When psychiatry does more harm than good

My daughter at 9

My daughter when she was 9 – This is a child with Ehlers-Danlos type III.

When my husband of 10 years left, our world was turned upside down.

I was trying hard to keep busy to make my days easier and since my youngest daughter’s teacher needed help in the classroom, I offered to assist with cleaning and class projects for a few days.

At the time, my daughters had just turned 6 and 8 and the youngest was struggling with health issues. What started with back pain and generalized fatigue, quickly progressed to an extent where she missed about two months of school in a row that year.

By the time she was 9, she was getting even more tired and struggled with simple daily activities. She gradually started skipping her favorite sporting activities, although she excelled at everything and was very competitive. Finally, when she turned ten, she broke down.

One evening, as I was tucking her in, she told me she couldn’t keep up with life, and added that she wanted to die. I was shocked and confused. This little girl who had always been very reasonable and productive was suddenly out of options it seemed. I was totally frightened as I knew she would never say such a thing to manipulate.

Although I knew she was awfully tired, I pushed the thought of a possible illness slightly to the side and called the teachers, her friends, her father and all the people I could think of that could perhaps shed some light on something I may not have known that may have been going on in her life. When no answer could be found, I took her to a general practitioner who took her very seriously and referred her to her pediatrician.

And that’s how we eventually ended up in psychiatry. It all went downhill from there, and that may also be where helping the kindergarten teacher may have changed everything.

The first psychiatric assessment doesn’t mention my daughter’s physical fatigue and loss of interest. The fatigue noted in the report is related to her anxiety.

Among other things, the report states that “mum made sure that she volunteered in class most available to” her daughter. What??? And then “We have discussed with mum and “daughter”  the importance of her continuing to attend school  instead of gaining access to mum through the sick roll or through uttering suicidal threats.” WOW.

By the time my daughter was 10, she had attempted her first suicide attempt. By the time she was 12 she had overdosed to an extent where the ER doctor told me she probably wouldn’t make it.

Clearly, the “assumptions” included in my daughter’s psychiatric evaluations -because there were many and they kept getting worse from one to the next – were gradually weaved into a solid piece of false pretensions that in the end had a significant and detrimental effect on her medical care. 

In September of 2010, my daughter was diagnosed with hypothyroidism – which by the way is known to contribute to fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

In the weeks that followed, further testing confirmed polycystic ovary syndrome – which is also known to include symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as suicide attempts.

The pressure point test for fibromyalgia is a positive score of 18 over 18. I’m sure these patients also suffer from depression and anxiety.

She suffers from symptoms of POTS (postural tachycardia symptoms) and sometimes, her blood pressure is very low.

Ehlers-Danlos type III, a connective tissue disorder, was suspected when she was a young child but the diagnosis was never made. She obviously has the disorder and it is now part of her medical file  (very easy to tell because of joint elasticity and other clear signs). Many of these patients are also known to suffer from anxiety.

She is now bed ridden on most days, has not attended school in 6 years for the most part. On a good day, she can walk a distance of 10 to 20 meters.

We are now waiting for a variety of medical assessments including genetics, cardiology, endocrinology.

And all of this started with the assumption that she was trying to manipulate the overall situation to get my attention. I am sure this is just one tiny example of when psychiatry does more harm than good.

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12 thoughts on “When psychiatry does more harm than good

  1. How awful. Such a terrible perversion of the trust you and your daughter had put in these health care providers to assess the whole person. It’s clear that the mental health care providers here were following a set of biases and presuppositions, much of which can be summed up as “little girls lie”. So they assumed she was lying about her pain, lying about her physical states and energy and they assumed that any physical state they bothered to acknowledge had to have a mental cause.

