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Empathy: Anderson Cooper’s Giggling Makes This Psychiatrist Embarrassed

If you haven’t seen Anderson Cooper catch a case of the giggles on live TV, you can still watch it on YouTube.  I missed the first showing, but saw Mr. Cooper replayed it on his own Ridiculist List.  But what’s this doing on Shrink Rap?

I watched the re-run, and I found myself laughing out loud.  Only, it wasn’t a good, happy, hearty laugh, it was an embarrassed and uncomfortable laugh, and I realized I’d taken on the feelings of the newsman.  If I were a psychiatrist (oops, I am, even in August), I might say that Anderson Cooper Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

A Shrink Considers The Effectiveness Of Her Scheduling Method

I’ve been at it a long time, and one thing (of many things) that I still have not gotten down is scheduling.  I seem to have a method to my own madness, but somehow I imagine it’s not how other people do this.  I’ve heard other shrinks say, “I’m booked for the next 4 weeks” or say they aren’t taking any new patients.  Some people put a “no new patients” message on their answering machine.  Wait, so no appointments for 4 weeks?  What if a patient calls and needs to be seen very soon? Like this week?  If you can’t wait, go to the ER?  I thought the point of having a private doc was that you didn’t have to go to the ER unless something couldn’t be handled safely as an outpatient.  And if you tell the world that you don’t take new patients, then don’t people stop referring to you?  It seems to me that patients will come in and announce, “I’m doing better and want to come less often,”  “I’m moving,”  “I’m done,” or they will cancel an appointment, not call back, and not be heard from again for weeks or months.  Sometimes it all happens on very short notice and life can be very unpredictable.

In my pre-shrink days, I thought that psychiatry worked such that patients came every week (or twice a week, or whatever) and had their own slots.  Tuesday at 1, that’s me!  So a psychiatrist had every slot full with patients this way, and could be “full,” until a patient finished and stopped coming, and then another soul was let in to the Tuesday at 1 slot.  Gosh that would be nice, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

New York Times Reports On Very Atypical Case Of Schizophrenia

Benedict Carey is a New York Times mental health reporter.  In last Sunday’s Times, he wrote about Joe Holt, a man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  Mr. Holt was dealt a particularly tough deck of cards: in addition to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, he had a horrible and traumatic childhood with much loss, placement in a facility where he was physically abused, and periods of homelessness as a teenager.  He now has a stable marriage, has adopted children and keeps numerous foster children, and holds two jobs, one as a computer consultant and another as a therapist (if I read that correctly).  He struggles with his emotional life, but my take on this was that this is one extremely resilient man who has waged a successful battle against many demons and his story is inspirational.

So Benedict Carey often writes stories that are skeptical, if not outright critical, of the mental health field.  This story did not have that tone.  I found it interesting, though, that he chose a person with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who’s life was not “typical.”  What did I find not typical? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Increased Number Of Antidepressants Prescribed To Patients Without A Psychiatric Diagnosis

Prescriptions for antidepressants given by nonpsychiatrists to patients without a specific psychiatric disorder increased more than 12% in 12 years, leading to the drug class becoming the third most commonly prescribed, a study found.

A study in the August issue of Health Affairs reported that antidepressant prescriptions by doctors who didn’t record a specific psychiatric disorder increased from 59.5% of all prescriptions by nonpsychiatrists in 1996 to 72.7% in 2007.

Researchers reviewed data on patients age eighteen or older from the 1996-2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys, a national sample of more than 233,000 office-based visits. The proportion of antidepressants prescribed for patients without a psychiatric diagnosis increased from 2.5% of all visits to nonpsychiatrist providers to 6.4% between 1996 and 2007. For visits to primary care providers, antidepressant prescribing grew from 3.1% to 7.1%. For other nonpsychiatric providers, visits without a psychiatric diagnosis grew from 1.9% to 5.8%. In contrast, antidepressants prescribed with a psychiatric diagnosis increased from 1.7% to 2.4%.

Patients who received antidepressants without a psychiatric diagnosis by nonpsychiatrist providers were more likely to be Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

What Do Monks, Psychiatric Patients And Prison Inmates Have In Common?

I’ve always been struck by the similarity between solitary confinement inmates and monks. Historically, monks were kept under the vow of silence. They could only leave their cells to attend religious services. The only visitors they were allowed tohave were their religious advisors. (If any of you have seen the movie Into Great Silence you’ll know what I’m talking about.)  The idea of the modern penitentiary came from this ‘penitence’ process: put someone in a room by himself, give him religious guidance while he’s there and he’ll reflect, repent and reform. This was how prisons were run in the Nineteenth Century too: prisoners were kept under the rule of silence and they could only come out of their cells for religious services or for work. No one ever alleged that monks became psychotic because of this though.

Then there’s the psychiatric seclusion room. Again, a bare cell with a bed or a mattress, no visitors, no clothes except a hospital gown. There is no ‘vow of silence’ or ‘rule of silence’ though.

So what makes the difference between the prison segregation cell, the monk’s cell and the psychiatric seclusion room? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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