The title of today’s blog is “Should You Be taking Psychiatric Medications? This is a question that every single one of clients and group members asks.
Let me begin by asking a simple question. Can you imagine someone waking up , jumping out of bed, and saying with great excitement, “I just can’t wait to take my morning dose of Prozac!” In sixteen years of talking with my clients about medication, no one, myself included, has ever answered yes to that question. This demonstrates the ambivalence that many of us have about taking drugs for our anxiety or depression.
Now, what is the nature of this ambivalence? There are many reasons.
First of course there are the negative side effects.
Some of these side effects can be severe, causing a paradoxical response to the drug. As Dr. Jay Cohen wrote in the journal Postgraduate Medicine, “People vary in their sensitivity to drugs. One person’s remedy may be another person’s overdose.”
For example, I was thrown into an agitated depression in 1996 by taking a single dose of the antidepressant Effexor. Other people have reported the same experience with other SSRI medications.
Then there is the stigma of medication. An eighteen year old teenager told me that he didn’t want to be on medications because he was afraid that his peers would find out.
Finally, there is the question, How effectiveness are antidepressants anyway?” The National Institute of Health of the US Government published a study in early 2017 which concluded that 40-60% of people had improved moods with an antidepressant, but 20 to 40% who were given a sugar pill and were told it was an antidepressant also improved. In other words, antidepressants outperformed the placebo for only 20, out of 100 cases, or a 20% effectiveness. Not very high.
Yet, there are times that antidepressants can make a big difference in people’s lives. So to find out if you should be taking psychiatric medications, here is what you can do. If you begin to notice you have the symptoms of anxiety or depression, start by using the conservative non-medication tools and strategies. In addition to the information on my YouTube channel and website, there so many other resources that explain how to rewire your brain without using drugs.
Try these out for a few weeks. If you notice that your symptoms are decreasing, great. But if you notice that they are staying the same or increasing, then it is time to get out what I like to refer to as “the heavy artillery”-—Medications, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). One of my clients who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder would have horrible dips ever three weeks that were so bad, she couldn’t work. After trying things like exercise, diet, and cognitive therapy she went on Lexapro. The medication has been so effective that she hasn’t had a dip in six months.
So despite the fact that antidepressants have never helped me, I have seen psychiatric medication work in too many cases to dismiss it. Or as someone once said, “My karma ran over my dogma.”