Wounded Healer

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Hello Everyone,

I am an MD and will apply for psychiatry residency this year and I have a question regarding my PS. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder at the first year of my Medical School. With this experience, I understood how patients feel like, what they are going through, how psychological pain is true and sometimes more painful than physical pain. I gained a great understanding through mental illnesses. It made me more emphatic person. It allowed me to make sure I want to pursue a career in Psychiatry. Now I am not sure if I should write this on my PS. Does it show me a weak person and can't do well in stressful situations? Or does it make a positive impact on PD's?

Thanks!
 

Merovinge

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It's a real double-edged sword to discuss your own psychiatic disorders. If they come off as something you have overcame and has provided you with better humility and empathy is could be perceived positive in some PD's eyes. Remember the number 1 priority of a PD is getting residents that will always do their work, show up on time, not miss days, and not make a fuss. To this end, residents with known mental health conditions could be perceived to be less likely to complete those core tasks. This question gets asked constantly, and the answer is always somewhat split. Remember, just because it's a psychiatry residency does not make it any less of a job application.

I'm sure you know this, but make sure a native English speaker is writing your personal statement. No judgements on a quick forum post but that single paragraph is rife with red flags that English is not your primary language.
 
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heysexylady

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Bad idea don't do it. If you must obviously do it if you know that the program director will not view it as a weakness but some you don't know the majority of them don't do it.
 
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No. Don't mention to any professional in your job that you have a psychiatric diagnosis.
 
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First response would be don't mention it. Many even psych residency's are grueling and when one resident it out, it creates a huge burden for the rest of the team (worse so the PD and assistant PD). Maybe you can water it down ie: dealing with grief reaction after loss of loved one and how that created empathy towards psych patients?
 
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industrialengineer

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I would say no. Program directors are more interested in you being able to treat psychiatric patients "effectively." You don't want to give them the impression that you want to become a psychiatrist to learn more about your illness.

I would treat this like a job application were there would be no reason to mention your illness.
 
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OldPsychDoc

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GAD is perhaps a "safe" dx to discuss in a personal statement, as long as you don't appear to be leaning too heavily on it as the MAIN reason you're entering psych.
I wish splik's "Six Types of Personal Statements" was still available...the confession of personal experience as a basis for empathy was clearly one of them.
 
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SourceOfDenial

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Perhaps consider writing about your ability to sit with suffering, or talk of your own self of the therapist work and how that has deepened your appreciation and drive to understand(and help patients understand) the human condition.
 
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notamindreader

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I would say to avoid sharing that you have been diagnosed with GAD. While it might be viewed positively in the sense that you can be more empathic towards your future patients, it also becomes a big question mark for PD's to consider how much this will NEGATIVELY impact your performance as a resident. For your personal statement, explore what you enjoy about the field and about caring for others, not about your diagnoses. I hate to think that of all specialties, Psychiatry is still judgmental about having a psychiatric diagnoses, but I agree with others on here who have stated that this is in fact a job interview. Treat it as such.
 
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Wounded Healer

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I appreciate all for your comments. I'm just a little bit frustrated to hear that having an anxiety disorder can be seen as a negative thing by psychiatrists.
 

AcronymAllergy

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One hypothetical negative aspect, other than concerns that the condition may not be well-controlled and could interfere with patient care, is that it could cloud your view in terms of how you conceptualize (and possibly treat) patients. We're all prone to bias, and we must perpetually work to combat the bias brought on by our own experiences. Your experience with anxiety is just that--your experience. You (as in the general you) have to guard against immediately assuming that a patient who may be exhibiting or describing symptoms that sound similar to yours is experiencing GAD, or that an individual who has a GAD diagnosis will experience it the same way you do or respond to the same interventions that have been helpful for you.

I'm not sure if it's the same article Splik cited (as mentioned above), but there's one from the psychology side titled Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process by Appleby and Appleby (2006). Probably has very similar content.
 
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675015

I appreciate all for your comments. I'm just a little bit frustrated to hear that having an anxiety disorder can be seen as a negative thing by psychiatrists.

Its not seen as a negative thing by psychiatrists. Its seen as a negative thing by employers.

I'm sure having a lot of social problems would also help you relate to your patients but I don't think your future employer, psychiatrist or not, would want to hear about unstable housing and upcoming court dates.
 
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Wounded Healer

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Its not seen as a negative thing by psychiatrists. Its seen as a negative thing by employers.

I'm sure having a lot of social problems would also help you relate to your patients but I don't think your future employer, psychiatrist or not, would want to hear about unstable housing and upcoming court dates.

I don't understand why this has to be with court dates and unstable housing.
 

birchswing

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Its not seen as a negative thing by psychiatrists. Its seen as a negative thing by employers.

I'm sure having a lot of social problems would also help you relate to your patients but I don't think your future employer, psychiatrist or not, would want to hear about unstable housing and upcoming court dates.
Outside perspective: I think the difference is that psychiatrists know that GAD untreated or refractory can be debilitating. If you told someone at Walmart or McDonald's, the response would be more like, "Oh yeah, I get really stressed too."
 
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675015

Outside perspective: I think the difference is that psychiatrists know that GAD untreated or refractory can be debilitating. If you told someone at Walmart or McDonald's, the response would be more like, "Oh yeah, I get really stressed too."

I get it. I'm not saying its right. Its just when people are applying for residency, the residency directors are wearing their employer hat, not their psychiatrist hat. ANYTHING that gives them a reason to think you may not be able to do the job as well as someone else is a risk for you, especially when they have 100s of other people who are just as qualified.
 
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Wounded Healer

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I have one other question; Would it be appropriate to give an example of mental illness from our loved ones like friends or family members?
 

