Many clients ask me about my opinion of psychotropic medications. This is such a simple question. Unfortunately, my answer is not that simple.
It always depends upon the person and the circumstance, so please do not read this post and apply anything I suggest to yourself until you consult with your doctor. Please never stop a medication without first consulting with your doctor. Every person is different, and each person responds to medications differently. THIS we need to acknowledge.
Research has shown that when it comes to treating depression and anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy is effective. Research also shows that medication is effective in treating these disorders. When you put the medication and therapy together, the research shows the effects of treatment more than double. The best prognosis (according to some research) is with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy combined. So why would I not always say every client needs both therapy and medication?
Well, the reason is complicated and depends upon the client. While I believe medication is very necessary in some cases, especially those of severe depression or psychosis, I do not believe medication is always the way to go. In fact, I believe sometimes medication, in the long term, can have a negative effect on treatment. I will explain this further in a future post.
I believe we live in a society that is over-diagnosed and over-medicated. I believe we live in a society that throws medication on symptoms instead of looking at the underlying cause. While I am very grateful for medications in treating life-threatening illness, I do believe in many cases, long-term use of medication actually can cause the very symptom it is supposed to treat.
Notice that I said long-term use of medication. I do not believe either extreme (extreme disapproval or approval) view on the usage of medication is helpful. I do not think we should be afraid to use medication. Many times I see clients with anxiety and depression who take medication along with therapy, and they improve greatly. Many times taking medication allows clients to put cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness techniques to good use. I am more in support of shorter-term use of medication (one year or so), so clients can learn these techniques and continue to use them when they are no longer on medication.
I believe in holistic health. As a therapist, I believe in treating body, mind, and spirit. For that reason, I cannot advocate for long-term usage of medication for low grade anxiety or depression. We live in a society that wants immediate results. We want immediate relief. This is understandable. Emotions can be very uncomfortable. But let’s looks at what immediate relief gets us.
Many of the things that cause immediate relief from our emotions (ex. chocolate cake, alcohol, drugs, coffee, gossip) leave us feeling empty in the long run. Let’s be real. Are our present actions in line with our future emotional goals?
Meditation, ethical living, and healthy eating may not give the immediate results that medication give. But they have no negative side effects, and the long-term happiness and peace these actions produce are for more satisfying than any short term treatment. Substances, shopping, and eating sugar will make you feel good for a very short period. Are the consequences really worthy it?
We may live in a society that loves immediate results, but we live in a world of consequences. It is time to take responsibility for our health, both physically and emotionally. This is the only way we will change things and get better. We cannot blame traffic jams or stressful work schedules for our anxiety if we are drinking coffee and eating sugar all day. We need to start nourishing our bodies, minds, and spirits. Only then we will finally lose the drama and be at peace.
Peace, Love, and Holistic Health,
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flickr creative commons: Gatis Gribusts, Medication
flickr creative commons: Andrew Nourse, Balance