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Psychiatrists Won't Listen to Patients -- 8 Reasons Why

May 24, 2019 Natasha Tracy

Why won't many psychiatrists listen to patients? Your psychiatrist is supposed to be helping you. Your psychiatrist is supposed to be on your side. You and your psychiatrist are supposed to be a team to fight mental illness together. But this just doesn't always turn out to be true. So many of us have, in fact, experienced the opposite. So why is it that psychiatrists won't listen to patients?

Psychiatrists Won't Listen to Patients -- Why

I actually get this question all the time so yes, in my experience, many psychiatrists do not listen to their patients. I can't speak for psychiatrists with any degree of authority, but from the patient side of the room, here's what I've noticed:

  1. Psychiatrists often think, or at least act, like they're better than they're patients. Why this is? I'm not entirely sure but puffed egos sure do seem to make their way into doctors' offices.
  2. Psychiatrists think they know better than their patients perhaps because they simply know more. But what psychiatrists forget, of course, is that while they may know more about mental illness, they definitely don't know more about any one person's experience of that illness, which is always unique.
  3. Psychiatrists are pressed for time. It is an unfortunate reality that psychiatrists are squeezed by insurance companies just like patients are. Sometimes there isn't time to listen even if they want to.
  4. Psychiatrists may buy into a parental relationship with their patients. In previous generations this was common. The doctor was the "parent," the patient was the "child," and the child was to be seen and not heard. We now know there are better ways to work a doctor-patient relationship.
  5. Psychiatrists get burned out. Unfortunately, there aren't enough specialists like psychiatrists to go around meaning that some psychiatrists have a ridiculously high workload and they just, plain burnout. Their "compassion sensors" go on the fritz. Psychiatrists then stop listening to patients. This is human.
  6. The professional distance they must have gets overgrown. While it is true that psychiatrists must maintain a professional distance from their patients in order to do an effective job, sometimes this distance becomes too large and stands in the way of a working relationship.
  7. For some people -- even psychiatrists -- in the back of their brain, they're still thinking that people with mental illness are crazy and not to be believed (this is related to the next point).
  8. People like psychiatrists tend to see the worst of the worst cases. These cases often involve people who don't know what is good for them due to the effects of the illness. These cases mean that the psychiatrist must make the decisions for the patient because they're the only one who can. Unfortunately, sometimes this transfers to other relationships with even high-functioning patients who do know what is good for them.

I would like to be clear in stating that not all psychiatrists are like this. Not all psychiatrists don't listen to patients. I have a great doctor who listens to me, but I've certainly had others that didn't. I certainly wouldn't want to paint all psychiatrists with the same brush, however.

Next time I'm going to talk about how to handle this problem and what to do if your doctor won't listen to you.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2019, May 24). Psychiatrists Won't Listen to Patients -- 8 Reasons Why, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2019/5/psychiatrists-wont-listen-to-patients-8-reasons-why



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook and YouTube.

alan
September, 29 2021 at 11:47 am

40 years of medications nothing helps side effects horrible. Did TMS 6 years ago got way worse.
No ne knows what to do. Switch docs 2 weeks ago he diagnisis me with a mood disorder because I can't sleep on SSRI's. Pulled me off Klonopin been on 6 year and Trazadone for 3 year gave me depakote said I'd sleep. NO sleep up all night , went back on Trazadone/Klonopin now what he wn't return my call. I feel helpless. I've learned over 40 years not to have Dr's just stop meds abrutly to wean but they don't

October, 1 2021 at 8:01 am

Hi Alan,
I'm sorry you had your experience. I have had plenty of bad experiences with doctors too. What I have learned is that we need to advocate for ourselves, sometimes in the loudest voice possible. This reminds us we are not helpless. If this doctor won't work with you, keep looking until you find one who will. Don't give up. I know how hard it is, but you can do this.
- Natasha Tracy

Photo
June, 11 2021 at 8:02 pm

I've had in my ran in with my former psychiatrist, he had a huge ego. Whenever I told him the nasty side effects of the drugs, he would just blow me off, thinking it wasn't a big deal. I should've walked out of treatment sooner, lesson learned life goes on. He cured nothing, instead he said I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life, should have told him to pound sand and left.

