Many patients view their psychiatrist early on as the only practitioner who can help them with their mental illness. However, each psychiatrist brings varying degrees of strengths and weaknesses to their jobs. Deciding whether your psychiatrist is the best mental health provider for you is part of learning to be an advocate for your mental health. These are the top three red flags that you may need to change to a different psychiatrist.
1. Poor Communication Skills
If your psychiatrist has poor communication skills then you need to find a better psychiatrist. Unfortunately some psychiatrist should be working with things or data instead of people. If you cannot get your psychiatrist to understand how your symptoms are impacting your life or how your symptoms are not normal long term even with medication then try to find a better psychiatrist. Also, if your psychiatrist has never taken the time to explain your diagnosis then you probably need to make a change.
In addition, a psychiatrist should want to hear about your feelings and symptoms. According to David Karp who did a study on depression, “respondents sometimes acutely experienced the paradox that psychiatrists didn’t want to spend much more time hearing about their feelings even though it was their bad feelings that forced them into the hospital (89).” So if you feel like your psychiatrist is not listening to you that is another sign to seek out a better psychiatrist.
2. Poor Decision Maker
If your psychiatrist makes obviously poor decisions find a new one. Some examples that indicate poor decision making skills by a psychiatrist are refusing to change your medication despite pleas for a change, refusing to change a medication that makes you physically ill, asking you to take a medication you are known to be allergic to, or knowing that you have been previously addicted to drugs or alcohol and still prescribing you an addictive medication for your mental illness. Unfortunately, these things happen too often so find a psychiatrist who can make intelligent decisions.
3. Non-Supportive or Lacks Compassion
According to Input Youth, psychiatrists should “have the ability to put people at their ease and inspire their trust and confidence.” Psychiatrists should be compassionate and supportive of other attempts for healing to include psychotherapy and social work assistance.
In conclusion, patients have to learn to be their own mental health advocates and this includes finding the right psychiatrist. According to Kay Jamison the best way for patients to become their own advocate is “being well informed about mental illness, actively involved in their own clinical care, and very assertive about the quality of medical and psychological treatment they receive is a good start (258).”
Jamison, Kay Redfield. Understanding Suicide. New York: Random House, 1999.
“Job Guides – Psychiatrist.” Input Youth. 27 Oct. 2010. http://www.inputyough.co.uk/jobguides/job-psychiatrist.html
Karp, David A. Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meaning of Illness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.