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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’?

The titles of the books themselves speak volumes:

1. The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth by Dr. Irving Kirsch, a lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School, researcher and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Hull, United Kingdom. With exhaustive research, this book is an expose of the antidepressants industry and its practices of withholding conclusive findings that conclusively show antidepressants can have lasting, serious effects on the brain, and their effectiveness overall is little more than that of placebos.

2. Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker, an award winning author and investigative journalist in the field of science and history. In this startling book, Whitaker investigates the exponential rise of mental illness in the United states, which has tripled over the past two decades, and exposes a vast deceit in marketing practices of psychiatric drugs, purportedly to ‘fix chemical imbalances’ that do not exist, until that is antidepressants are introduced to the brain.

3. Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry-A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis by Dr. Daniel Carlat, psychiatrist, author and watchdog critic of psychiatric practices. This book is a wake-up call to psychiatrists, psychotherapists and patients alike, as a stinging critique of psychiatric practices that have been over-focused on diagnoses and prescription, and have simultaneously abandoned the art of therapeutic counseling. In effect, the system distracts psychiatrists from seeking to understand and assist patients as human beings that are dealing with real-life issues.

The consensus, based on decades of research of this epidemic, is that pharmaceutical companies, in the name of profits, have too much control of the treatment options focus. In other words, money is the objective, and there’s no money in prevention. The end appears to justify the means. Sadly, the health of millions of Americans does not seem to factor in treatment debates.

This trend continues despite numerous studies warning of the dangers of psyctrophic drugs to the normal functioning processes of the brain. In Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker probes the question of, “Is it possible that psychotropic medications themselves are fueling the increases in depression, anxiety and other mental disorders?”

The answers are as startling as the question. According to Whitaker’s findings:

  • Not only do antidepressants have about as much effect on depression as placebos, they cause serious symptoms, and actually interfere, and upset, the neural transmission processes of the brain in ways that can provoke manic episodes, violence, suicide, chronic depression, sexual dysfunction, and more.
  • In response to artificially induced serotonin levels in synapses, presynaptic neurons secrete less serotonin, and postsynaptic neurons become desensitized to it. In other words, the brain attempts to nullify the effects of artificial serotonin levels – and the result is a chemical imbalance caused by the drugs. Once a rare disorder, bipolar disorder is now an epidemic.
  • Mental illness is not a result of a chemical imbalance – and antidepressants are not ‘normalizing’ agents. Once only a hypothesis, this theory has been proven incorrect, and yet the misconception continues to thrive, driven by profit-oriented marketing campaigns.
  • Studies have confirmed that antidepressant drugs are no more effective than sugar pills known as placebos (except that placebos do not have side effects).
  • Both the earlier tricyclic antidepressants and the newer SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) sensitize the brain enough to put it at risk of deeper and longer-term depression.
  • Prior to the era of antidepressants, even persons with depression so severe that they were hospitalized typically recovered within 6 to 8 months and more often never relapsed; and if they did, it was years or decades later.
  • In contrast, longitudinal studies show that only 15% of persons treated with antidepressants stay well for a long period of time, whereas an astounding 85% begin to have repeated relapses, followed by chronic depression.

There is mounting evidence linking antidepressants to chronic depression. It should alarm us, as a society, that the number of Americans diagnosed with a serious mental illness is unique among developed nations, has grown exponentially, and is exceeded only by level of psychotropic drugs being dispensed. In another article, What’s Wrong With This Picture, Dr. Paula Caplan notes a disturbing trend in the field of psychiatry, where psychotherapy was once a vital component, it now operates more like a pill-dispensing outlet. Psychiatrists report an average of 15-minute sessions with their clients, and less than 11% engage in talk therapy as part of their services.

To make matters worse, Americans are being aggressively over-diagnosed notes Dr. Christopher Lee. Recent data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 1 in 10 Americans is on an antidepressant, along with 1 in 27 children aged 12 to 17.  And, if the recent guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics are any indication, the spike will continue. Sadly, the age of children diagnosed with ADHD was recently lowered to age 4. One cannot help wonder whose interests this serves, pharmaceutical industry or our children and society at large?

Meanwhile, a similar trend runs parallel in primary care. A recent report shows U.S. doctors believe patients receive too much medical care. Primary care physicians attribute their own aggressive practices to inadequate time spent with patients (40%) as well as concerns about getting sued for failing to order indicated tests (83%). Again, it appears there are financial incentives for treating patients, even when it is not necessary, and a system of rewards and punishments is in place to promote conformity.

This is a controversial issue, no doubt, and there is no single answer.

If you are currently on medication, however, consider this post information only. The purpose here is to bring needed attention to outstanding research and publications in this area that remain relatively hidden beneath mainstream views. Make sure your doctor is consulted, and supervises any changes or options you wish to consider.

The point here is that we must necessarily remain informed and aware to protect ourselves, as practitioners and clients alike, against any deceptive marketing practices and misinformation.

Too many remain woefully uninformed or misinformed. As a result of deregulation, only a handful of industries control our media, and watchdogs are no longer in place. As human beings, we also tend to read what upholds our views, and to over-trust experts and authorities. Too many of us cringe at disapproval, as we’ve seen how those who protest the status quo are often dealt with, often casually dismissed or systematically admonished for taking an ‘irresponsible’ stance, and the like.

Nevertheless, studies show that lifestyle changes – in particular ones that address the needs of the entire body and mind – can and do make a dramatic difference. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders are not the result of an absence of drugs, as mainstream views imply. The same applies to physical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The human body has amazing powers to heal itself, providing it receives what it is designed to need. What does it need?

In Part 2, five factors that need to be addressed as they can elevate stress unnaturally to toxic levels; and in Part 3, research on natural treatment options and a few proven strategies that lower depression and anxiety naturally.

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

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2012). Depression? Anxiety? Why Take a Pill, When It’s Your Nature to Heal? Part 1 of 3. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Mar 2012
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