Psychiatrist vebally attacks patient over weight gain caused by anti-depressant

Julia writes:

I’m 22 and I have multiple mental illnesses – complex PTSD, OCD, social anxiety disorder, depression and a sleep disorder – most of which are the result of surviving rape and sexual abuse. I’ve had disordered eating for most of my life, which is currently manifesting as compulsive overeating disorder.

I had lap-band surgery in 2007 and lost a lot of weight, but my doctors kept telling me I needed to lose more. My psychiatrist told me that she thought my social phobia would go away if I achieved a ‘nice figure’. Since my metabolism has been affected by the various medications I’m on, as well as years of yo-yo dieting, it is exceedingly difficult for me to get to a BMI below 28.

My psychiatrist decided to adjust my medication 8 months ago, which caused me to start regaining weight. Since the new antidepressants didn’t work, bingeing was the only way for me to regulate my emotions in order to stay alive. I am now back on the original antidepressant, but it hasn’t been as effective since then.

I saw her a few days ago. Within the first 10 minutes she started attacking me about my weight. It started with the usual spiel about the supposed link between high weight and various diseases, but she seemed angry which was out of character for her. I calmly told her that my weight gain was mostly due to a higher dose of anti-psychotics (which I take to get to sleep). I admitted that I had been eating more, but said that if I didn’t binge I would probably kill myself. She responded by saying, “You are killing yourself” (meaning I would give myself diabetes or hypertension). I told her that I didn’t wish to discuss it any further. When she persisted, in an increasingly censorious tone, I got up to leave and told I wasn’t there to be lectured about being fat. She told me that I was being irrational and making ridiculous accusations. I have low self-esteem and am very sensitive to criticism, so this made me feel as though I’d been struck.

At this point I was sobbing and feeling like I was watching myself from outside my body. I now realise that I was having a panic attack. I thought the gate was locked and I was waiting for her to unlock it (she works from her home and has a locked gate in front of the door for security). Feeling trapped is especially triggering for me because I was raped in a locked house when I was 13. I was struggling to breathe, and being ordered to “stop hyperventilating” wasn’t helping matters. I told her, between sobs, that my problem was my trauma and not the fact that I’m fat. I also kept saying that I wanted to leave. When she asked me why I didn’t just leave, I told her that I couldn’t get out. This seemed to enrage her, and she said, “You’ve been coming here for 6 years and you know you can always open the door, you’re being ridiculous”. I didn’t know this because she is always the one to open the door and the gate and I hadn’t thought to check whether the key was in the lock (which it was).

I left feeling like my stomach had been ripped open. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so betrayed in my life. I’ve told her every detail of every trauma I have, and I trusted her completely. It’s very hard for me to trust anyone, and I’m so angry with her for making it even harder. I don’t know how she can justify what she said when she knows that I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts and that I’m not able to handle any more stress at the moment. I’m scared that I’ll have to either stop taking my medication when my prescription runs out or go through the hell of trying to find another psychiatrist, who most likely will turn out to be just as ignorant and judgmental as she did.

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28 Comments

  1. Eve

     /  August 2, 2010

    I am completely outraged that you have gone through this with some whose role is to be supportive and healing of your mental health. Please, please don’t give up! You are clearly an amazingly courageous person to survive all you have done. I know only too well it might be hard work to find a new health-care provider but it would be for the best IMHO. This person has betrayed you and behaved in a deeply unprofessional manner and from what you have said probably can’t see the damage she has done. You can survive this!

    I would stick with your meds for now at least (stopping them abruptly can make you feel pretty crappy as you probably know), take a deep breath and look for a different source of help and be very upfront about not wanting to discuss your weight, except as a side effect of the meds. Very,very best of luck and good wishes to you!

    Reply
  2. I’m so, so sorry this happened to you. I also suffer from PTSD and I know that if I were in a similar situation, I would have reacted similarly. You didn’t do anything wrong, you were not irrational, you were attacked by someone who was supposed to be taking care of you in the best way for you, psychologically. The fact is that even if she believed your fat or eating habits were “killing you” she had no right to bring it up in that matter whatsoever, and to react with anger especially. I would consider that bad behavior for even a casual friend or acquaintance, it is certainly unacceptable in a mental health professional, especially since you had seen her in the past.

