Introduction to psychiatry
Measuring the intangible
Psychiatry is the art of dealing with aberrations of functioning of the human mind. Behavior is anything a human or animal does that can be observed. What can be observed can ideally be quantified. And all that is measurable can be compared to the accepted norm to assess its deviation from the ‘normal’. Thus psychiatry is understood to be a science that quantifies these deviations and attempts to label them, correct them, and promote optimal functioning.
Is this really a science?
To many, psychiatry is comparable to a friendly banter with a comrade. However that is far from the truth. Psychiatry adopts scientific principles and structured approaches to assess the functioning of human mind and guide it on its appropriate track. Disorders in psychiatry are eccentricities in thinking, feeling and behaving. They are categorized according to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association) which is currently working on its 5th revision of the manual.
Measurement of behavior
Measuring behavior in a psychiatric patient is possible, albeit it is not so easy. However it is important to know that prior to behavior comes emotional experience and prior to that too, is thought processing. Understanding these intangible concepts is a daunting task as there is no blood test or brain scan that can quantify depression or delusions or the perception of the quality of one’s life. Thus assessment and treatment of illness or wellness challenging.
Understanding wellness to understand illness
A disorder can be a self-defeating thought, emotional experience and behavior pattern that will prevent the person from leading a normal life, feeling positive emotions and seeking a brighter future. Many don’t accept that they are mentally ‘unwell’. But most will agree that they are not exactly mentally ‘well’ either. Our practicing mental health team is in touch with patients from diverse backgrounds of psychiatric illnesses. We have offered our research expertise to global pharmaceutical companies in the form of training seminars, interactive group discussions with the trial sponsor staff as well as medical review for international clinical research. Interaction of trial sponsors with clinical experts can be quite an enriching experience involving information exchange and enlightenment about patient concerns.