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Depression? Anxiety? Why Take a Pill, When It’s Your Nature to Heal? Part 1 of 3

The number of Americans diagnosed with a mental disorder has grown exponentially, and to make matters worse, many are increasingly over-diagnosed. Curiously the numbers are unique to the United States among industrial nations, a fact in itself that should ring alarm bells.

Why take a pill, though, when a plethora of research supports lifestyle changes are promising alternatives, providing one makes a commitment to holistic change? Findings show that an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, meditation, among other health essentials for the brain and body, are equally if not more viable and effective treatments for anxiety and depression – notably, with no side effects.

Making a case for Ending the Era of Mass Psychiatry, Dr Marilyn Wedge discusses three recent books that seek answers to the question of why Americans are suffering a ‘unique’ to the U.S. ‘mental health epidemic’?

27 Comments to
Depression? Anxiety? Why Take a Pill, When It’s Your Nature to Heal? Part 1 of 3

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  1. Most people are so crushingly boring that a single drink makes them more interesting. Even great sex is so great because it floods the brain with chemicals. The reason the USA has more of this is because we are allowed to push ourselves further, experience more, learn more about ourselves. This is a good thing. Some countries have a culture that bans drugs and alcohol but then are obsessed with mind control through daily ritual and strict control. Hardly a superior way to be human is it?

    • Thanks for sharing, Zella. Since when is dependency on alcohol or drugs a freedom? That’s bondage. I love our country as well, truth be told, in comparison, other industrial nations enjoy more freedom, and better quality of life for families and children. I hope you agree that it’s okay to say we can do better, because we can. Thanks for writing.

  2. I very much believe in holistic recovery – and in my experience seeing a psychiatrist has involved 50 minutes appointments and psychotherapy in addition to medication (which includes both natural and pharmaceutical agents) as well as attention to diet, lifestyle, stress, and various forms of exercise.

    Over-prescribing does appear to be a problem (at least I’ve heard it is, in my experience getting a prescription takes some advocating!), but I think pronouncements that pills don’t work are as harmful as pronouncements that they cure everything. Many of us need a combination of things in order to feel better. The last thing I want to do is judge what has worked for someone else. I don’t think polarising the debate is helpful. Anti-anxiety meds have helped me function (as has psychotherapy), and helped me be able to take other steps that help long-term (ie exercise, establish routine).

    • I appreciate your comments, Kaye. Glad meds have worked for you. It’s not about judging those who use meds. The point of this post is to note that there are piles of research that show pills aren’t effective – and especially other findings that show they can be harmful to the brain – and these findings are withheld, not publicly known. The medical industry is in control because, of course, money makes it possible to put your message out. Thanks again for commenting!

  3. It is VERY apparent you have never suffered from depression, anxiety or any other mental illness. I dont know of anything more painful then severe depression or a worse feeling than being anxious all the time. I too, would not be among the living had it not been for medications. They absolutely make a difference in our daily lives. If I had a choice, I would take a physical illness over a mental illness any day. You need to thank your lucky stars you dont or have ever suffered any mental illness and until you walk in my shoes or anyone elses that has some form of mental illness you certainly shouldnt being making judgements about the medications that make our lives a little bit easier to live.

    • Thanks for wring, Laurie. I appreciate your sharing your feelings on this topic. Keep in mind, the intent of this post is not prescriptive – not designed to advise people to take meds or not, as this is not a therapist’s job anyway. It is rather to note that the public remains unaware of significant findings, and it’s because the medical industry (wrongfully in my mind) controls what the public knows. You may not agree, and that’s fine. Why not get curious and check out for yourself before dismissing it. Thanks again for commenting.

  4. Have you ever been in a black bottomless pit with mental pain and anguish so bad you dont want to take another breath? Of course not! If you had, you would know that the medications you think are a joke have saved many a life. Yes, they have side effects but what doesnt? The relief and benefits more than outweigh the side effects. I dont care what your research says. They have saved my life and that’s what is important to me.