    You did not deserve to be attacked regardless of how much you weigh or how you “got there.” Even if you did, as she implied, ‘eat yourself’ there–in fact, especially if you did—you *still* deserve respect and consideration, and to be treated in a kind and civil manner.

    I’m sorry you got such a bad psychiatrist. It’s not your fault.

    Reply
  3. Kate

     /  August 2, 2010

    I’m so sorry, you did not deserve to be treated like that.

    Our histories are fairly similar, though our psychological issues manifested differently, but your story really moved me. I believe you handled yourself quite well. I’m so impressed that you were able to stand up for yourself. From reading your story, I realize that you wish you had reacted differently, but I think you should be super proud of yourself.

    You have to find a new doctor. I don’t know where you live and I’m just spit balling here, but maybe if you called a rape crisis center and explained your situation, you might get a good recommendation. I don’t know.

    Bless your heart. I’ll be thinking of you.

    Reply
  4. KellyK

     /  August 2, 2010

    Julia, I’m really sorry your psychiatrist was so awful. Like Kate said, you do *not* deserve to be treated like that.

    Reply
  5. Sas

     /  August 2, 2010

    I’m so, so sorry this happened to you.

    I am a psychologist myself, and unfortunately psychiatrist are not the same as psychologists, but rather doctors who later specialized in mental illness. They’re not always the best way to go for psychotherapy, as they simply don’t always have the training, though they’re good for getting your diagnosis and medicine.

    I am incredibly impressed that you left and that you told her that your problem was not your fat. That tells me that you have real strength, even when you’re hurt and taken aback.

    Feel betrayed. Hate her, scream at her in your mind, strangle or stab her in your thoughts, whatever you want. Don’t try to convince yourself that you’re not really that hurt, or that you’re above it, or that there’s no point in being angry.

    A therapist is an incredibly powerful, influential person, and she really caused you pain and damage by doing this. Fuck her.

    Reply
  6. B

     /  August 2, 2010

    That was incredibly out of line. Not every psychiatrist will be like that – in fact, I think very few would be so horrible. She probably has personal issues of her own around food and weight and eating, and was probably projecting those onto you. If I were in your shoes (and feeling up to it) I would seriously consider filing a complaint with the ethics branch of whatever professional organization she belongs to. That behavior was completely unacceptable.

    Do find another doctor. When you are interviewing them in the initial session, you can give them a summary of this incident and let them know your concerns. Talk to a number of different psychiatrists and go with your intuition about which one will be the best fit. You have the right to quality, respectful mental health care.

    Reply
  7. This is horrific. I can’t imagine how a mental health professional could act like this and still be licensed.

    If you’re looking for someone new/better, please feel free to get in touch with me (you can do so via my blog). My mother is a social worker and works for an employee assistance firm, so she does a lot of referrals throughout the United States. In the past, I know she’s specifically looked for FA/HAES friendly people.

    Reply
  8. ali

     /  August 2, 2010

    that is DISGUSTING. truly. if it were me, i would write a letter saying it’s odd that she went through so much schooling and put in so much effort to be able to help people when she obviously can’t care that much about her patients.

    as a social worker, i’m horrified and ashamed to hear that someone who has been trained specifically to counsel those in need would act that way. you might also say in the letter that there are plenty of ethical psychiatrists who don’t fly off the handle because of their own biases, and that you will be happy to give your money to them and let them help you when you need it.

    really, totally disgusted. i’m so sorry.

    Reply
  9. Kathy

     /  August 3, 2010

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. You say she was really acting “out of character”; could it be she wasn’t taking her OWN meds? Not trying to be sarcastic here at all. It just seems so strange for a mental health professional to behave like that. Maybe something happened or something is wrong with her. Not that it excuses how she treated you AT ALL. I like the other poster had a very good idea of callling a rape crisis center for advice. Good luck, and let us know how you are.