Jay
May, 30 2021 at 11:00 am

I was inpatient last year and got diagnosed with bpd by the consultant after only seeing her once. I started a mood diary and realised my mood changes and stuff last months eg I’ll be severely depressed for 3 months and then the next 3 months I’d be really really happy to the point I believe I could of been hypomanic and I realised after researching bpd that I only have 3 of the symptoms and are the symptoms that overlap with bipolar. When I got discharged the only doctor I have access to is my gp so I decided to go private to get a diagnosis but the psychiatrist in the appointment was just not listening to me and when I mentioned that I got diagnosed with bpd she just seemed to switch off and said that she agrees with the diagnosis and now idk what to do because I don’t want to keep spending money to try and find someone to listen to me.

June, 2 2021 at 9:09 am

Hi Jay,
I'm sorry you're in that spot. It's terrible when you feel like people aren't listening to you.
Here are two thoughts:
1. Try to get your GP on side. Your GP may not be able to diagnose you, but they might be able to hear what you're saying and think that misdiagnosis is a possibility. This means they could write a psychiatrist a note saying so. This could help your case greatly.
2. Try asking a doctor to explain their reasoning to you. If the psychiatrist says, "No, I think you have BPD," say, "Please explain to me why you think that when I only have three of the symptoms? I would like to understand your reasoning." You need to be polite but firm and get them to explain their thoughts. They may really have good reasons for their opinion or they may not, but either way, you need to know about it.
A new psychiatrist may be the one to have that conversation with. Try getting someone who specializes in bipolar disorder. They will be the best at ascertaining whether you have it or not, and have a good reasoning for believing so.
Good luck.
- Natasha Tracy

Michelle
May, 6 2021 at 10:39 am

My psychiatrist diagnoses me with bipolar because I accidentally told her I had 1 episode of mania "not knowing what mania is". I told her the medication Im on isnt helping me and I may have been misdiagnosed. She wont listen and told me to get another opinion whixh I cant get unless she transfers my fike which she hasnt done in months. I feel hirrible.

Simon
November, 14 2020 at 6:17 pm

Hello I find it hard in speaking to doctors because of the assumption that they won't help me from previous experiences. They persrcibed me medications that they thought would be benefical for me which was resperidone and olanzapine. These medications messed with my psyche so much I got into a brutal car accident. I am 22 and they still used the child patient excuse to give me those types of mood altering medications. I now have an appointment with another psychiatrist who may seen to be alot better in diagnosing my issue. My question to you is how to speak to the psychiatrist with detailing my symptoms. I am look to get on noahtropics. Thank you.

Marianne Wilson Redman
November, 3 2021 at 7:00 am

Hey Simon. I hear you're frustration. I'm in the same boat and need a second opinion about my diagnosis. I have bipolar 2 disorder and supposedly "delusional disorder". (Eye roll). What you do is make an appt to see a regular family/ internal or general medicine doctor at any hospital. (Make sure the doctor is covered by your insurance. Call your insurance company first and they will find you a practitioner). Upon the first visit, you will get a physical exam, possibly some blood and urine tests will be administered, I'm not sure. Upon that, you should be able to get a referral to a new psych doctor for psychological testing for a second opinion without interference. He or she will need your records from the first psych doctor, but I doubt your first doctor will fight him. Likely he will cooperate. If he doesn't, find a new doctor. A good doctor will respect your right to a second and even third opinion. You can also get copies of your medical records from your hospital, but you have to pay for them. Contrary to popular belief, they may fight you on this. Legally your entitled to them, but my hospital is giving me a hard time about this as I sit here and write this to you....You, as an adult, can psychological testing pretty much anywhere without your current doctors permission. But you need a referall. It doesn't have to. It don't have to come from your current general medicine doctor. It can be from a new doctor you've never seen before and you likely wont have to see them again...just get that referral. Psychological testing is mega expensive though...FYI. 😇

Suzanne
July, 31 2020 at 4:54 pm

Recently had an appt with my psychiatrist and my community psychiatric nurse.
I've bnn diagnosed with ptsd, which I allready knew I had been diagnosed with this in my early 30s, I'm now 46.
Im on 200mg setraline, for ptsd. My moods have bn very unstable lately I've experienced mania and then depressive episodes where I am housebound and have no motivation to look after myself or my home. I first experienced trauma at the age of 7 when I witnessed a close family member being raped, I also have been raped twice once age 18 and then age 44.
I often feel nothing, no emotion or I become super sensitive, I am prone to reckless behaviour not caring if I live or die.
My mother died 3 years ago and I've grown steadily worse I believe I have BPD but my psychiatrist says no, refuses to consider it and will not give me anything to stabilise my moods. I do not want to be here, I have no motivation and my body is often in agony, I fantasise about walking infront of a bus, I feel guilt and feel like I'm a burden to my loved ones, I just want to be with my mother. I need help.