  5. Hi Athena, while I found your article very interesting I am also a little unclear about your position. Given the large amount of research that (supposedly) shows antidepressants to be as effective as placebos, and far more damaging, does it make sense to counsel your readers to consult with their doctors before reducing (or eliminating) these medications? If these doctors have all prescribed substances that do not help, but which only harm, why should we trust these very same doctors to help us get off them?

    • Thanks for writing, snow queen. Good question. It’s a therapist job to refer clients to consult with their doctors. Most doctors may not be trained in preventive measure, however, they are trustworthy, and in best position to monitor clients as they taper off. I have many clients that came to me with a long list of medications, and with the supervision of their psychiatrist and primary care doctor, and completely drug free, and very happy, and proud of themselves for doing courageous healing work. It really does take a lot of dedication, as I emphasize. It’s not easy. It takes quite a bit of daring, and it’s not for everyone.

      • Thanks for the reply: still, I was wondering how these doctors can be trustworthy if they are ignoring all the evidence that indicates that they are actually doing more harm than good with the meds they bountifully prescribe?

  6. I hate meds, any meds, full stop. BUT I still believe that they lifted me sufficiently to enable me to function in my first bout of depression. However I was left taking them for far too long with no proper review. Eventually I took things into my own hands and devised a weaning off program that my GP reluctantly agreed was OK, proceeded and successfully came off to be drug and depression free for several years. I have had several bouts of severe depression+/-anxiety since. Each time I have agreed to medication in the early stages – sometimes with severe side effects (my body trying to tell me something?) – and have had to fight to change meds. and later to come off them. For last bout, the prescription after the initial period was doing more harm than good as I was left totally numb and that made me feel …. depressed! This time I told my GP after I had weaned off and he was not overly happy, but my mood was picking up to a more real, though still quite painful, state. I have promised him that if I think I am descending too far I will see him with a mind to taking a-ds again. Fortunately he treats me as an adult, but he also had faith in meds. I have to agree that there is over-prescribing of a-ds etc (not just in the US – I am in the UK) to cure what should be regarded as some of life’s downs that are generally naturally time limited, though I am sure that time must seem like an eternity to the sufferer. I cannot help thinking of how antibiotics were at one time prescribed for every snuffle, but their use is much more selective now. What it comes down to really is that I see meds as a crutch – you don’t give a crutch to someone with a sprained ankle, you suggest physiotherapy and gradual exercise, you give crutches to someone with a broken ankle until it has mended but no longer, a very few people have something that requires long term use. Surely that is the way that meds and adjunct talking therapies should be used and not to plaster cuts and bruises.

    P.S. I have had those books on my reading list for a while, thank you for the reminder, I really must get hold of them (and maybe pass them on to my GP?)

    • Thanks for commenting, V A. The case with antibiotics is an excellent analogy, thanks for pointing this out. It’s another reminder of how important it is that research is not selectively withheld. The reason we are now very careful about taking (or prescribing antibiotics) is because media campaigns did a good job informing the public and doctors (i.e., that antibiotics were losing their effectiveness, that this could potentially be dangerous, etc.). So far, this is not the case with research on antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. Not only is the public woefully uninformed, doctors and psychiatrists may also be uninformed. As of the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to directly advertise and ‘sell’ their products to doctors. How unethical (and dangerous) is that?

