I take my meds….why do I still feel this way?

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.

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9 comments on “I take my meds….why do I still feel this way?”

  1. I totally agree. People and doctors think that the simplest solution is to take medication. I also definitely agree that there are times when it is necessary and beneficial to take medication. Hopefully, if you take medication and see a therapist, eventually you can stop taking the medication.

    I think meds are over-prescribed. I think they give a false impression or sense of happiness. And I think that really examining your own thoughts is the best way to deal with things. It's like we were made with these built in self-defense mechanisms that work for a while. Both the self-defense and the meds mask the real problem.

    Also, maybe some people think there is no way to solve the real problem. To those people I would say, it is not the problem or event(s) that will get solved; it is the way you think about the event and the things you tell yourself after the event that can be fixed or changed. Peggy showed me that.

  2. It does bother me every time I see an ad on TV about adding another medication to help your medication work better. Having been quite medicated at one time, I can say that, although it changed my thoughts, I think I was kind of a out of it, and no amount of medication took care of everything.

    I often wonder if I had begun with psychotherapy first, if I would have ever been medicated. I agree with what Barb says also that it isn't about solving the problem or event, but the way we think about the events. It is understanding that those events are complete and cannot hurt us anymore. Although the thoughts about the events may always be there, it is how we deal with those thoughts that allows us to move forward and grow.

    I don't want to sound like I am negating the good that the medications did for me, or for others. I think they were helpful to a point, what was most helpful to me was the therapy. I would not be here today if it was not for the work done in therapy.

  3. I just wanted to comment your blog and say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post here. It was very informative and I also digg the way you write! Keep it up and I’ll be back to read more in the future…

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