MacDonaldTriad

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First order relatives or second order ;).

I'm not sure that shying away from an applicant with GAD would be that wrong if you concretely look at the definition. Doesn't DSM insist that our disorders cause distress and/or lower your level of functioning to be diagnosable? Psychiatrists should be more understanding, but employers want employees to function well.
 

OldPsychDoc

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I have one other question; Would it be appropriate to give an example of mental illness from our loved ones like friends or family members?
It's not only "appropriate", but it will make your personal statement blend right in with the 40-50% of the others which do the same thing...
(i.e. it borders on the trite much of the time...)
 
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Wounded Healer

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It's not only "appropriate", but it will make your personal statement blend right in with the 40-50% of the others which do the same thing...
(i.e. it borders on the trite much of the time...)

I appreciate your comments, they are very helpful. My confusions are getting cleared away comments by comments:)
 
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I have one other question; Would it be appropriate to give an example of mental illness from our loved ones like friends or family members?

Be careful with this. One PD told me largely unbidden "if you write a personal statement about how, say, your sister has a serious mental illness, what this tells me about you is that you are prepared to throw your relatives under the bus to get a spot in my residency."

Now, some PDs might mean this in a positive way, but I don't think he did.
 
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Amygdarya

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Here's what my adviser told me about PS (granted, it's an opinion of one person, but it's a person who's been on both applicant advising and applicant reviewing sides for years): ideally, PS should give the reader a sense of what kind of person the applicant is, what's unique about him/her, what is it about the applicant that makes the reader want to meet him/her in person. (Which is why my adviser hates PS written about patient encounters or friends/relatives with mental illness - because they don't really say much about the applicant as a person.)

@Wounded Healer think about it this way: PS is your chance to introduce yourself as a person and let your readers know what's interesting and unique about you. Now, is having GAD the most salient, not to mention unique and interesting, characteristic of you as a person? ;)
 
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benlinus

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I appreciate your comments, they are very helpful. My confusions are getting cleared away comments by comments:)

And always a good idea to have someone you trust to review your personal statement for advice and grammatical corrections
 
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thoffen

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One thing you could do is write about a patient experience where your personal anxiety enabled you to empathize with someone and utilize your experience for clinical benefit and also to reflect on how this affected you personally. If you demonstrate good clinical boundaries, insight into your own self and ability to master that for patient benefit rather than personal gratification, you'll demonstrate that your personal weaknesses can be a clinical strength rather than liability.
 
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HarryMTieboutMD

Second having a native English speaker with a good command of syntax, diction, and grammar read over your personal statement. One FMG applicant (who received a 23rd hour invite but probably shouldn't have for a multitude of reasons) did NOT do this, and it resulted in my review to be even more scathing and derisive than it otherwise would have been

And yes, GAD can be pretty impairing, and successful recovery can be life changing, but for the average PD a personal story of such is not going to be exciting (in the sense that it would make you memorable)... sorry. As an FMG your board scores and English proficiency (with more emphasis on the former than the latter) are going to be the most important factors
 
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futuredo32

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I have ADD which made med school hell. I can't handle the side effects of the meds. During my intern year (traditional rotating DO) I developed severe panic disorder. My psychiatrist/therapist says he also had panic disorder and he feels it helps him to be a better therapist as he can truly understand how his patients feel with this disorder. I do mostly therapy with med management because I like doing therapy and often it is helpful but when someone comes in and complains that they have one panic attack every four months, it is kinda hard to be empathic when I compare them to me. My personal statement was about my Grandma who had dementia and that was why I wanted to go into psychiatry. I didn't match the first round, I am probably the least competitive applicant on planet earth and sat out a year then did a TRI and she passed that year but I used the same personal statement. I didn't mention the panic disorder or ADD but I wasn't on medication for the first half of my interviews so I am sure it was quite evident. Most/many people working in the mental health field DO have a mental disorder of some flavor. I don't think I would have mentioned it personally even though it was probably pretty obvious my first several interviews. After meds, it wasn't noticeable.
 
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shan564

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I think it's more likely to hurt than to help. GAD is an extremely common diagnosis and most psychiatrists (i.e. most PDs) already know that it's particularly prevalent among med students... and psychiatry tends to attract a lot of people with personal/family histories of mental illness in general. As a result, emphasizing your GAD diagnosis probably won't make you stand out from other applicants. Best-case scenario, the PD says "hmm, interesting, this person might understand mental illness slightly better than the average person" - that might be slightly beneficial to you. Worst-case, the PD says "oh man, I can't deal with another anxious resident" or "this person is extrapolating his/her personal experience to patients who might have a very different experience, which impede his/her ability to understand patients from different backgrounds" - and that could hurt your application.

Within the first couple of months of residency, you'll get an immense amount of education about mental illness, and you'll be continuously enriching your understanding of your patients' experience. Your GAD history might give you a small head-start compared to other residents, but I think the psychiatrists who best understand the patient experience are the ones who are hard-working and spend a lot of time and effort to help their patients, not the ones who have a personal history of mental illness.
 
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SeniorWrangler

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Don't give people a reason to say no. This is good advice for every personal statement in my opinion.
EDIT: To clarify, psychiatrists should know all about stigma and not buy into it. But...
 
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DisorderedDoc417

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Dress professionally, show up on time (better yet, 15 minutes early), smile, act interested/friendly/polite for the duration of your pre-interview festivities and residency interview(s). Forget any strategy that invites you to bring forward your own percieved weaknesses or flaws in your personality. No need to make this harder on yourself -- programs that invite you WANT you and will for the most part make the experience enjoyable.
 
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