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Anti-Depressants - Is the cure worse than the illness? (Part 1 of 2)

This is the sort of book you wish your doctor would read.

It looks holistically at depression considering the biomedical model (i.e. there is something wrong with your body and in particular your brain) as well as psychosocial factors, lifestyle changes and other environmental influences. Is It Me or My Meds is penned by David Karp, who has long term depression and anxiety. He interviewed 50 people (including teens) with major depression and manic depression to gauge their attitudes about taking antidepressants and dealing with depression and the stigma around it.

Why people take antidepressants

Commonly accepted wisdom is that depression is caused by a biochemical balance in the brain which can be helped by taking antidepressants. Not everyone accepts this hypothesis. Some believe that depression and other mental illnesses can be fixed through meditation, counselling or other types of therapy, dietary changes, exercise or sheer willpower.

According to an anonymous academic who blogs here
Please. There may well be brain issues in people with various “mental illnesses,” but this whole ‘chemical imbalance’ thing is 95% marketing, 5% science. Find a serious scientist who will step up to the mic (sic) and tell us about the definitive chemical imbalance that causes bipolar, schizophrenia, or much of anything else in the mental disorder world.

While there were many people that resisted medication there were some who welcomed it with relief. Many patients were anxious for anything that might grant them some relief from unrelenting feelings of sadness, worthlessness and at times suicidal ideation.

Individuals reported varying degrees of success with antidepressants. For some, taking medications were a lifesaver that enabled them to feel more confident, overcome feelings of hopelessness and get on with life. However large numbers of people reported dissatisfaction with the side-effects of meds, failure of the meds to work effectively, gained only short-term relief from antidepressants or felt ostracised by being labelled as someone who needed to take psychotropic medications.

There were several patients who refused to take meds, or found themselves hopeful that they would one day be able to wean themselves off antidepressants. Overall, the majority of patients interviewed did not like taking meds for depression, bipolar or anxiety.

This attitude is also reflected in the attitude of the author, who has tried unsuccessfully to withdraw from taking antidepressants and antianxiolytic meds.

The people interviewed referred to searching for identity and not knowing whether the self on drugs is the ‘normal’ person or the one off drugs. Many felt pressure to conform to society’s expectation of normalcy.

The book includes a quote from Francis Fukuyama:
There is a disconcerting symmetry between Prozac and Ritalin. The former is prescribed for depressed women lacking in self-esteem; it gives them more of the alpha-le feelings that comes with high serotonin levels.
Ritalin on the other hand, is prescribed largely for young bots who do not want to sit still in class because nature never designed them to behave that way.

How your relationship with your doctor affects you

It was also evident throughout the book that the relationship of the individual to their health professional made a substantial difference. In situations where the individual felt that the health professional listened to their needs and offered trustworthy advice, patients were more likely to take meds and more likely to have success with them.

In this respect the placebo effect of medications was influenced not only by the knowledge that they were taking meds for their depression but also by their trust in the Health Professional prescribing the meds.

Part 1 of our review of Is It Me or My Meds?: Living with Antidepressants by David A. Karp
You can read Part 2 here


  1. From my experience I learned that first you have to take medication to get out of your black hole and find back some energy. Then of course you need the help of a therapist and at the end, everybody has to find out what is good for him, Yoga, Thai Chi or whatever.
    If the person suffers from seasonal depression because of the lack of light, medication and a special light lamps are enough.

  2. I took an antidepressant ONCE, prescribed to me long ago for help sleeping before they had all the new stuff on the market. It gave me the weirdest dreams ever. I flushed the rest and decided never sleeping again was better than that.

    A friend of mine revealed that she was suffering from strange dreams regularly. During the course of our discussion she mentioned medications. I asked what meds she was on and one was an antidepressant. Bingo. I told her my one experience. She stopped using her med and all the bad dreams went away. (Obviously, I encouraged her to talk with her doctor!) She is much happier without the antidepressants!

