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Honesty Between Patients and Psychiatrists

I was diagnosed over a decade ago. I was young, a teenager, lost with no clue what to do. My first psychiatrist, who I met at age 14, didn’t want to diagnose me when I was too young. He waited a couple years to officially diagnose me with bipolar 1 disorder; I respect that. I tried medication after medication with this psychiatrist. Different doses and different combinations, but nothing was working. My recreational drug use probably had a lot to do with that. In the beginning, I wasn’t very honest with any of my doctors, especially regarding my drug abuse. How could I expect to get better if I was abusing drugs while also taking psychiatric medication? The drug abuse would counteract any positive effects the medications were having. Now that I’m sober, I’m still trying different treatments, medications, doses, and combinations. I’ve had some improvements, but not enough yet. Some aspects get better, but then something will trigger another episode, either depressive or manic. 

One thing I’m proud of is that I’m compliant with my medications. When my psychiatrist offers a new suggestion, I take some time to research the new medication or treatment before starting it. I like to know what I’m getting myself into before I do it. Once I start a medication, I make sure to follow my psychiatrist’s instructions. I’m willing to try almost any medication or treatment to feel better; I don’t want to keep going from episode to episode. However, I do have the right to say ‘No’ to suggestions from my psychiatrist. I’m not going to turn down everything, but I can turn down certain treatments if I feel I have a good reason.

It’s important to have trust and faith in our doctors; they are managing our lives. I trust that my psychiatrist will do the best he can for me, but I also have to work towards a healthy life. I have learned that honesty is essential to any relationship; this includes the relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient. The other day was the first time that I said to any psychiatrist that I am not willing to continue with a specific treatment. I had been doing ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) for over a year. It was effective in the beginning, but it had become too much for me both physically and mentally. I made an agreement with my psychiatrist that I would take a break from ECT. If, in a couple of months, we both think that I needed to go back to it, I would agree to reconsider it. My psychiatrist respected my decision. I think that one of the reasons he respects my choices is because I also respect what he has to say. Respect goes both ways.

By following his instructions, I am showing him that I trust his choices. I’m also honest with him about everything. When I accidentally miss a dose of medication, I tell him. I sent him an email, feeling very ashamed that I missed a vital dose of medication, and found out that it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought. He wasn’t upset with me and he had more trust in me because of my honesty. Before I got sober, I wasn’t honest with my doctors and I didn’t always follow their instructions. From experience, I know that it’s so much easier and more effective to be honest with our psychiatrists. Honesty, trust, and respect are essential to a relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient.

Read more from Jodi in her personal blog at



I myself am 48 years old. I have had mental illness probably before turning 13 years old. All of these years later I guess I'm still kind of lying. I don't use drugs but have had no improvement this many years later. I applaud you. I have such deep dark nasty awful things buried so deep I have never ever let any of it out to anyone not even my Dr. I'm ashamed and don't really no how to even start bringing all of that out to talk about it. I'm afraid.

I understand your fear. It's extremely difficult to be honest, even with our doctors. The first step towards being honest, is realizing that you aren't being honest. I also feel ashamed, but there's no need to be. I'm not trying to tell you how to feel, I just want you to know that you're not alone.

Thank you for replying. I welcome speaking to anyone who understands what it's like.It's lonely living like this.

I completely understand. That's why we get through all of this together.

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