Psychiatrists are lousy Patients

42.5% of psychiatrist working in Michigan would consider self-medicating or would self-medicate if afflicted with mild to moderate depression.
46% would treat a friend and/or a relative for mild to moderate depression.
These numbers decrease dramatically when afflicted with a severe depression with suicidal ideation: 7% and 18.2%.

Nevertheless this practice is against the Code of Medical Ethics:

….physician generally should not treat themselves or members of their immediate family. Professional objectivity may be compromised when …the physician is the patient

The reason why psychiatrists treat themselves would more likely be influenced by the presence of a permanent insurance record (40.4%) than the stigma of mental illness (25.7%).

These data are from a questionnaire which were mailed to 830 psychiatrists listed in the Michigan Psychiatric Society directory. It consisted of 11 questions regarding self-treatment for depression and 7 demographic questions. The author of the article received 567 responses ( response rate of 68.3%).

These numbers are comparable to Finnish physicians reporting self-treatment for mental disorders: 66%.
In a survey of Norwegian physicians, 75% of responders had performed self-treatment during the 3 years prior to the survey.

These figures emphasize a difficult problem among physicians and in this case psychiatrists. In spite of the Code of Medical Ethics self-treatment is common among psychiatrists.

Limitations of the study:
1. Sampling bias:those who self-medicate may be less likely to respond
2. Generalizability: how representative was this population for psychiatrists in general
3. a difference between what one thinks he will do and what one actually does when depressed

Desitigmatize mental illness, start with the psychiatrists

Article discussed:
Psychiatrist Attitudes toward Self-Treatment of Their Own Depression.
PMID: 17700051
Author: Balon R
Journal: Psychother Psychosom, 76 (5): 306-10, 2007

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