Jordan’s Psychiatrists between science, religion and social expectations!


I realize that many people in Jordan seek alternative medicine when modern medicine fails them either out of desperation or maybe believing a word of mouth or religious belief. They usually do so knowing that going to a “Sheikh” for a religious healing has nothing to do with science. The problem is, when it is the other way around. When you go to a psychiatrists and diagnose you out of religious and social beliefs, ignoring all of the scientific findings and recommendations that he/she built his/her credibility on.

This is clearly the case when it comes to homosexuals in Jordan where many of them seek a *professional* help in order to fight their same sex attraction for they reject it themselves usually out of religious and social reasons. The general stand of psychology today is that there is no proven therapy that can alter one’s sexual orientation safely and effectively. What psychiatrists can do in this case is try to lead their patients into accepting themselves and deal with their inner social and religious conflicts.

All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. –  American Psychological Association

Sadly, that is not the case in Jordan. Many professional psychiatrists don’t accept the stand of modern psychology in this case and still believe in reparative and conversion therapy, reflecting on and projecting their own set of social and religious beliefs. They usually don’t even try any of those therapies (which is good) and opt to the shortest available short cut that is summed up by prescribing anti-depressant pills and urging their patients to fight and suppress their sexual urges.

That is a fatal solution that usually leaves the patient troubled with his/her self and addicted to these dangerous mind altering drugs. It is a lethal treatment that eventually causes a more severe depression when the effect of those pills wears out leaving the patient with a stronger inner conflict and a messed up brain chemicals which could lead to suicide.

I have tried to touch upon that with Ali’s character in my book “The Bride of Amman”. Since it came out, I haven’t only been receiving messages from women who have been tricked into fake marriages to gay men but also messages from gay men who refuses to accept their own homosexuality reflecting social homophobia into a self hatred and rejection.

Internalized homophobia has proven to be a factor in depression, anxiety, and suicide in the gay and lesbian population. But how can you fight that when society, religion and even your local psychiatrist tells you that your feelings are wicked and you are doomed to hell? without giving you any viable alternative solution?

Helpful responses of a therapist treating an individual who is troubled about her or his same-sex attractions include helping that person actively cope with social prejudices against homosexuality, successfully resolve issues associated with and resulting from internal conflicts, and actively lead a happy and satisfying life. –  American Psychological Association

I try to reason with those young men for I know many others who have been able to find a middle ground between their religious beliefs and their same sex attraction. The only viable solution for these cases is self acceptance and empowerment. This has nothing to do with the sexual act that may happen later on or not. It is a first step that people with same sex attraction must take in order to ensure a healthy state of mind.

Research has shown that feeling positively about one’s sexual orientation and integrating it into one’s life fosters greater well-being and mental health. – American Psychological Association

How can we push our psychiatrists to stick to science when dealing with such thorny cases? It is the lives of people at hand here. A medical standard should ensure the application of science towards the best interest of the patient without the interference of social and religious beliefs.

10 thoughts on “Jordan’s Psychiatrists between science, religion and social expectations!

  1. Nice article. Don’t have much to add. I am just surprised that such a thing could be a cause of trouble for individuals. Why would anyone not be accepting of themselves?! No matter what it is, not accepting yourself to me is a very strange phenomenon that I cannot comprehend.

    I understand being “in the closet”, but this is because such a person anticipates rejection of others. I think being concerned about other people’s opinions to be absurd, but I can understand why some people care about other people’s opinions. But I don’t understand why many people have such low self-esteem (low self-esteem is a very common problem across the board) that they reject themselves!

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  2. A M says:

    Dear fadi,

    I can’t thank you enough for this post, been an avid reader of your blog for a long time, and this is my first comment. And I’m only posting here because I know for a fact that your platform is read across many demographics in Jordan.

    I went through a similar situation when I visited a psychiatrist here in Jordan with the aim of resolving some internal issues in dealing with stress, thinking I was doing the responsible thing in seeking professional help for an area in my life that troubled me, and it wasn’t related to my homosexuality. On my second visit or so the discussion evolved with the psychiatrist in regards to ways I can resolve some of the stress in my life, of the many things discussed the psychiatrist asked if marriage was an option for me, sighting the fact that having someone supporting me while juggling my responsibilities would help, an advice that I thought was logical, I explained that I do not seek marriage, for personal reasons, as the phsychiatrist pushed more about why, and further into the session, I said I do not seek marriage because I’m a gay man.

    And then it was like a 180, no longer was the focus the issue I brought up, it was my homosexuality, how in the phsychiatrist’s opinion it was an idea imposed by the western world, and that it can be cured through anti-depressant medications and watching straight porn, while well, enjoying yourself.

    I could not believe that this was coming out of someone who is supposed to be on the top of the field (very well known), I was very direct in explaining that I do not agree, but that I will think about it, by the next session, I explained that this was not working and thanked the phsychiatrist for the efforts.

    Long story, my point is that I actually bought the anti-depressant prescribed in a moment of weakness, and took a pill before a very good friend who I’m out to explained to me that this was a load of b***-shit, thankfully I had him, and the pills went down the drain. But what about the other gay Jordanians (and lesbians) who seek such professional advice and have no support system to tell them this is wrong, I was lucky, but many many others aren’t, and they, as you said, end up more confused than before, o Allah yostor.

