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Don’t Trust Your Doctor

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With a title like that you may think I’m advocating alternative medicine, but that’s not the case. Despite issues with the medical establishment, your doctor and other certified health care professionals are still your best source of information and treatments. What I am suggesting is that you question the wisdom of your doctor regarding your health and the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.

More often than not, a good doctor will be more of a partner than an authority regarding your health. They will let you know what they think and make educated suggestions about treatment options. On the other hand, there will be times when the diagnosis will be so obvious and the treatment so effective that you would be wise to just do what they tell you to do. It’s up to you to do your homework, consider their suggestions and ask about other treatment options or diagnostic tests.

For example, doctors are notorious for over-prescribing antibiotics. This has led to growth of  antibiotic resistant bacteria. Once I was dealing with sinus infection that I couldn’t kick. I was hesitant to take antibiotics because I knew it was just a matter of time before my body beat it, but I finally broke down and went my local walk-in clinic and ,after a brief examination, asked for antibiotics. The attending physician had no problem giving me the prescription and did not even suggest I could just give it time.

Another big problem is the over-prescription of antidepressant drugs. Don’t get me wrong – antidepressant drugs can be a life-saver (literally) for people who need them. The issue is when doctors prescribe them without make a strong case for therapy first. I would argue that a primary care physician has no business prescribing antidepressants and that this should be the business of a psychotherapist with the proper training and credentials.

I have a friend, let’s call him Alan, who was dealing with mild mood issues and thought it was time to seek professional help. He was given a number to specialist and gave them a call. Below is an approximation of how that call went:

Doctor’s Office: “Acme Psychological, how can I help you?”

Alan: “Hi, I’d like to talk to someone about mood issues I’ve been having.”

Doctor’s Office: “We can help you. Would you prefer medication or talk therapy?”

Alan (confused): “I don’t know. I’d prefer to see someone before deciding on a course of treatment.”

Doctor’s Office: “Okay, talk therapy then.”

What’s really troublesome about this conversation was that the patient was asked to choose a treatment plan without even being accessed by a professional. As it turns out, the talk therapy was very effective and he was able to learn a few simple techniques for managing his mood WITHOUT becoming dependent on mind altering drugs.

The average person when faced with the same choice as my friend would likely just take the drugs without considering therapy. With antidepressants, once you find a drug that works for you, you pretty much have to take it for the rest of your life. Most have side effects – the most severe being suicidal thoughts.

In general, I believe the medical establishment is not well equipped for helping patients make the right decisions for the treatment of mood disorders. Health Insurance companies along with the government may have a bias towards prescribing drugs rather than treatment. Treatment is more costly for one and requires that the patient plays an active role in getting better. Psychotherapy be difficult to quantify, control and enforce pricing guidelines.

The only way to insure that you get proper treatment is by doing your homework, asking questions, raising concerns and taking charge of your health care.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

August 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm