When Antidepressants Aren’t the Best Option (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2006
In Feeling bad about taking Antidepressants? we looked at dispelling the guilt that many people feel about using these drugs. In many cases, antidepressants are the treatment of choice. But they are not a magic panacea. Far from it. This blog, we will look at scenarios where the misuse of antidepressants can do more harm than good.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) gives clear outlines regarding a diagnosis for depression. When a person satisfies the criteria for depression, antidepressants are often prescribed. In particular, if there is a risk of suicide, antidepressants are a must.
However, even in cases where a person fits the criteria for a diagnosis of depression, this does not automatically mean that antidepressants are called for. Depending on the severity of the depression, there are many alternative treatments to antidepressants that are far superior to drug treatment. This is because these treatments address the cause of the depression rather than trying to mask the symptoms which is the end result of drug therapy. By addressing the cause of the depression, the sufferer has a much better chance of a complete recovery.
Distress and suffering are a natural part of life and do not in themselves constitute a psychological disorder. We should not always expect to feel happy. We should not always expect life to be easy. Life has a habit of dealing out unexpected and often overwhelming situations, and our level of distress escalates. Yet many doctors will often prescribe antidepressants in cases when they are clearly not indicated. They may do this for a variety of reasons: they are too busy to listen to the patient’s problems, they are swayed by drug company advertising, they have little training in the area of mental illness and genuinely believe that the drug will fix the problem.
Whether or not antidepressants are the treatment of choice, they should never be regarded, either by the doctor or the patient, as the one and only treatment for the patient’s depression. They should also not be prescribed in situations where it is normal to be feeling overwhelming sadness and grief, such as after the death of a close friend or relative. To be given antidepressants by at doctor in the early stages of grieving is not only uncalled for, it is unethical.
In the next article,
we will look at scenarios where antidepressants do more harm than good.