Are Anti-Depressants Good or Evil?

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anti-depressants

I’m sitting in the green room, about to appear on Daytime TV, and the television is blaring in the background. Now mind you, I don’t have television in my home so I’m a bit out of the loop. But since I’ve been sitting here, I’ve seen one anti-depressant ad after another (mixed in with ads for lawyers who want to help you sue your doctor if you had complications from your anti-depressant). WTF?

When did anti-depressants get marketed to TV viewers? And why do they all promise peace, joy, tranquility, and the end to all of life’s suffering? I mean seriously people.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no Tom Cruise, and I swear I won’t be judging Brooke Shields if she takes anti-depressants for her postpartum depression. Anti-depressants can be a Godsend, and I have witnessed lives being saved. Sometimes, these drugs are a necessary step to get someone out of bed and back into life. Sometimes, they literally talk someone off the ledge. God bless Zoloft.

Holistic approach to depression

But…(and this is a huge but for me)… anti-depressants are just one of many tools to help people deal with mood disorders. These ads instill in me the fear that too many misinformed patients and busy doctors will run zero to sixty towards drugs, when treatment for depression should be much more holistic.

Even in integrative medicine practices, it seems to me that the approach is still way too allopathic. You come in depressed, and instead of giving you Prozac, they give you 5-HTP or St. John’s Wort. They might also delve into your diet and advise you about your exercise program, but I really care about why you’re depressed. Are you happy in your relationships? Are you doing work you love? Are you sexually satisfied? Are you nurturing your spiritual life? Have you discovered your calling and figured out what you’re here on Earth to do? Are you caring for the temple that is your body?

Another important question I explore is “Is your depression natural?” One of my friends just lost her best friend, who died in childbirth, leaving two children and a husband behind. At the funeral, they were passing out Zoloft like candy, and now, everyone in her family is taking anti-depressants. But isn’t it healthy and normal to grieve when something tragic happens? Sure, tragedies can lead to clinical depression, but technically, you can’t have a DSM-4 diagnosis of Major Depression in the midst of a crisis. We docs call it Adjustment Disorder, which seems so much more appropriate. You’re adjusting to a loss -- and yes, that can make you cry and grieve. Do you really want to wash those feelings away with mind-numbing drugs?

Sure, anti-depressants may be the answer -- in some cases.

And when you need them- oh baby, do you need them. But those people aren’t the ones these TV ads are aimed at. They’re targeting those who have lost their mojo -- which is totally different than being depressed. It seems to me that disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and disappointment plague many people these days. It’s the epidemic of the developed world.

But drugs are not the answer. Instead, I encourage my patients to delve deep to discover who they really are at their authentic core. I ask them what’s missing from their lives. I invite them to explore what their body, mind and spirit need in order to heal. And then, after we’ve balanced thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones, talked about diet and exercise, sorted through the emotional junk that weighs us down, and discussed lifestyle modifications that might help, we talk about supplements and pharmaceuticals.

I understand that I’m lucky. I get an hour with my patients at the Owning Pink Center, which gives me the time to go deep. When your doctor only has 7 ½ minutes to care for you, it’s easier to just write a prescription and send you on your merry way.

But you deserve to get your needs met. 

You deserve to be treated like a whole, vital human being with a heart and a brilliant mind. You deserve to have a choice. It’s okay to question the TV ads and your doctor’s advice. You can be an empowered patient. It’s your birthright.

So do me a favor. Switch off the TV when those anti-depressant ads come on. You don’t need to fill your brain with those kinds of messages. If you need anti-depressants to feel joyful, more power to you. But don’t let marketing influence you, and don’t let your doctor push pills.

Mostly, listen to your intuition. It will tell you how to reclaim your joy.

Hoping you’re doing cartwheels of glee (with or without drugs).

Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).

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