Do you ask yourself this question or know someone who does? There are an estimated 27 million Americans taking anti-depressants (Olfson & Marcus, 2009). Before I go on, I want to stress that I am not specifically against psychotropic medication. I believe there are circumstances when they can literally save someone’s life. What I do have a problem with are industries (insurance and pharmaceutical) and a society that ignore the reality of the struggles that people face. Struggles that are not resolved by taking a pill, or two, or three……. .
There is a commercial for Abilify (an antipsychotic) that I’m sure most everyone has seen. They suggest that if you currently take an anti-depressant but still have symptoms, you should talk to your doctor (who is probably not a psychiatrist) about adding Abilify. And by the way…..here are some of the more common side effects (from the Abilify website): dizziness, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia and constipation. Less common but more serious side effects include: an increase in suicidal thoughts, abnormal or uncontrollable movements of the face or tongue, and stroke in elderly patients with dementia, among others. Well…..if that doesn’t make you feel hopeful about getting better.
According to the study referenced above, while the number of people taking anti-depressants increased substantially, the number of people seeking psychotherapy decreased. Over a 10 year period it went from 31.5% to less than 20%. Approximately 80% of those taking anti-depressants are getting the diagnosis and prescription from someone other than a psychiatrist.
With all of the medication available, why are people still struggling with relationships, sadness, anxiety, or anger? Could it be that there may be something going on (or maybe went on) in your life that has created some of the difficulty you might be having? I would say that it is very likely.
I have had many clients who have come to me on medication. Some of them for years, and some on several medications. Most of them were not referred for psychotherapy. They just recognized that medication alone was not likely going to resolve their emotional pain or fix their relationships.
There have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of medication, psychotherapy, and the two combined. The results are somewhat mixed, but most acknowledge that medication alone does not improve overall emotional well being in the long term.
So, if you or someone you know has tried taking medication and still struggle with symptoms, maybe try adding psychotherapy. Or, here’s an idea, try psychotherapy first. The side effects are much less troublesome.
I’d like to hear what your thoughts or experiences are.