August, 3 2020 at 10:23 am

Hi Suzanne,
I'm so sorry you're in that place right now. It sounds very hard.
I would definitely be concerned about mood instability if you're feeling this distressed about it. Perhaps your psychiatrist doesn't understand how serious this really is. It sounds like you need help immediately.
What I would recommend is being forthright with your team and say something like, "My moods are fluctuating in ways I can't manage. I'm in so much pain I'm suicidal. No matter what you feel my diagnosis is, I need help with these things immediately."
That should spur a conversation about changes that will help. If it doesn't, I recommend getting a referral and seeing someone else as soon as possible as obviously your team is not taking you seriously.
In the meantime, remember, you can always reach out to a helpline. That can really help you get through this time. People there will be able to listen and suggest additional resources for you. Please see our hotlines page here for more: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
I hope that helps. Just remember, help is out there but it sometimes takes a lot of access it.
- Natasha Tracy

Hannah buie
July, 22 2020 at 4:06 pm

I have been seeing a psych for years and have questioned her drug choices several times even getting a second opinion. She had me on 300mg doxepin160 geodon 40mg clematis and 2mg klonopin for years adding geodon later. I did pretty well. Able to get out socially paint function. Rather lethargic not very active though. Starting having heart palpitations at night after I took geodon. Looked it up stoppped geodon rather fast ended up in hospital with severe depresssion. Dropped out socially quit everything. Put on a number of medicines that didn’t help. Months went by. Saw another doctor put me on medicines with bad side effects including Latiuda which helped mood but heart palpitations right away. Started back tiny bit of geodon and low dose Doxepin mood little better but all this time insomnia for months. Saw old doctor told me to take 40mg geodon and Doxepin which not only didn’t help anyway and my heart rate went up. Couldn’t take geodon and didn’t work at low dose. Anyway. Second doctor put me on 10mg lexapro Nd 75 geodon at night. Heart palpitations almost went to hospital. I had been put on synthroid in hospital and after finally taking heart rate one month later sent me to hospital. Family doctor gave me propranolol which I take for these problems stopped synthroid. I give up.. after telling my doctors of these problems ignore my issues. Ready to give up. Didn’t take anything last night but klonopin melatonin and magnesium. Thought about killing myself today. Talked to family doctor said try holistic!! Can’t even move from my chair. Help!!!!! Haven’t slept in months no help! Went from heart rate of 75 bam to 113 bpm in a year.

July, 22 2020 at 5:26 pm

Hi Hannah,
I'm so sorry you're going through that. I can understand why you want to escape that cycle. It sounds like you need a whole new approach. It sounds like you need all new medications. A new doctor may even be in order.
If it were me, I would put things very plainly to a doctor -- if there's one thing I know, it's that they _can't_ read between the lines. I would say something like, "I'm at the end of my rope. I need medical treatment now because I'm thinking about suicide."
I know that seems drastic, but it's what they need to hear to take you seriously.
Then I would say something like, "I am very concerned about my heart rate. Can we start on a small dose of medication and see how it affects my heart?"
Then write down the rest of your needs and make sure they are addressed. It sounds like sleep is a very big one so make sure you mention that to the doctor. I know that sleep and lack of sleep affects me and my bipolar greatly, so I would say that getting that on track is critical.
I know this is really hard but you need to stand up for yourself and be as forthright as possible. You can do this. You can get better.
- Natasha Tracy

Lynn
July, 24 2019 at 8:40 am

Bravo on this topic. It is so true about psychiatrist not listening. I have observed my therapist peeking at the clock and you can tell by their body language they have tuned out. Sometimes it takes going through a few therapist to find the gem.

Terry
June, 9 2019 at 6:34 am

I take 4 one mlg of Klonopins a day for my paranoia and anxiety when I go in for my med check they take an urine test and watch me I feel they are treating me like a drug addict I feel very offencive about this what should I do?

June, 10 2019 at 1:44 pm

Hi Terry,
That does sound unpleasant. That said, I don't know that there's anything you can do. If that's their policy, that's their policy. If I were you, I'd talk to your doctor and get more clarity on why they're doing that and if you can be exempt -- at least sometimes.
- Natasha Tracy

Margaret
May, 29 2019 at 1:23 pm

Good article; always found out the hard way!

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