The Changing Face of Psychiatry: An Interview with Awais Aftab

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Awais Aftab is a psychiatrist who works in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University. Originally, Aftab is from Pakistan. He is part of the executive council of the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry. 

In this interview, he talks about how psychiatry, the field that deals with mental health, is changing. Younger psychiatrists are questioning the way things have been done in the past and looking for new ideas. For example, they don’t trust the diagnosis system called the DSM as easily and blindly as the generation above them. They are more open to criticisms of psychiatry because they know that the field has broken many promises it made in the last 30 years.

One of the new ideas is called “conceptual competence.” It means that psychiatrists should understand the hidden ideas and assumptions behind their work. By recognizing these hidden ideas, they can ask better questions and make improvements in how they help people.

The goal of conceptual competence is to make psychiatrists think more deeply about their work and understand the big ideas behind it. This way, they can be more helpful to their patients and improve the way mental health care is given.

The younger generation of psychiatrists is more suspicious of research studies funded by drug companies. They want to make sure that the research is fair and not influenced by money. Corruption from pharmaceutical industries has been common in psychiatric research which is supposed to help people find good treatments for mental health issues.

There are other movements in psychiatry too. One is about being culturally sensitive, which means considering how different cultures might affect mental health. Another movement is about understanding how social issues like discrimination and poverty can impact mental health.

Dr. Aftab thinks that if we ignore these big ideas in psychiatry, it can cause two main issues. One problem is that we start seeing psychiatric conditions as fixed and separate diseases, which is not completely true. The other issue is that we might turn too many normal things into medical problems, leading to overuse of medications and treatments. So, understanding these important ideas can help us avoid these problems.

This is a brief synopsis of an interview that first appeared on Mad in America. The whole in-depth interview can be heard here.


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