When The Doctor Only Sees Your Mental Illness

In the last few months I have twice experienced what can only be described as descrimination of mental illness from doctors.  The first time was when I went to my primary care doctor for sinus pain.  She gave me an antibiotic.  After taking this antibiotic, I began to have numb lips and a racing heart.  I took a Benadryl and called her office.  She did not speak to me directly, but rather through her nursing aid.  I was told that it was not a reaction to the medication, and when I asked why it happened after taking the med, the answer was a question “are you on psychiatric medications?”.  This office knows the answer to this question, I was there earlier in the day and gave them my med list.  They told me that if I felt I was in danger, to go to an urgent care, but that I was fine.  The implication that it was anxiety and/or a panic attack, not a medication reaction was made obvious by the emphasis of my current medications. (After following up at an urgent care, I was told it was likely a reaction and not to take that antibiotic again).

More recently, I went to and ENT for the same sinus issues (daily bloody nose and some face pain).  The first thing this doctor said to me after their name was that I am on a lot of medications for depression/anxiety.    I was then told that it was not my sinuses that hurt, but that my anxiety likely causes me to clench the muscles in my face and that I need to learn to relax.  I was referred to a physical therapist.

After these instances I am left wondering what the diagnosis would have been had I not been forthcoming about my medications and reasons for them.  Would they have looked for other causes?  The ENT may very well be right that the pain is caused by tension, but what about the bleeding, which is what actually brought me to the office?

These experiences, as well as others in the past (specifically with ER docs and habit-forming drugs), has me wondering how I can properly advocate for myself in these instances, and, more importantly, how this problem can be resolved in general.  What sort of education do primary care, ENT, and other non-psychiatric specialists get in terms of mental health?

My goal is to make this the first in a line of posts about this issue.  I am going to reach out to everyone I can think of that can perhaps shed light on where the breakdown in understanding starts and how it can be fixed.  I also want to compile a list of ways that are effective in dealing with doctors when this issue arises.

If you have any experiences with this, or ideas of how to deal with it, please share in the comments or by emailing me at dontstigmame@gmail.com


One comment

  1. I am so sorry to hear about those experiences! It is such a shame… Because of our diagnoses they automatically dismiss our concerns or attribute it to our mental health? That is not fair at all!


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