Questions & Answers on Psychiatric Medications

Tadao Ogura, M.D.


Why Do I Feel Uncomfortable Taking Psychiatric Medications?

For many people, simply the idea of seeing a psychiatrist makes them very uncomfortable, because they feel they may have to admit they are "crazy" or "insane." This discomfort will become far stronger when they are told that they need to take psychiatric medications.

The idea that people with psychiatric disorders are "insane" is another common misconception. Such a misunderstanding has prevailed for over 2000 years, since the Greek Ages, so it will probably not go away anytime soon. It might have helped if psychiatric disorders had been termed as "brain diseases" - sort of like "heart diseases" - or had a more specific name, like "cancer" instead of the vague and mysterious categorization of "mental illnesses."

It also did not help that most psychiatric disorders had been perplexing even to the medical profession for thousands of years, and had been resistant to any therapeutic efforts until relatively recently. In fact, the first psychotherapeutic medication was introduced only about fifty years ago!

Both the public and doctors were frustrated and angry with those who suffered from these "strange" psychiatric conditions because they could not understand nor treat them. It has been common throughout history for society to isolate and ostracize those who suffered from incurable and potentially threatening diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis - and "lunatics" were included among those isolated in "lunatic asylums."

Over the last century, the field of psychiatry has finally made many significant advances. The first advance was to employ "Insulin Shock" therapy, which turned out to be effective for the treatment of Schizophrenics. This technique was discovered by an accidental observation that an "insane" individual suddenly regained his sanity after having fallen into a diabetic shock and recovered from it.

Then, came "ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy)," which was found to be much safer and effective than "Insulin Shock" therapy in the treatment of schizophrenics and severe depression. ECT was discovered by the observation that a schizophrenic seemed to have recovered after a few epileptic convulsions.

Unfortunately, some people seem to think that all severely "insane" people get "shock treatments" which is a gross misconception. Nevertheless, ECT has been found to be effective, and truly "life-saving," for many acutely depressed, suicidal patients, because it works faster than any psychiatric medications.

Considering that Psychiatry has gained its therapeutic power only for the last half a century, it is not too surprising that the public still has many misconceptions about "insanity." The important thing to note, however, is most negative thoughts and feelings about psychiatric conditions are based on misconceptions, false beliefs and prejudice, not on fact or reality.

Actually, there is no such thing as "insanity" per se. There are many disease states resulting from dysfunctions of the brain, but they can be diagnosed and treated just like any other disease. The earlier a person comes to terms with his or her psychiatric (or brain) condition, the faster he or she can recover from them.

This may not answer the question of whether someone else will think you are insane or not. But the real issues are 1) Should you really care what other people think about you when you have a serious and potentially life-threatening disease? And 2) If you continue to leave your condition untreated, and let it get worse, then other people are definitely going to start to notice, if they haven't already.


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