    Reply
  10. I am so sorry Julia, but I am so glad you had the courage to write about it. The statement Sas made above I think is very relevant “psychiatrists are not psychologists,” meaning the psychiatrist in this case was totally out of line (and likely not capable or qualified to counsel you) but on top of that you should be seeing a psychologist to work through the emotional side of your mental health issues while on medication. They should work with you as a team.

    Any of us who have suffered trauma, and endured the frustration of trying to find a medication that works without the multitude of side effects, can relate to you (including myself). Your weight is zero to do with this. I am sure your rational side knows this, but when treated with such disrespect, anyone would question themselves so how you feel is normal! You are quite strong actually, I am amazed by your ability to articulate what happened, and your willingness to share tells me you know in your gut she was full of it.

    Find yourself a psychologist, he/she will refer you to psychiatrist for meds only, and then work with you on therapy so you can get healed.

    A final note on the theory that “your fat is going to kill you.” Mental illness causes 85% of disease, the stress you are enduring here will kill you — not your weight!! ;)

    Love,
    mamaV

    Reply
  11. fatfairy

     /  August 5, 2010

    That psychiatrist acted very unprofessional, and she harmed a patient (you). You might report her to her professional association and also the state medical board. Even if you’re not taken seriously, there will be a report of her abusing a patient if she does this to somebody else. You might get more help from seeing a psychologist for therapy and having a psychiatrist take care of your medications. I am so sorry this happened to you.

    Reply
  12. I too am so sorry she put you through this. Your psychiatrist clearly has major issues about body weight and eating that she is inappropriately and unprofessionally projecting onto her clients, and this is NOT your fault. Shame on her.

    Reply
  13. As a survivor of molestation a child, I hurt for you. I was locked in a closet at school, where the principal was threatening to kill me. When I would find myself in certain situations that little child could come out, screaming and fighting.

    Once I faced those fears, they rarely, if ever surface. It has taken nearly 20 years, but things do approve (weight never does, though).

    You are alive and you have survived. There was a day I finally realized because I survived I am strong. So are you. Just keep telling yourself you are a survivor, strong, and in control of yourself.

    It does make a difference!

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

    Reply
  14. thumb

     /  August 13, 2010

    This is horrible! Surely you should report her..Its terrible that after all you have been through you get treated badly by the people who are supposed to provide you with help and counsel.

    life without a stomach

    Reply
  15. Did you file a complain about this psychiatrist? You shouldn’t give yourself excuses like “Maybe it is her bad day” or things like that. By filing a complain you save the others from receiving the same treatment.

    Reply
  16. I am so sorry.
    Thank-you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  17. Small side question – you say that your psychiatrist ‘adjusted’ your medications by putting you on a new antidepressant, then you gained weight, then she put you back on the original antidepressant but it wasn’t as effective any more. Was it the same dose as before? Because some drugs need to be in the right dose for your body weight, so the old dose might be too diluted at your new size. I’m thinking of this because it would be nice if you could get the full effectiveness again.

    Reply
  18. Kelly

     /  August 25, 2010

    Find another psychiatrist and report the one that you have to the board.

    Reply
  19. Report this psychiatrist IMMEDIATELY!! I had a marriage counselor tell me if I lost weight my ex-husband would stop abusing me. She refused to here about my PCOS and Fibromyalgia and just said I needed to “snap out of” my illnesses and “get a job.” She even told me my Complex PTSD Therapist, who’d helped me tremendously was doing a ‘bad job’ if I was so fat. And then she told my ex she could see WHY he was abusing me!

    I reported her. I heard she lost her license shortly thereafter.

    Reply
  20. It sounds like this psychiatrist had issues of her own, and they are seriously interfering with her work. Not just the berating for weight, but attacking you as “irrational”, etc. and getting all emotional like that–it sounds extremely defensive, and I wonder why she was getting so emotional with one of her patients.

    Reply
  21. I cant believe how insensitive your doctor was, I certainly hope you have changed doctors since then. Weight gain is very much apart of mental illnesses ie medications. But thankfully there are things that you can do to help in that area too. I wish you all the best to your health.

    Reply
  22. Miss M

     /  September 19, 2010

    is this “doctor” still in practice?

    file a complaint, OR something. This doctor was abusive and obviously not fit to be around people.

