Darren has finally resolved a lifelong question as to why he is so disorganized and has always done poorly in school. After a battery of psychological tests administered by a leading Psychologist in his city, he has been given a diagnosis of Adult Deficit Disorder, or ADD. Excited to finally share with his friends that the medication prescribed to him by the Psychiatrist he was referred to for treatment, several of his friends took it upon themselves to immediately criticize the medication he was taking, tell him his diagnosed disorder was non-existent, that all he needed was “more self-control,” and that the pharmaceutical companies were making billions of dollars from patients like himself.
Ruth has been hospitalized for six weeks at a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed as bipolar. She takes medication that stabilizes her condition, but encounters on a regular basis well-meaning individuals who inform her that her “Western Medicine” approach is incorrect, and that she should try a more natural way to treat her condition, such as fish oil, vitamins, exercise and amino acid therapy. The constant disapproval at times leads Ruth to abandon her Psychiatrist’s advice and attempt to do things in a more natural way, leading to severe relapses and distress.
My question revolves around the well-meaning friends and family who respond to illnesses of the mind/emotions with immediate advice and contradiction or out and out doubt of the validity of a diagnosis. Surely this is improper etiquette, is it not? 0723-11
My first thought is typically to frame the issue in regards to how an individual can best mitigate other people’s faux pas committed against them. Darren probably should not have shared what medications he was taking as that is information best kept to oneself, one’s doctor and the pharmacy. It’s really no one else’s business what you pop into your mouth. It’s the kind of information, that if someone has a similar problem or an inquiry as to how efficacious a drug is, that can be shared if one chooses. But broadcasting it just seems like a recipe to tempt people into expressing their opinion.
It’s somewhat ironic that we have HIPPAA laws to protect our medical privacy but people think nothing of exposing their private medical issues with an accompanying unrealistic expectation that while they were indiscreet, everyone else should be discreet in keeping their thoughts and opinions to themselves. Regardless of how small the public arena is, once that information is “published”, our culture views it as available for commentary. For example, celebrities who reveal their own medical issues (thinking of Betty Ford’s addictions, painkiller addictions by athletes, etc.) undoubtedly know that public exposure carries an inherent risk of public negativity. But in doing so, some forge ahead believing that educating people far outweighs the negative repercussions.
People should mind their own business and refrain from commenting on other people’s medical conditions and treatments, despite how well-intentioned they may be. But we know that busy bodies exist and if we are to thwart their behavior, the best route is to starve them of anything to be nosy about. It’s one thing to tell friends and extended family what the medical diagnosis is, but any further detail is really not necessary. If asked, simply say, “My doctor has it under control but thank you for your concern,” or, “My treatment is progressing very well so far, thank you for asking.”
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The rule of thumb I’ve always gone by as far as who gets told specifics of what medicine anyone is taking is: If it could have side effects that require immediate action, tell the people most likely to be around you in case of possible doctor involvement (ie new meds and possibility of adverse side effects) and if you’re sharing food (eating or drinking after each other) or bodily fluids, the other person(s) get informed. The later is due to several family members being severely allergic to certain types of medication (most antibiotics, aspirin, narcotics for example).