  7. Finally! Are we going to wake up? America has been subjugated by the big pharm long enough, it is time to fight back. I lost decades of my life to them. I do have PTSD which was accurately diagnosed when I was 27 but they also said I was depressed and needed medication which I did not want but reluctantly agreed after a few months. With-in two months on being on the medication I tried to kill myself and was re-diagnosed as bipolar. After that I never again held a job, nor held my children, my life was full of drugs one after another and in & out of hospitals until I found a doctor who listened to me and took me off of all the psychotic medications. That was ten years ago. Now I have my life back. A few years ago I was haveing trouble sleeping and a differnt doctor who did not believe me told me he would not give me a any anti depressants did so. I ended up in the psych hospital with a manic episode. Making it very clear that I do not have bi-polar illness but mania bought on by miss use of psych drugs. The doctors who saw me before starting those medications and witness the change are now rethinking their belief in drugs as a cure all. Not everything is the same, I have long term memory problems as well as many physical health problems that at least one of my doctors believes is from those from all the different and heavey duty drugs I was put on for an illness I did not even have. Off of antidepressants I have never been manic but trying to tell P-doctors and anyone in that system was impossible-I was labeled as in denial, hostile and non-compliant. I also now have thyroid problems although thankfully no diabetes. I lost close to 150lbs going off the pills too. I can think, feel,have relationships and do art again. I am working on being angry because I’m afraid to be angry, in the past if I got angry I was locked up. Yet I have every right to be angry at those who medicated me and took away my life with drugs and diagnosed me while on a drug and would not listen to me, although I told them from the very beginning it was the drugs not me.

    I can not wait to read part III. I’m probably doing most of it already but I look forward to reading it. I haven’t heard of a anti-immune diet before but that is very similar to how I eat. Before the drugs I was a vegetarian and all of those spices were part of my diet. I mostly went back to that when I got off the P-drugs and thats part of how I lost the weight. I tend to avoid over processed food just because I like the way real food tastes, it is great to hear that it is even healthier than I thought, and that I’m doing someing for my mental health just by eating this way.

    • Thanks for sharing your story and experiences Anne. I am so glad to know you are now doing well, and working to process anger. Thanks for writing.

  8. As someone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, depression and anxiety, I am a tad insulted by this article. As much I as I hate being on my meds, I have no choice!!! The last time I tried to choose, I saw hallucinations and scared my husband! Sp please keep in mind while the natural way may work for some, we others need to be on these meds for our safety!

    • Thanks for sharing your strong views in support of meds, and how they’ve helped you deal with Bipolar Disorder. The lifestyle changes approach is not for everyone, I agree with you there. Hope you get a chance to read Part 2 on the five factors that elevate stress to toxic levels, thus risks for depression and anxiety. I’d be interested in your thoughts on these five factors, if you’d like to comment. Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate hearing from you.

  9. I do agree with this article in certain parts. I have suffered from depression since I was born, more or less. I was not treated until about 16 years old. These meds have kept me from committing suicide for many years, and none of the other ones I took helped me at all. I know that a lot of my problems are from emotional abuse that I have endured on and off in my life, but, I still inherited the depression from my mother and her family, there are others in my family with differing diagnoses. Any way yes I think med are good where actually needed, …But, what we really need is compassion, I don’t see any of this anymore in this profession, it is all about insurance and money, and they need to brush up on their ethics in how they handle and treat us as patients.

    • Thank you for writing Vicki to share your views. I so agree what we really need is compassion in how patients are treated in either case, meds or not. If you have a moment, you may be interested in Part 2 of this post on five factors that elevate levels of toxic stress and thus risks for depression and anxiety. Thanks for writing!

  10. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be everyone’s nature to heal. I saw my mother, who was never medicated while I was growing up, become more and more severely psychotic, and eventually totally disabled and suicidal. I think the decision to use meds has to be made case-by-case. I got on the medication train at age 19, right when Prozac came out. I can’t say that it has always worked out well for me- if I knew then what I know now, I would never have gone on half the meds they put me on. But when you are so depressed that you can’t get up off of the couch, don’t want to live, and swallowing a pill is about the most that you can do other than making it to the bathroom (and I have literally crawled to the bathroom), then I’ll try anything. Shock my brain. Give me drugs. Give me anything. Just don’t tell me to go and cook a nutritious meal when I can’t go into a grocery store.

    • Thanks for writing, Emily. Your comments seem to emphasize how important it is to break free of widespread messages that have convinced us, overall as a nation, to prefer to depend on something out there quick and easy to make us feel okay, and take away any pain. Please know that I realize this is not easy to do, yet it’s not designed to be. Our brains are designed to struggle to solve problems, and become increasingly efficient in the process. Believing in ourself and our inner capacity is key … Thanks for writing!

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