Dear Cecil:A Psychology Today article details Why Shrinks Have Problems:
Is it true that, as a class, psychotherapists and other mental health professionals are crazier than average? And that despite their training and experience, they can recognize their own issues less readily than the average nutcase? — Paul
Cecil replies: ...
A widely noted study from 1980 found 73 percent of psychiatrists had experienced moderate to incapacitating anxiety early in their careers, and 58 percent had suffered from moderate to incapacitating depression. ...
One British study found psychiatrists had nearly five times the suicide rate of general practitioners, and U.S. research indicates psychiatrists commit suicide at two to three times the rate of the general population.
Similarly, depression, stress, and burnout are high among physicians but higher among psychiatrists; the same is true of alcohol and drug abuse. Psychiatrists have a divorce rate 2.7 times that of other physicians and as much as five times that of the general public. From a quarter to a half of psychiatrists say they’re suffering from burnout at any given time.
A study of more than 8,000 Finnish hospital employees found the psychiatric staff was 81 percent more likely to suffer from a current or past mental illness and 61 percent more likely to miss work due to depression. Psychiatric staff were twice as likely to smoke as other hospital staff and had much higher rates of alcohol use. A 30-year study of 20,000 UK medical workers found psychiatrists were 46 percent more likely than their peers to die from injuries and poisoning, and at 12 percent greater risk of dying overall. ...
Does the mental health field attract people with mental problems? Research is thin, but some studies have found mental health workers are more likely than average to have experienced early abuse and trauma. A much-cited 1963 study reported that 24 out of 25 psychiatrists had entered the field because of a wish to explore some personal conflict.
That gives one pause. Sure, there’s value in consulting a health professional who’s been down the same road as us. But who wants their therapist thinking, “Maybe after I get this head case straightened out, I’ll figure out what’s wrong with me”?
— Cecil Adams
In 1899 Sigmund Freud got a new telephone number: 14362. He was 43 at the time, and he was profoundly disturbed by the digits in the new number. He believed they signified that he would die at age 61 (note the one and six surrounding the 43) or, at best, at age 62 (the last two digits in the number). He clung, painfully, to this bizarre belief for many years. Presumably he was forced to revise his estimate on his 63rd birthday, but he was haunted by other superstitions until the day he died—by assisted suicide, no less—at the ripe old age of 83.Yes, it is my experience that the craziest people become shrinks. And that is what all the studies say.
That's just for starters. Freud also had frequent blackouts. He refused to quit smoking even after 30 operations to correct the extensive damage he suffered from cancer of the jaw. He was a self-proclaimed neurotic. He suffered from a mild form of agoraphobia. And, for a time, he had a serious cocaine problem.
Neuroses? Superstitions? Substance abuse? Blackouts? And suicide? So much for the father of psychoanalysis. But are these problems typical for psychologists? How are Freud's successors doing? Or, to put the question another way: Are shrinks really "crazy"?
I you wanted to lose weight, would you pay for advice from a 400-pound man? Of course not. You would not pay him to coach you to train for a triathlon either. If he does not know how to get his own life together, then it is very unlikely to have the ability to help you get your life together.
The become a court child custody evaluator, shrinks have to take a seminar on domestic violence, but there is no requirement that they not be crazy. And the ones at my local court all have severe personal problems.