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Navigating the Myths and Realities of Mental Disorders and Mental Well-Being

Updated: Jan 18

 

In addition to the quintessential fear of death, there is an almost equally ubiquitous fear of "going crazy," a fear of "losing my mind." The idea of seeing a psychiatrist must be quite a unpleasant and anxiety-provoking one. You might say something shameful, admit something odd, or share something embarrassing and then be judged, dissected, and "analyzed" by a professional. In the end, you may even get a stamp of being "crazy."

 

Well, that must be a horrible experience, right?

 

Absolutely not!

 

To prevent me from being too philosophical, let me give you an example of Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones believes he is teleported to Earth from another planet; he sometimes hears the voice from the "mother ship." He always comes to work exactly 19 minutes early because he believes this is his lucky number. He never wears yellow clothing and stays away from yellow-colored objects because he feels radiation from this color might be damaging to his health. He sometimes smokes a joint and enjoys alcoholic drinks. You can use your imagination and add a few more odd and unusual characteristics of Mr. Jones.

 

So is Mr. Jones "normal"? Should he see a psychiatrist? Maybe start on medication of some sort? Treat his "addictions"?I have only three questions here.


1.        Is anything bothering Mr. Jones?

2.        Is Mr. Jones functionally impaired or unable to take care of himself?

3.        Is Mr. Jones doing anything that might be dangerous to himself or to anybody else?


If the answer to these three questions is no, then it is none of my business to get involved, judge, evaluate, diagnose, or label Mr. Jones in any way (unless Mr. Jones is experiencing a problem and asking me to do so himself). Who am I to say what is sane and what is "crazy"? It is most definitely not my job despite being a psychiatrist to label things as "normal" or "abnormal"! In this beautiful and diverse world, we are learning to celebrate and respect our differences, and the one and only one magic word that requires a psychiatrist to get involved is impairment or dysfunction.

 

Simply said, you can think anything you want and feel anything you want, as long as you do not feel like there is a problem, and as long as there is no functional impairment or behavioral issue endangering yourself or others, well then, just go live your life and be happy.

 

Thinking about Mr. Jones again, if his thoughts, for example, result in functional impairment and he cannot make it to work anymore, if there is internal preoccupation and self-neglect, like not showering or not eating well. If Mr. Jones himself feels bothered by his symptoms or if he engages in disruptive or dangerous behaviors, well, then most definitely, Mr. Jones needs to be helped.

 

Even in this scenario, my job is to protect the best interest of Mr. Jones, establish control of his symptoms, and restore his functioning. I am able to determine if his symptoms fit within a specific diagnosis, and this will guide further treatment decision-making and communication between professionals, but Mr. Jones is not his diagnosis because there are no two people in this world with the same depression, the same anxiety, the same bipolar disorder, the same panic attack, or the same schizophrenia.

 

Whatever the diagnosis might be, no matter how we are going to call it, my job at the end is simply to figure out what we can do to ensure that you feel better and that you function better so you can reclaim your unalienable right given to you and to all humans by their creator "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

 

(How can one not get inspired by the declaration of independence)

 

Dr. Starovic

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