When the Medical and Mental Health Worlds Collide

From Linda M. Rio, MA Marriage and Family Therapist   “How could a doctor treat an acromegalic when the doctor could not even pronounce the word?” 

This is from a patient who very unfortunately has experienced the real world of trying to find appropriate treatment. The sad fact is that many…dare I say most… people dealing with pituitary disorders can probably verify this as true for them as well. Now, in addition to the physical and biological impact to the body, there is also the mental and emotional aspect of not being believed or being discounted by doctors, nurses (not to mention family, friend, co-workers and more) for the symptoms you just know are there but not verified by cursory or imprecise medical tests. And, of course, many pituitary disorders do also affect the emotional system of the body resulting in serious depression, anxiety and more. The compilation of the physical impact on the endocrine system with the mental and emotional impact on the patient likely then helps form the “perfect storm” (sorry for the analogy) to impact the family and social systems as well! Boom! Medical and mental health worlds collide in a big way!

It is often difficult for someone who is an active, participative member of society to be able to relate and understand the pain of someone who is homebound, bedridden, unable to work, depressed, anxious and whose physical features may have even changed over months to years. And a patient who does feel depressed, anxious etc. often has little or no energy to even describe just how badly they feel. This poses a real conundrum to both the medical professional, mental health professional, and ultimately the patient because without good communication and accurate and detailed history of symptoms (physical and psychological) between the patient and treatment professional an accurate diagnosis can be quite challenging to discover.

Endocrine disordered patients who suffer with anxiety, depression, cognitive impairments and more (in addition to physical signs) do not always have the capacity to present their “case” to their treating professionals. Patients may be unaware of how they may minimize or even overlook important symptoms due to their low mental energy. This can lead to delays in getting proper care. This is not to blame patients but rather to inform how necessary it is to understand the critical nature of keeping track of symptoms, medical appointments, lab tests and more. Because these medical disorders are still considered “rare” they may not even be considered by a primary care or endocrinologist who doesn’t have the highly specialized expertise to spot important symptoms. It is unfortunate, but a reality that often patients must find ways to advocate for themselves. When they cannot due to mental health issues or are just too tired then the help of an advocate is essential. I’ll write more about the role of an advocate in another article.


Note:  Linda can be reached at www.lindamrio.com
Linda’s book  “The Hormone Factor in Mental Health” is available through Amazon.com and other major booksellers


Photograph Used with permission from Microsoft.

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