Smiling Depression

Ahmed Okasha, Founder and Emeritus Chairman of the Institute of Psychiatry, criticized physicans’ diagnosis of depression and their treatments in Egypt in an event held at the American University in Cairo on the Second of May.

Professor Okasha denounced doctors’ several fabricated diseases that are based on physical pain. He claims that the reason behind those pain is actually psychological and not physical. These are called Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD) which are somatic symptoms that are not caused by an obvious medical explanation.

“There is nothing called Romatism, Liver laziness, or bodily humidity,” sarcastically says Okasha. His words are to reveal how doctors have made up false beliefs to explain those somatic symptoms to patients and to be able to give them medications in order to get money.

“They would not tell you that that is depression,” said Okasha criticizing physicians on mistakenly (but purposefully) diagnosing patients. “Back and joints pain, constipation, diarrhea and so on have psychological reason,” adds Okasha.

Okasha explains how this is easily believed in our country, Egypt, as of several reasons and one of the main reasons is that mental illnesses are severely stigmatized in our society. He introduces the idea of how parents prefer that their children do not suffer from psychological symptoms as they believe it is because Kufr, Hassad, or has a devilish connotation. Especially in the country side, where they are mostly illiterate, and they go to one regional doctor first and when they find no development they later refer to Sheikhs for a cure rather than psychiatrists.

“One in Three people goes to a psychiatric clinic to treat their depression,” he states.

Also, guardians feel responsible towards their children as they feel that they have messed up or are not satisfying their children’s needs in a way or another.

Another reason for Somatic Symptom Disorder is that people are accustomed to express their pain in physical terms and not in a psychological manner or in emotional symptoms and this is called Alexithymia. An example for such are expressions like “my chest is suffocating, or I want to burn my body,”

“Some people cannot describe their emotional symptoms, so they describe it by their bodies,” adds Okasha. “Anxiety, Panic, Depression all can cause somatic symptom disorder.”

The reason behind some bodily pains are psychological and this idea is suppressed in Egypt due to several reasons such is Stigma of Mental Illness, Physicians’ over-diagnosis to get paid, parents’ feelings of responsibility and that they are not satisfying their children.

“All of you get headaches and you only cure it by taking pills like Panadol and that is it. However, have not you thought of the real reason behind this headache?” he rhetorically asks.

In Mental Health Month, the Office of Student Well-being were celebrating and honoring this event and have brought the Legendary Okasha as their guest speaker to commemorate this event.

Ahmed Okasha is a psychiatry professor in Ain Shams University Faculty of Medicine in Cairo. He is a pioneer in the field of psychiatry. Okasha has authored several books and articles about mental disorders. Okasha is the Director of WHO Collaborating Center for training and research in mental health institute of psychiatry. He is an international professor who is very well-known around the world because of his achievements in the psychiatry field.

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