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To med or not to med…

Recently someone I care about a great deal asked for advice for a female friend of his who was struggling with depression. Just last evening he reported back to me that she did finally find some help; her GP prescribed medication and they were hoping for the best.

All well and good.

But then came the kicker: “But she really hates the thought of being dependent on medications for the rest of her life.”

FACE PALM.

I managed to temper my reaction. My exact words were, “Sometimes people are able to go off medication after a while, in consultation with their doctor and therapist. And she can think of it this way: Isn’t it better to feel good with a pill than to be miserable every day of your life without a pill?”

Here’s what really I wanted to say: “Would you really hate the thought of taking insulin every day to save your life if you had diabetes? Would you really hate the thought of taking blood pressure medication every day to avoid a stroke if you had high blood pressure?”

I am aware of and I support many of the caveats regarding antidepressants. No, they don’t work for everyone. No, scientists aren’t 100% sure how antidpresssants work. Yes, they often have side effects that require management. Yes, they work best in conjunction with behavioral therapy.

But it does not make sense to despise a medication merely because it treats mood and behavior, when we fully accept other medications that treat obvious physical problems. In reality, the root causes of the negative moods and behavior are physical, too. They just have negative mystique because we can’t “see” them.

We each must make our own decisions about medication when depression and other mood disorders are part of our lives. But we must make these decisions based on reality, rather than on the stigma that sourrounds issues of brain illnesses and their treatments. 

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2 Responses

  1. Absolutely! Medication’s a complex issue: fix the original problem – great – but the side effects can be awful. But still better than the original issue. (Ask a cancer patient if they’d prefer not to be bloated on steroids or bald and exhausted by their chemo and the answer would be yes, but bloated, bald and exhausted is still alive.)
    I guess with depression there’s an expectation that we should be able to snap out of it, it’s just thoughts, etc etc. taking the meds can feel like living in a fog. But again it’s still living and can be what it needs to get back to being well again. Again stigma is really stitching people up.

    • You’re exactly right. I wish the general public would get over the idea that you can just “will” yourself to get over depression with positive thinking, prayer, or whatever. I’ve been living with it so long in my family that I know for a fact that’s not true.

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