How Many Psychiatrists Does it Take to Change a Light bulb?

It may take years to come up with a “correct” diagnosis, and then who really knows? I mentioned that I have depression. Actually, what’s sent up to my insurance company is schizoaffective disorder (some symptoms of schizophrenia and some of a mood disorder), but my “official” diagnosis may be incorrect, and my current psychiatrist agrees. I may have had depression with psychotic features in the past, which is the cause of the confusion. That is not unusual for someone who is experiencing a bad depressive episode.

I had a little joke that I liked to tell when I was doing the In Our Own Voice presentations for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These are speaking engagements given by people living with mental illness for the purpose of informing the public. My joke was that I have been diagnosed with so many things in my “career” as a mental patient except bipolar disorder; therefore that is the next one I am working on. Joking aside, it is not always easy coming up with a diagnosis. After all, it’s not like a broken bone that you can see on an X-ray. Also people change over time and clinicians do disagree. If you put ten psychiatrists in a room with a patient, I surmise you’ll come up with at least five diagnoses. (And while you’re at it, ask them to change a light bulb.)

To my mind psychiatry/psychology is a mix of science and art, and, as such, I admire, pity, and exonerate the professionals in the field. Gray areas are not uncommon, and I see myself as falling into one. There was a time I believed I was possessed by evil spirits, and I had to do their bidding or terrible things would befall me. That was long ago. I don’t know why those symptoms receded. It’s not from medication since I haven’t taken neuroleptics (antipsychotics) for nearly a decade. Maybe just getting older helped, or as Dr. E. Fuller Torrey noted in his consummate book, Surviving Schizophrenia, some people improve substantially on their own. The depressive part, however, is still all-consuming, and I’d gladly take anti-depressive medication if I could. Unfortunately, my severe migraines render it impossible.

Adding to the mix, I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, but in the world of illness, having one does not rule out having another and another …


About waywardweed

I am a consumer and parent of two sons, one with a mental illness and the other a third-year law student.
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4 Responses to How Many Psychiatrists Does it Take to Change a Light bulb?

  1. Tim Lundmark says:

    I suffer from the same mood disorder as you do. I also suffer from a personality disorder as well. It is tough and for those of us out there it can take a toll on us to just survive. I have been taking meds for the last sixteen years and if I were to be pulled off of them I would end up in the hospital, so I admire your ability to survive without them. I would love to know how to become part of the mental illness org. you are a part of.

  2. waywardweed says:

    Hi Tim, The National Alliance on Mental Illness ( is national. Each state also has its own headquarters (major cities do too.) For instance, I am in NH so if I wanted local info I’d go to While there is a small fee to join, it is even smaller if you are a consumer and have financial problems. NAMI has various support groups for families and also for people living with MI (Connections). I also suggest you google (International Center for Clubhouse Development) to see if there are any certified clubhouses in your area. If not, there are sure to be uncertified ones if you live near a major city. You can check with your local NAMI office or your local mental health center for more info. Let me know what happens.

  3. Not only is there little agreement about which diagnosis an individual might have, there’s also a lot of disagreement about what criteria should define a diagnosis. What we call depression today might easily be defined differently and broken up into different categories than today. They’re more symptom clusters then discrete disorders.

  4. Nancy says:

    Hi Talesofacrazypsychmajor, You can drive yourself batty if you try to dissect something down to minutia. At least, I know I can. I’ll leave it to the scientists to do that since I don’t need anyone to tell me when I’m depressed. On an interesting tangent, I just read that some of the major mental illnesses are due to gene mutations along with exposure to viruses. Also in the news (although it’s way off the topic) is the fact that some that modern humans carry Neanderthal genes in small percentages. BTW, I also majored in psych.

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