The Blind Spot (2)

If you developed episodes of chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath, would you call a psychiatrist about it?  Of course not, but therein lies another side of the mind-body blind spot in our health care system.  In most people who visit a primary care clinician for physical symptoms,  the cause is one or more psychosocial stresses entirely appropriate for mental health professionals to manage.  Of course it is essential for symptoms to be evaluated by a medical professional first.  Ideally though, once medical disease is excluded as a cause of a symptom, patients would be evaluated by a clinician with mental health skills who could then uncover any links to stress.  Unfortunately, several problems prevent this from happening in most cases:

  • As described in The Blind Spot (1), few medical clinicians have been trained in what to do when diagnostic tests are normal.
  • The stresses that cause symptoms are frequently not obvious.  It often takes a professional experienced in mind-body issues to uncover them and there aren’t many around.
  • Many patients find it difficult to believe that stress can cause real symptoms and are unwilling to accept that they might need a mental health professional.
  • Many mental health professionals lack experience in the full range of psychosocial issues capable of causing physical illness.

More on that last point in Blind Spot (3).

Tags: , , ,