    Most people who want to be a doctor, this usually involves empathy. You know, you need to understand people, you need to actually care about people.

    This “doctor” fails at humanity.

    Reply
  23. Jackie

     /  September 22, 2010

    This doctor was a quack, I don’t have a PH.D in Psychology, but I know you don’t push someone who’s been what you’ve experienced like that.

    Reply
  24. Jean

     /  September 25, 2010

    A lot of psychiatrists and psychologists need their own psychotherapy. Many never go and think they know it all and end up projecting their own crap onto the patient. such as Body issues etc. It’s sad but true. Next time you get a Dr., interview several of them. ask lots of questions, then make a choice after seeing them a few times. Why shouldn’t patients take the time to choose the right doctor, especially with all of the money that will be spent on them?

    Reply
  25. Pardon my swearing but what a horrific abusive fucking cunt this excuse for a shrink is. She should have her license revoked!

    Reply
  26. Personally I don’t trust counselors because I’ve had bad experiences with many of them, but this one took the cake. Back in 1997 I was raped by a former boyfriend and was having panic attacks. I went to a counselor who also did hypnotherapy and supposedly did EMDR, but a counselor I had later said he never heard of EMDR being performed in the manner I described. At any rate at one point in my treatment, this broad says to me “Well, Bloomy, you’re doing much better. You were a real basket case when you first came here.” I looked at her aghast and said “EXCUSE ME?”
    She hemmed and hawed and said “well, what I meant was…well, you’re doing much better now.”
    I said that I agreed that I was, and it was never appropriate to refer to a client as a “basket case.” I terminated my therapy with her. Unfortunately I was apologetic about doing so. She said “oh, you don’t need to apologize. I’M not the one with the self-esteem problem.”
    I agree with the person who said that it is worth it to interview potential therapists. You don’t owe them a damn thing if they can’t deliver compassionate treatment!

    Reply
  27. tess

     /  March 3, 2011

    Psychiatrist are not trained in “talk therapy” your best option is to find a psychologist or therapist you like and have your family physican write your scripts. Psychiatrist are only interested in passing out meds and they are influenced by money hungry pharmaceudical companies.
    I would def report the Dr. to the medical board. this was substandard treatment, and if she was so worried about your weight gain maybe she should educate herself on the effects of the meds she so easily prescribes. If you were having severe issues obviously it was her lack of understanding that got you to that point, she does not deserve to be practicing. Dr. heal thyself…. sheesh

    Reply
  28. Liz

     /  April 7, 2011

    Holy. Crap. I’ve got pretty much the same diagnosis as you for similar reasons, and I thought my *psychologist* was completely stupid and unprofessional. When I asked about finding a way to reduce panic attacks, and we were discussing my severe social anxiety, she said, “Well, everyone gets anxious from time to time.” Uh, yeah, but do they feel like they can’t breathe and that they’re dying? WTF?

    She also wanted me to spend more time with my mother, but my mom is a trigger, unfortunately. She also suggested building up confidence with social anxiety by joining a church group, knowing full well I refuse to have anything to do with Christianity, so I don’t know what she was smoking. I know for a fact that the year and a half I spent seeing her probably put me back an equivalent amount of time because it honestly felt like she was increasing my mental illness instead of decreasing it.

    I kept putting off finding a new counsellor, for months and months, to the point I’d have panic attacks just thinking about trying to find one. When I finally got the courage to do it, the very first doc I picked off our insurance directory turned out to be the perfect one for me. In fewer sessions I got much, much farther in recovery; it may have dragged out more bad things but I’ve always likened all this health crap as shoving every little thing into a closet and then leaving it even though the door is straining. Sure, you’ve hidden it all away, but if you don’t try to organise it and throw out what’s unnecessary, it’s going to explode. With a supportive doc, you can learn to carefully handle all of it.

    I am so, so sorry for what happened to you, that’s horrific. I’ve actually had nightmares about a similar situation even before I read you story. It’s so hard to live like this, having to almost force yourself to trust at least a handful of people (and you damned sure better be able to trust your damn doctors), only to have that trust violated and your issues with trust validated.

    Reply

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