Know When To Get A Consultation
All defendants sometimes find that, while very helpful, the support provided by family, friends, and peers is insufficient. After a critical event, feelings of disequilibrium, restlessness, and mood change may persist and the physical or emotional symptoms that emerge may not subside within a reasonable period of time. Often, professional consultation with a personal physician or a psychiatrist or other mental health practitioner is helpful and, in some instances, imperative.
The following experiences signal us to consider professional consultation:
- When feelings of anxiety and distress interfere with daily work and relationships. If we are anxious and preoccupied, we are often distracted and have difficulty concentrating. We may have sleep disturbances and diminished interest in our work and personal relationships. The persistence of such symptoms can influence patient care, potentially increase risk of error, affect personal relationships, and negatively impact on our effectiveness as a defendant.
- When self-medication and excessive reliance on alcohol or other drugs are used to dampen anxiety or get a good night’s sleep. Physicians are especially vulnerable to this behavior because of the ready accessibility of prescription drugs. We may rationalize that self-medicating is no problem because it is only a temporary response to a temporary stressor. It is far more sensible and less risky to seek consultation and medication from a personal physician.
- When friends or family share observations about changes in our behavior. We may not notice our own moodiness and irritability or that we are using alcohol excessively. Good friends may share their concerns about changes they note in our personality, mood, and behavior. Instead of lashing out at what is perceived as a criticism, we should listen carefully to such friends.
- When the quality of our life and work seem significantly compromised. In litigation, we face the possibility of sustaining such significant losses as our feelings of integrity, our relationships with patients and peers, our financial security, professional status, and possibly the case itself. Such losses lead to feelings of depression and work dissatisfaction that affect patient care. When we are aware of these possibilities, we may find that consultation with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker is useful in understanding what is happening to us and in reviewing priorities and future plans.
- When symptoms emerge that are related to a newly developed or previously experienced physical or emotional condition. Sometimes we experience for the first time such emotional symptoms as insomnia and depressed mood that interfere with our ability to work or live comfortably. Others may experience such physical symptoms as headache, gastrointestinal disturbances, or chest pain during the process of litigation that require proper diagnosis and treatment. A few of us may have previously experienced a physical or emotional condition that requires treatment. It is not unusual for such conditions to re-emerge when a lawsuit is filed or sometime during the lengthy process of litigation. If we become aware of such vulnerabilities, it is often useful to consult with the appropriate professional early to prevent or diminish the impact of a recurrence.