    I could keep on ranting about this but I know I am preaching to the choir and I suspect that I’d end up dwelling on the negative in a way that doesn’t help you at all. Here’s a positive. You and your daughter were able to recognize the misapplied mental health diagnoses eventually and now you are somewhat inoculated against them. It’s so hard to find a mental health provider who can see the mental anguish caused by disease as *a reaction to* the physical pathology rather than as *the cause of* the physical pathology. Keep trying, they are out there. ❤

  2. I think what prompted me to write about that is something awful that happened this week during an appointment with a nutritionist. The reaction we had upon walking out of the appointment was in the order of a mutual response that went “We don’t need that”. It may be the topic of my next post which I am putting off because of strong emotions (the last thing we need is to be negative which as you say so well doesn’t help at all). I think I am going to draw a list of what I want people to know before I step into a new appointment with anyone. I have to admit that her current psychiatrist is really just treating her anxiety symptoms and not making any assumptions because he “believes” her when she tells him she is sick. Every time we go see him (because my daughter refuses to see anyone without me), he always asks if there are any developments with the illness or diagnoses. Now that, I must say, is a positive thing. Thank you for commenting – it means a lot. 🙂

  3. What a sad story – I hope your daughter and your family finds some peace –
    How distressing to find that someone you felt could help just missed the train entirely. Good that you continued to seek alternative diagnosis. My positive thoughts to you as you move forward.

  4. Oh good grief “Sheep” why? Why must this happen? Why must we be the police of professionals and wonder if they have a clue, let alone care, and all the while we PAY them! There are good professionals out there, there are, but it’s like we have to navigate our way through the bad ones to get to the good ones. It can be a full time job! I am going to keep on reading my way through your blog. I was so touched by the comments you left on my site. I just HAD to come and visit and get to know you more! 🙂

    • Thank you Life. I think we are getting there in terms of finding the proper help and the right professionals. In the meantime, I am finding a lot of courage, strength, and hope through people like yourself. When I read the part where you found your little boy with the scissors, I had a hard time holding back the tears. Almost like I could feel what it was like for you. And for some reason, it reminded me of a period (which really lasted for years) when Gen would stand in my bedroom in the dark, in the middle of night, crying and begging for help “mommy, please, please, help me” she would cry. I know it’s different, but our children don’t always need words to express that. My daughter went through crippling anxiety for years.

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  7. My 14 yr old has just been diagnosed with HEDS, scheduling test for POTS. My 10 year old had a horrible school year last year. Missed 52 days because of extreme OCD, to the point of mania. She has been hating herself lately and I just made her appt with the geneticist. She is not as flexible as her sister (14 is extreme hyperflexmobility) but she is flexible. They can both mover their kneecaps. Is it possible her learning disabilities ( spelling is horrible and she just can’t get it) feelings of anger and frustration … she pulled and rubbed her eyelashes out last year. They were very full, She had surgery for strabiscmus a year ago. Now her eyes are dry and she complains her eyelashes aren’t growing in right. Eye dr doesnt see any reason why but we didn’t have EDs dx last time she saw him. Help.

    • It was very difficult for me to read your comment as my daughter was the same age as yours when it all became so critical and it still hurts to this day.

      The first thing I need to say is this: the OCD and mania symptoms – i believe – may be related to something that can be explained, especially knowing that your eldest is being tested for POTS. Perhaps an ANS problem. Please see my latest posts. The reason why I think this is that I went through that with my daughter and we are still going through it – and given all her symptoms, now that she is older, something is definitely wrong – and I believe her obsessive behavior and anxiety are related to something more concrete than expected. My daughter is on Seroquel and Zoloft. And for some reason, Seroquel seems to work wonders for her – for the first time, she can function “mentally” (she can control her various impulses). The psychiatrist was telling me last week that for some reason, Seroquel appears to “work” much better on patients such as my daughter (OCD and anxiety) rather than the ones with psychotic symptoms. So, I don’t know if your daughter is treated but I know that relieving my daughter from these terrible symptoms is helping her tremendously. It’s a tremendous step in her well-being.
      You need to hang in there… I know the process and how it feels. I know how alone you feel and how you must wonder why everyone else seems to have children that are doing so much better than yours. You need to work with this. It’s hard but it’s the amazing mother that you are that makes you reach out. Do keep in touch and ask whenever you need.

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