Depression and anxiety are currently running rampant among the people I know. I am unsure if the prevalence is higher than normal, or if people are simply more comfortable talking about it now. Often times I hear people say that depression and anxiety are “minor” mental illnesses and therefore they just go to their primary care provider (PCP) for medication. Today I want to talk about the importance of getting medication from a psychiatrist instead of your PCP. (But first, for clarification, depression and anxiety can run from minor to severe.)
When someone goes to their doctor with chronic sinus infections, they will likely be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. If their complaint is of chronic urinary tract infections, then their doctor will probably send them to a urologist. Mental health concerns are very often chronic, so, logically, a specialist should be seen. For whatever reason though, many PCPs are not sending their patients to psychiatrists and are treating the mental illness themselves.
The brain is an absolutely amazing organ. It is one that researchers are still learning about. Because of this there are often new studies coming out about treatment options. Since psychiatrists specialize in treating mental illness, they (should) stay informed about the newest and best treatment options. PCPs on the other hand have to stay apprised on the base layer of all types of medicine. Therefore, they are not going to know as much as a psychiatrist.
Psychiatric medications often require fine tuning, something that PCPs often do not follow through with. Those with a mental illness often respond better when therapy is included in their treatment rather than medication alone. This is something that is much more likely to be pushed by a psychiatrist than a PCP. Choosing a mental healthcare provider can be intimidating for some, if you are unsure where to start, you can read my post about it here.
Now, obviously if it is between seeing a PCP or not seeing anyone, please see your PCP, but if you are able to see a psychiatrist, it is definitely preferable, especially in the beginning of your treatment or if you experience a resurgence of symptoms.
Finding a psychiatrist can be easier said than done in many parts of the country, especially more rural areas. There are also notoriously long wait times with many psychiatrists, especially for new patients. This is not to discourage, but more to warn. Try not to get discouraged if this is your experience. I have known people who have gotten help by getting an appointment to see a psychiatrist and in the meantime saw their PCP and started therapy to get through until they could see the psychiatrist. Do whatever works for you, but remember that there is help out there, even when if feels like there are obstacles.