Two cars arrive at a stop sign at the same time.  Both start into the intersection.  One driver speeds through, while the other jams on the brakes, avoiding a collision.  This driver feels insulted, offended, diminished.  Who the hell does that other driver think he is?  He nearly killed me! This scenario, and countless others involving merge lanes, contested parking spaces, and aggressive rush hour traffic, are set-ups for road rage. ...

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It has become a sign of legitimacy to call a personal problem “medical.”  This aims to distinguish the problem from those of morality or character.  It implies both that the problem is serious, and that it is unbidden and largely out of the sufferer’s control.  Unfortunately, it isn’t clear what exactly qualifies as “medical,” so this label serves more as a rhetorical device than a scientific finding. Alcoholism is ...

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In Toronto on April 23, 2018, Alek Minassian intentionally drove a rented van into pedestrians, killing ten and injuring at least 15. Later the same day, Constable Ken Lam of the Toronto Police Service arrested Minassian after a brief, tense standoff. As seen in a widely circulated video, Minassian dared the officer to shoot, and feigned drawing a gun, most likely to commit “suicide by cop.” Constable Lam, however, ...

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In her recent New Yorker article, “The Sorrow and the Shame of the Accidental Killer,” author Alice Gregory claims there are no self-help books for anyone who has accidentally killed another person.  Nor published research, therapeutic protocols, publicly listed support groups, nor therapists who specialize in their treatment.  She profiles several such tormented souls who bear their burdens largely alone. Yet dealing with guilt, shame, and regret is a mainstay of ...

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A woman recently requested a medication evaluation at the suggestion of her psychotherapist.  The caller told me her diagnosis was borderline personality disorder. She hoped medication might ease her anxiety.  She also admitted that two other psychiatrists refused to see her because she was too “high risk.”  I asked if she was suicidal.  Yes, thoughts crossed her mind. However, she never acted on them, and was not suicidal currently.  I ...

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In a world of diverse mental health treatments and treatment settings, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy have lost their former prominence.  Only a small fraction of patients have the time, money, and interest to engage in long-term, open-ended mental exploration -- even if doing so would get to the root of their problems and lead to lasting improvement. More commonly, emotional distress is dealt with in emergency departments, in crisis clinics, on the medical and surgical floors of hospitals, in ...

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On January 31, 2017, the Psychology Today editorial staff published a well-balanced summary of the debate over whether to declare President Trump mentally ill. While the debate focuses on mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists who are credentialed to make such diagnoses, the question clearly goes further. Public commentary following this and other articles expresses outrage -- not only at the behaviors and policies of Trump himself, but also at any suggestion ...

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Opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone) and OxyContin (oxycodone), are crucial medical tools that are addictive and widely abused. Tranquilizers and sleeping pills of the benzodiazepine class, like Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam), are safe and effective in limited, short-term use, but are often taken too freely, leading to drug tolerance and withdrawal risks. Stimulants such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine) ease the burden of ADHD but ...

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Prior to the release of DSM-5 in 2013, I referred at times to the pocket copy of DSM-IV parked in my office bookcase.  The main reason was to enter the right diagnostic codes on insurance forms.  I also sometimes quoted DSM criteria to show a patient that ADHD can’t arise in adulthood, that daily mood swings are not characteristic of bipolar disorder, or that six months of sobriety is still “early” ...

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A primary care physician named Ashley Maltz recently discussed advantages and disadvantages of a cash-based practice. I appreciate her evenhanded tone: She prefers this model yet expressed concern for patients who can’t use it. In the comments section, several physicians extolled the virtues of cash-pay, but patients were mixed. It’s attractive for those who can afford it, while it worries, and maybe angers, those who can’t. I enjoy the personal and patient benefits of a mostly cash-pay psychiatric practice (I ...

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