Psychiatrists are only for "the insane:" Misconceptions about Psychiatrists

According to the Webster dictionary, insanity is defined as "severe mental illness, and according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), one of the criteria for Serious Mental Illness (SMI) is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, resulting in functional impairment, which, interferes, or limits, one or more major life activities. In 2013, 4.2% (10 millions) of the US population aged 18 or older met criteria for a serious mental illness, and this number does not include children, adolescents, nor does it include developmental or substance use disorders.

To be complete, according to the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 20% of children in the US have a seriously debilitating mental illness, and about 15% (1/6) of children age 3 through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities.

Furthermore, 9.4% (24.6 million) of the US population aged 12 or older had a history of illicit drug use, in 2013, and 6.6% (17.3 million) had an alcohol use disorder (abuse/dependence) that same year.

Not counting individuals with a developmental disorder, about 12% (36 millions) of Americans need to see a psychiatrist, either for a serious mental illness, or a substance use disorder. This is a reality, which can be easily misconstrued, leading to the common misconception, which is the main point of this article.

In spite of the fact that most people are lucky enough to not have a serious mental illness, the vast majority would benefit from seeing a psychiatrist for a variety of reasons, including for a one time regular wellness visit, a few visits before or after a stressor, and certainly always for a limited and short period of time. While 36 million (12%) of the US population need a psychiatrist, the rest of us would greatly benefit from a limited number of visits with a psychiatrist. The next time you either hear someone or catch yourself saying: "psychiatrists are only for the insane," remind yourself that we all can benefit from a visit with a psychiatrist. 

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