourself in meaningful and productive ways. Pathology and disease don’t typically last forever. So once you are in remission, I assure you, that’s just the beginning.




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