12 Years On, Doctors Still Aren’t Helping

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Reader’s Question

I have endured an enigmatic condition over the course of the last twelve years under the care of so-called specialists. I feel like they have neglected my well-being for their personal gain, and I wonder whether they find it easier to blame patients for their problems than to admit they just can’t cure everyone. They keep prescribing pills, but I have only gotten worse. I have heard of police officers being trigger happy; could the same be said of clinicians in regard to prescribing medicines? Has our nation’s pharmaceutical industry (a.k.a. Big Pharm) corrupted the same professionals that we trust with our lives?

Practitioners in the rural area where I live seem very limited in their knowledge of mental ailments other than common ones like depression or anxiety. If it is something else, or if it cannot be cured by the expert, the patient is said to be at fault for being non-compliant or faking. CBT does not work for me, yet mental practitioners keep using it. No intervention has worked thus far, including electroconvulsive therapy. I feel worse than I did before. I have taken a smorgasbord of psychotropic medication, including medicines from virtually every class except MAOIs.

I spend my days bedridden, and if it were not for being afraid, I would kill myself without hesitation. I can’t maintain a job or relationships with others. My mother is the only person I wish to have contact with but she often expresses her frustration with my condition and has threatened to leave. If I lose my mother, then I have lost my sole means of support. I was seeing a psychologist on a daily basis but he gave up on me after becoming frustrated that we were not making any progress.

I lose my insurance in less than 20 months, so this dog and pony show of “try this medicine and then see me in a month” must cease. Once I lose my insurance, I’m out; I can’t work a job to get it. I already know that recovery is a long process, but I’ve had 12 years of treatment and no so-called professionals can figure out what they are even dealing with. It is absolute lunacy!

Psychologist’s Reply

Please allow me to express my condolences on the suffering you’ve endured. It is indeed incredibly frustrating to have a condition, physical or emotional, that no one seems to understand or be able to cure. We’ve made such gains in medicine and healthcare that we’ve come to expect a cure for everything yet that often is not the case. This is particularly true when dealing with illnesses of the mind and emotions. They tend to be much more complicated because a lot of factors can be at work and because we don’t put as much emphasis on psychological research.

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I can certainly understand your disappointment with the medical community. There are a lot of problems with the way we practice healthcare and you’ve hit on several. Yes, there is an over-emphasis on medication. Big Pharm does drive a large part of our healthcare system and they exert a great deal of influence over prescribing professionals. However, our ‘rush and change’ culture is also to blame. Many people would rather take a pill to feel better than work on the needed changes in both their individual behavior and our larger societal structure. This leads many patients to demand pills from healthcare professionals, who then feel pressured to provide them. It is also easier for the medical community to prescribe drugs than it is to figure out behavioral changes. In short, it is a vicious cycle in which we all share blame. Drugs can be very beneficial for some people but for others, like yourself, they are not the answer. As such, I applaud your determination to find another solution.

I think the majority of practitioners genuinely want to help their patients and try everything they know how to do. I can tell you from personal experience that it is very aggravating when nothing you try works! It sounds like a few of your doctors have admitted that there is nothing more they can do, while others could not admit defeat. Medical professionals are people too and can express their frustration by labeling patients as non-compliant or faking. Sometimes these labels are accurate and sometimes they are not. We also typically find ourselves operating from a particular perspective that is sometimes hard to see beyond (this kind of mental shortcut is called the “anchoring and adjustment heuristic”). This may explain why so many of your healthcare providers only emphasized Cognitive Behavioral Theory techniques and the psychotropic medications.

Even though the traditional methods of medicine are not helping you, don’t give up! It is very important for all of us to become our own advocates. Doctors are not perfect and we do not have all the answers. If Western medicine hasn’t helped, maybe it’s time to try some Eastern, complementary and alternative techniques. Interventions like yoga, acupuncture, herbal remedies and supplements, meditation, dietary changes, therapeutic massage, craniosacral therapy, EMDR, hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming and others may work for you. Do some research on the healing techniques used by other cultures and see if any of them sound possible for you to try. Although we in the Western world like to think we have a monopoly on knowledge, we don’t. The answer is out there, it’s just up to you to find it!

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