The Art of Psychiatry

By Melissa Mora 

Since coming into existence in the early 1800s, psychiatry has sparked quite the controversy. It’s been seen as a relationship between doctor and patient of unequal power, where the doctor is able to manipulate the mentally ill patient. For years, psychiatry has been thought of as a coercive method of oppression. This common misconception only perpetuates the stigma that already exists around mental illness and makes it extremely difficult for patients to reach out when they need help.

It’s already scary for some people to open up about their struggles because of what others may think. A lot of people are under the impression that those who struggle with things like anxiety or depression are crazy, adding on the fact that some of them depend on medication to get them through their days only makes it worse. However, that doesn’t mean that the patient will need to take that medication for the rest of their lives in order to live happily.

There are various methods of treatment used by psychiatrists, such as psychotherapy, psychosocial intervention, and the most controversial one of them all: medications. For many patients, medication is necessary to reduce symptoms and prevent relapses of a psychiatric disorder. Psychiatric medications are classified as antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, sedatives and anxiolytics, hypnotics, mood stabilizers, and stimulants.

Caroll Gonzales, Tampa resident and mother of an autistic and schizophrenic sixteen-year-old, talked about how much her son has progressed since being put on the right medication. 

“He used to have really bad episodes almost every day. Now he does things that every other kid his age does, like do his own schoolwork and cook his own meals,” she said.

The main arguments for anti-psychiatry are addiction and dependency. The majority of medications used to treat disorders do not actually have a high abuse potential, but some do. If a patient takes a psychotherapeutic drug for a certain amount of time and then suddenly stops, they might experience dangerous side effects. They may also need a higher dosage of the drug to manage their symptoms over time. That does not imply that they are addicted, or that they can no longer function as a normal human being without their medication.

Nicole, who has asked to remain anonymous, shared her experience with being hospitalized after multiple suicide attempts. She mentioned that after being put on medication while she was there, she finally had the motivation to seek out other coping mechanisms and eventually made it to a place in her life where she no longer needed to take them daily. Nicole was not addicted to her medication, she simply needed something that would help control the intrusive thoughts in her head, until she learned to do so on her own.

Despite how much psychiatry has been proven to benefit so many people, there will still always be those who are completely against it. 

In 2015, Lauren Jauregui, a member of the former girl group Fifth Harmony, spoke out on Twitter about her thoughts on psychiatry. “Psychiatry is a joke. Not a real profession. You’re drugging our youth. Prescribing pills for sadness and creating a generation of misunderstood teens who are forced to understand their problems as things that can fill up pill bottles,” she tweeted.

Jauregui received a lot of backlash for generalizing against the profession. She later apologized and was again attacked for only apologizing for posting her thoughts, not for the fact that she called psychiatry a joke. As someone in the public eye with so many young fans, it was inconsiderate to look past all of the people who look up to her and may be struggling mentally, and only getting through their days with the help of psychiatry.

A mental illness is no different than a physical illness. If you get sick with the flu, you go to the doctor for them to prescribe an antibiotic. Why is it such an issue for those who are mentally ill to seek help from a medication, too? Personally, I believe it is the concept of self-medication that continues the stereotype that psychiatric treatments are more damaging than helpful to mental health patients.

It is by far the most common issue that connects mental health to substance abuse. Some examples of this include those who are depressed and use marijuana to numb the pain, those who suffer from panic attacks and therefore take Xanax or Valium to calm the symptoms or stop the attacks before they even begin, and those who have low energy and take Adderall, cocaine or crystal meth to increase their drive and motivation. There are even those patients who, like me, suffer from social anxiety so they drink alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations.

The truth is that everyone has bad days, and everyone copes with things in the best ways that they can. It just so happens that some people need a little extra help, and they shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for it when it’s necessary. Living with a mental illness can sometimes feel like a full-time job, medication and therapy allow for some days off.

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