    And about self acceptance, no I still struggle in that area, is it better than it was 10 years ago, yes it is, but it’s still a work in progress. Why do we have such an issue with self acceptance? I can’t answer for others, but I grew in a home where my own brother told me that being gay was sub-human, gay people should be thrown off buildings or shot; that sort of hate speech breaks you to the core, and it takes time to rebuild.

    Thank you again fadi, would be looking forward to your next book.

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  3. ArabObserver says:

    DM, I guess that you are right.. it is a matter of low self esteem.. but maybe it also has to do with the religious and social stand around this issue. When someone believes that what he taught is the only truth out there, then that makes it hard for him/her to accept such *sinful* feelings!

    A M, I am glad that this post provoked you to comment🙂. Thank you for sharing your story. It seems that Jordanian psychiatrists have found the magic solution for every possible problem in those anti-depressant pills! That is absurd!

    As for self acceptance, I am sure that society and religion play a big role here, but one should understand that his emotions are not sinful and would never limit him/her from excelling in life.. a sense of pride is needed here..

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  4. Hello. I Have like many Some life experience with people from many Backgrounds, but Mainly from Talking & Listening. I have also been Fortunate Enough to read The Gospel of Thomas in of which Jesus Mentions no, actually Instructs his Disciples that There is A place which Transcends “SEXES” he says Cryptically “when you make the two in one” So that male, is not Entirely Male!” “Nor is the FEMALE ENTIRELY Female when you have done this Then you Shall ENTER The Kingdom!”..
    In his wisdom he is explaining the Duality of Humanity. As are we not all born of our Mothers & Fathers. do they not live in us. yet we are never at peace Sometimes we get glimpses, but yet the Mind Rattles on! we live in a society where we are not only Divided? but we are Cut in to many Pieces & for these Pieces of Humanity we have many Faces! one face for them. one face for another?…. Jesus is like the Ultimate Zen Master who is trying to instruct you to find your One true Face.. The one you have before you were born & the one You Enter in to The eternal with.
    The problem lies in what we are taught. And in the Bible “The official Compilation” of the Church. The more Deeper teachings of A Christ are Left out! & For centenary+ Branded as Heresy.
    You Cannot blame them “even though it would be easy” All we can do is pass on Knowledge and Liberate ourselves From the tyranny of a World bent on Consumption by any Means!
    Even if this means Keeping us Divided by Not Freeing up Knowledge, A knowledge That “WE” must Pursue For, It is in Understanding That we FREE ourselves. And in doing so Love without the need to be loved! for then there is enough to go around for everybody! ….. hot Damn i should of Bloged this! Lol … Thanks for the Stimuli

    Peace

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  5. Salma says:

    Fadi I am so happy you are breaking this taboo subject in your blogs and your book. As a heterosexual woman who lived abroad, it breaks my heart to see how homosexuals are suffering in the Arab World (not to mention the rest of the World). I came across men who resisted admitting, probably even to themselves, that they were homosexual. They were miserable and made many women around them miserable as well. When the issue of homosexuality is brought up within my conventional surroundings, I always speak up and say, if any of my kids turned out to be homosexual, I will definitely embrace him/her and do my best to protect them. I have to admit I won’t be happy, for the simple reason that I know they are going to have a tough ride in this world. I keep telling people,’knowing what a tough life a homosexual leads in our world, do you actually think it is a CHOICE!’ – So instead of making their lives more miserable we have to help them accept who they are, in order to be strong enough to face this bigoted world – Good luck in the UK… I had the same amazing journey in 1998 and it changed my life forever🙂

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  6. ArabObserver says:

    Thank you Salma. It is true and, especially the self denying part. It is very much unhealthy and causes much trouble. Wish more ppl speak up.

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  7. ziad says:

    Dear Fadi, this article was like a wake up call for me , I am a 20 years old homosexual male , and lately the gay thingy has been acting up so much that i wanted to go see a psychiatrist because , I realized that i can’t continue living this way hiding and oppressing my self , but on the other hand i’m not really sure if I have the right to live a normal life throughout the years and mostly after hearing what people had to say about homosexuals , I came to believe that I am not worthy of living a happy life , that I deserve this doomed dark life of mine . but i can’t do this anymore i can’t live this miserable excuse for a life anymore and the thing is this whole situation started affecting my academic performance , I am a medical student and i can’t afford to not do well at college , that’s why i decided that want to see a psychiatrist but after reading this article , it really got me thinking twice ! , finally , if you ever got to see this ”fingers crossed” , do you by any chance know a psychiatrist in Amman that would deal with my case professionally and can help through this , i really need help i think i’m loosing myself , i’m loosing every bit of self appreciation i ever had . thank you .
    Ziad .

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  8. hashim says:

    hi fadi, good article, i was surfing through the net and accidently came across your page, also read zaids comment and his case is similiar to mine.
    being what i am is affecting everything that i do, this is truly unhealthy and in need for assistance
    noticed that helped zaid with a contact of a a psychiatrist in amman, if you can email me cause i really dont know where to begin looking.
    Regards

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