It’s All In Your Head—Go See A Psychiatrist

Health Tips / It’s All In Your Head—Go See A Psychiatrist

Before today’s Health Tip, an update. We’ve moved into our new center at 2265 N Clybourn Ave and want to thank our outstanding team for their services and support:

  • Architect Josh Hutchinson, 34/TEN Architecture
  • General Contractor Jerry Sorvino, AST Construction Services
  • Design and Project Manager Marla Rubin, Ensemble Graphics
  • Information Technology specialist Marty Rocha, Nitram Technologies
  • Contractor Miguel Rosas

I hope you never have to hear these words from a doctor, utterly dismissive and ending anything useful you hoped to gain from a consultation. You scheduled this appointment weeks or months ago because you wanted help for longstanding, unexplained symptoms. But you’re also not clueless. You actually have an idea of what might be wrong. You’ve read a book or three and found some helpful information online, and you might be on to something.

Wanting to make the most of your visit, you’ve brought a book or internet printout along. You also might be carrying some lab test results from other physicians who were either unable to help or simply didn’t know what you were talking about.

Now, armed with evidence, your appointment has finally arrived. And too quickly it’s over. Checking out while you fork over a small fortune for the visit, “it’s all in your head” ringing in your ears, you can barely restrain yourself from bursting into tears of anger and frustration.

You’re not alone

So you don’t feel isolated as you descend in the elevator, know that millions of patients have had this experience–conventional medicine at its worst. It deserves a name, so let’s call it the Ignorant Boorish Physician Syndrome, IBPS for short, describing a situation in which a doctor incapable of making a diagnosis and unable to confront a personal lack of knowledge turns the tables on the patient with a crisp “It’s all in your head…go see a psychiatrist.” Let me quickly add that there are many valid reasons to see a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, but a physician’s failure to bother with your longstanding symptoms is definitely not one of them.

Sometimes the IBPS concerns a diagnosis considered controversial, though it’s mainly controversial to a herd of doctors who haven’t bothered to learn anything about it.  I’ve listed the most common controversial diagnoses below.

An interesting corollary is the anger of the herd against the outlier, the alternative physician (MD, chiropractor, naturopath) who goes against the grain. It’s very Friedrich Nietzsche-ian. “Whoever deviates from…public opinion and stands apart will have the whole herd against him.” Systemic IBPS avers “Let’s call any doctor who treats <insert name of condition> a quack, deluded, or incompetent. Let’s dismiss <insert condition> as the latest fad diagnosis.” And, of course, “Let’s send to a psychiatrist all the patients who have deluded themselves into thinking they’re victims of it.”

Although apparently completely unrelated, these controversial diagnoses have more in common than you might think:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Candida (yeast) overgrowth
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (including adrenal and thyroid fatigue)
  • Food sensitivities (especially non-celiac gluten sensitivity)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Chronic Lyme disease
  • Heavy metal poisoning (especially mercury)
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity
  • Toxic mold syndrome
  • Parasites (including intestinal parasites and Morgellons disease)

Here’s what they have in common

Symptoms are chronic, coming and going, first for weeks and months, then for years.

Although the symptoms can be disabling, there are virtually no diagnostic tests accepted by conventional physicians that will either confirm these diagnoses or verify a physical basis for their associated symptoms.

Not one of the listed conditions is mentioned in medical school or during residency training. If a student or resident dares ask a question, the professor will dismiss it with withering sarcasm.

All of these conditions have generated books and/or online articles that most conventional physicians adamantly refuse to read. Occasionally, the books are the first means of disseminating information about the condition itself. For example, hypoglycemia’s Sugar Blues, Candida’s The Yeast Connection, fibromyalgia’s Healing Fibromyalgia, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity’s Dangerous Grains.

To most conventional physicians, the idea that these books preceded any published medical journal articles is proof that the diagnosis is simply a fad, the knowledge gleaned from the book worthless. Patients encounter the group-think of conventionally trained physicians as, “If I didn’t learn about it in medical school, it doesn’t exist.”

The corollary: If there are no tests (tests that I consider valid) to prove your condition, it doesn’t exist. And lastly, “If all the tests I order are negative, then you are physically well and if you don’t believe me you need psychiatric help.”

The situation isn’t helped by many alternative practitioners who start attributing every symptom to one or more of the controversial diagnoses. Also, since there’s virtually no regulation by the FDA regarding what can be printed on the label of a nutritional product, thousands of new products specifically aimed at these conditions start appearing. Numerous websites thrive on scare tactics about the dangers of <insert diagnosis>, promising a cure if you use their products.

What a mess. I mean this sincerely: what a mess!

Here’s what should be happening

The medical profession needs to stop dismissing patients as victims of the latest “fad diagnoses.” Instead, they need to open their minds, educate themselves, fund research, and follow new developments in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Medical journals need to open their editorial doors to papers from chiropractors, naturopaths, clinical nutritionists, and the physicians they dismiss as outliers.

Conventional doctors should also appreciate that many of the treatments for these “fad diagnoses” are very safe, generally much safer than the Big Pharma drugs physicians prescribe every day.

Patients should simply walk out of the office when they hear “There’s no such condition” or “You need to see a psychiatrist.”

There is some light at the end of the tunnel

In the past there was not only no light, there was no tunnel. It’s a slow process, but change can happen. For example, in an attempt to introduce new medications for fibromyalgia, Big Pharma made doctors aware for the first time that fibro actually existed. Also:

  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is becoming more accepted as doctors themselves feel better when they go gluten free.
  • Candida overgrowth was taken (somewhat) seriously when Mayo Clinic reported that a large number of patients with chronic sinusitis actually had an overgrowth of yeast in their sinuses.
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity and chronic fatigue syndrome are now recognized as part of the fibromyalgia spectrum.
  • Leaky gut syndrome (aka intestinal hyperpermeability), first described in conventional medical journals from South Africa, is now a topic of conventional research.
  • Chronic Lyme disease, though still hotly contested among physicians, now benefits from medical conferences worldwide (our Casey Kelley, MD, is a regular attendee).

Unfortunately, a majority of physicians remain reluctant to accept the existence of chronic Candida (yeast) overgrowth, chronic fatigue, adrenal and/or thyroid fatigue, chronic Lyme disease, food sensitivities, and heavy metal overload. With almost zero intellectual curiosity about other diagnostic possibilities, the miseries of Morgellons is written off as delusional.

Until closed-minded doctors wise up and stop blaming you for your illness, you may find yourself leaving their offices with a prescription for an antidepressant and a referral to a psychiatrist. You’ll either be holding back tears or shaking your head in disbelief as steam pours from your ears. But don’t give up.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD