I was diagnosed with MS in 1980, and then depression soon after that. I was originally on Prozac, which helped, but after a while it stopped working and I thought I needed something different.
My neurologist had me on Copaxone for my MS. Although he said it wouldn’t be a problem with my depression, it seemed to make it worse. When I told him I was going to stop it, he got angry.
I asked around and was referred to a psychiatrist who specialized in psych medications, a psychopharmacologist. I sought her help for my depression, which had become unmanageable.
She put me on Zoloft, which I was assured would work. After about two and a half months, I still felt so depressed, had no energy, and had lots of aches and pains. I told the psychiatrist and she added Ritalin to help with my energy levels, saying it should start helping in just a few days.
Well, it didn’t. After another six months I was no better. But my psychiatrist actually didn't believe me.
I have had depression long enough to know when I’m depressed and when I’m not, and I don’t appreciate someone—even if they are a psychiatrist—telling me I’m not feeling what I know I am. It was completely disrespectful and I felt like I was being treated like a child.
I finally gave up on her and am going to a different psychiatrist. Even though I still have some depression, at least he listens and gives me the benefit of the doubt that I know what's going on with my own body.
Or maybe it’s just because we’re both from the same part of Brookline.
Comment from Dr. Neustatter:
This isn't such an unusual situation, where the doctor thinks he or she knows better than the patient what they are experiencing.
It’s a form of insensitivity and arrogance really, but often occurs when the patient doesn’t react like the doctor expects (or hopes) they will. Such doctors do often tend to treat patients like children, talking to them in a paternalistic way and expecting them to unquestioningly follow orders. And it's not only doctors; I've had many people complain about patronizing nurses in hospitals and offices.
Ideally, you can calmly and politely talk to your doctor or nurse and explain that you feel disrespected by their dismissal of what you have to say. There's a maxim from that wise old physician, William Osler, known for his aphorisms, that goes, “Listen to your patient; he is telling you the diagnosis.”
Even though this story isn't about trying to figure out the diagnosis, the point is, doctors should listen to—rather than think they know better than—their patients.
In this case, the patient took the final step of firing her doctor. Luckily, she found another whose style matched hers.