    None of that is to say that some people won't benefit from them or don't need them for a short time, but that we are too quick to look to drugs as a quick fix.

  3. This sounds like an interesting book. I'll have to put it on my "to be read" list.

    As someone who is having a great experience with going back on an SRI style antidepressant recently, I can really identify with those who fight having to take medication. The idea that "I should be able to do it without them" was strong, but only prolonged me living a life with the emergency brake on.

    If it works, use them. If not, flush them. But I'd ask people to be sure that they are looking at the reality of their situation, and not what they wish their reality could be.

    Thanks for the post. I found you via the Positive Thinking Carnival on Widows Quest.

  4. Like Anna, I took antidepressants once. They worked only too well. I felt completely numb emotionally. I really didn't like that so I stopped taking them.

    I have bipolar disorder but I truly feel like I can overcome this without the use of drugs and refuse to be prescribed any. In fact I think I have put my finger on one of the causes of my mood disorders which is the over consumption of sugar. I'm still going through the withdrawal stage but I haven't experienced any crazy highs or lows yet.

    Anyway, I think drugs may be the answer for some people but not all and that doctors really should look at the whole person and figure out what may be causing the depression and working on that rather than automatically pulling out the prescription pad.

    I will certainly check out this book. It looks like an interesting read.

  5. I have been following homeopathic treatment for the past 3 years. It is deffinitively better than chemicals.
    It does get on you though, when you feel you have to rely on a pill to get yourself straight.
    Gattina has a point though. That's the correct order.
    I couldn't agree more about sugar. Whenever I got rid of it, I felt better just by this change. However, I could not do it for long stretches of time.
    Could you post about that, Talia?
    Thank you for bringing up this subject.

  6. A Chemical Imbalance

    Neither GlaxoSmithKline or the MHRA can give answers as to what constitutes a proper chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain - weird because Seroxat is prescribed for this 'disorder'

    The only thing that I can see is that Seroxat actually causes the chemical imbalance rather than rectifies it - A genius piece of marketing by GSK.

    Prescribe a drug

    Let the patient get hooked on the drug

    Play down the risks by producing clinical trial studies beneficial to GSK

    Employ ghost writers and patient support groups to back up the benefits of taking Seroxat

    Robustly deny Seroxat causes aggression, suicidal tendancies etc

    Always settle out of court for any litigation

    Infiltrate the Medicines Regulatory Agency with former employees of GSK

    Fund the government

    Financially secure to research and market more SSRi type drugs

    Credit where it is due, the marketing team at GlaxoSmithKline are without doubt highly skilled at manipulating doctors and the general public.

    They don't even klnow how Seroxat works - they are just pleased that it does work. Cases where it hasn't worked - infact quite the reverse, seem to go unoticed - until the invention of the internet that is.

    The MHRA are proud of the Yellow Card system - Why?

    It is a completely flawed system and they only act on less than half of the Yellow Card reports.

    A more robust system would be for the MHRA to employ a person or persons with a basic grasp of internet seaching. Then, they will see the REAL suffering from the REAL people.

    Alas, they have ties to GlaxoSmithKline, namely Alistair Breckenridge and Ian Hudson. If they see GlaxoSmithKline have duped the public then they themselves have been duped by messrs Breckenridge and Hudson and that would cast a serious dark shadow on the MHRA's integerity.

    They (The MHRA) have been investigating GlaxoSmithKline for nigh on four years now - my guess is they are waiting for a 'busy news day' until they release their findings. This way the story will be pushed to some small article in the tabloids.

    It is utterly shameful of any human being to cause human suffering. Both GlaxoSmithKline and The MHRA have continued to deny Seroxat is harmful in the adult population - forget the clever spin 'dangerous in young adults'.

    GlaxoSmithKline are currently being sued through the courts both here in the UK and in the United States. It now needs a firm of solicitors with huge balls to sue the MHRA. There is enough evidence I'm sure to successfully bring them to trial.

    It will happen


    Seroxat Sufferers


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