In a lot of ways, the phrase "seeing a psychiatrist" can carry certain stigmas. No one wants to be seen as needing help or not being able to control his or her own problems. The reality is that millions of people from all walks of life seek psychiatric help every day with the goal of simply feeling better. While you always can talk to friends or family members about what's going on in your life, talking about depression and anxiety are things you may prefer to consult a professional about. Doing so can help you find the right treatment to get yourself on the path to feeling better.
"There's a myth that psychotherapy is the same as simply talking openly to a friend about your feelings," said psychiatrist Dr. Julia Wood from Parkway Psychiatric Service. "This is simply untrue because therapists have years of training to learn to properly perform therapies that have been studied and are proven to work. There are many modalities of therapy available, and some of them are specifically recommended for certain problems. The type of medication or therapy that is recommended depends on a patient's diagnosis. For instance, unipolar depression and bipolar depression are treated with different medications. Other treatments also are available, such as 'somatic therapies,' which include treatments that have been around for many, many years, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and newer treatments, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)," she explained. "These types of treatments may be reserved for depression that does not respond to initial trials of medication," she added. "When it comes to medications, a physician not only will work to find a medication that is helpful and has minimal side effects, but he or she also will help decide how long the medication needs to be prescribed and how one can stop taking it and still minimize the chance of the illness relapsing," Wood explained.
Still, how your depression or anxiety is treated will depend on your diagnosis. "The two biggest challenges with regard to diagnosing a patient the first time are a lack of collateral information and seeing someone at an isolated point in time," Wood said. "Seeing someone at an isolated point in time means that there are no blood or imaging tests for psychiatric diagnoses. I'm only able to rely on someone's memory of prior symptoms and how he or she is at the present time. Sometimes, if a person is not experiencing a mood episode when I'm seeing them, it can be hard to feel certain about a specific diagnosis because I have to base my judgment on descriptions of events in the past. The second challenge, collateral information, can help with the first. Collateral information is gathered from sources other than the patient, such as a friend or family member. Talking to those around a patient can help me as a psychiatrist identify how the patient appears when he or she is feeling depressed, anxious or irritable. This is helpful in determining whether a person is experiencing a major depression or something different, such as a bipolar disorder," she said. "Sometimes with a psychiatrist's help, a person will discover that he or she actually has a different diagnosis from what they initially thought. For instance, a patient may find out he or she has a bipolar disorder. While this can be a shock, it also opens many doors for new treatment options that have a higher likelihood of being effective. It can actually be good news in that way because it offers hope and new choices," she explained.
Dr. Wood sees patients at Parkway Psychiatric Service, located at 451 Blount Memorial Physician Office Building in Maryville. If you or a loved one are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety and would like help, appointments are available Monday through Friday. For more information or to schedule an initial appointment, call Parkway Psychiatric Service at 865-980-5377.