Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mothers little helper

Anti-depressants don't work.

Ok, that's an attention grabber of a headline; and it's not completely true: For SOME people, anti-depressants and other mood controlling drugs, work very well.

For SOME people.

However, those people generally do not include children (in the U.S. somewhere between 5% and 10% of whom are now on some kind of mood controlling drug); and, critically, almost all of the people who take them.

About 2% of the U.S. adult population take mood controlling drugs of some kind; and according to an exhaustive review of all effectiveness data and trials (trials which were conducted by the drug companies themselves, as well as independent trials), for those persons whose mood disorder is not classified as "severe", mood controllers were no more effective than a placebo.

Under todays standards, "severe" mood disorder sufferers only make up between 5% and 20% (there are no good numbers, because doctors and researchers disagree on standards) of the population diagnosed with some type of mood disorder.

So, mood controllers are ineffective, between 80% and 95% of the time; and yet, they are among the most prescribed drugs in this country.

Incredible... or maybe not, if you understand the "mental health" field.

Why are they ineffective? How about because MOST OF THE PEOPLE TAKING THEM DON'T NEED THEM.

Most of the people who are prescribed mood controlling drugs, don't have any objectively identifiable disorder; they are prescribed for "better quality of life" or "reduction of general anxiety" etc... when basically the people taking them are mentally and physically healthy.

There is a huge difference between a mental illness, and an emotional problem; and they MUST Be treated differently.

Sure someone may be having an emotional issue; but if they don't have a chemical or physical problem, a chemical solution is, at best, just a mask. It doesn't solve the problem... in fact it often just makes the underlying issues worse.

Perhaps I should soften that statement; because sometimes emotional issues are so overwhelming, that people lose control of themselves, or simply cannot deal with their issues. Medication can help those people regain control, and start working on their underlying problems; but it still isn't the solution.

Of course, when you give someone a drug that is designed to change their mental state, well, their mental state is probably going to be changed. Their core problem won't be solved, but now they're impotent, or have twitches, or unexplained angry outbursts, or a million other things... because we really don't understand how these drugs work, or what they REALLY do to our minds and bodies.

1 out of every 50 adults, and one out of every 20 children are being told (sometimes being forced even) by their doctors to take these drugs; without an understanding of their effects, and their side effects; and now we know, without even an understanding of their efficacy.

What you have to understand is, we're all just one big money making experiment for the mental health industry.

Under the most recent guidlines published for diagnosing mood disorders, as many as 70% of the population could qualify. Almost all male children would qualify. In fact, if you look at diagnostic criteria, almost all normal male behavior could be taken as signs of a mood disorder; and the standard for diagnosis is generally speaking three or more symptomatic behaviors.

The mental health industry has steadily forced themselves into being a legitimate and major portion of medicine. Almost everyone in America today will see a psychiatrist or psychologist in their lifetime, at the very least in their schools. They have positioned themselves as being just like your general practitioner, helping in preventative medicine and quality of life issues...

...But they aren't that; at least not legitimately.

It's a huge growth business, because they keep defining down the standards for who needs mental health care. At this point, you could be the healthiest, happiest, most mentally well adjusted person on the planet; and after a couple hours with a psychiatrist, you'll be on two medications (one to control the side effects of the other of course) and in a regular course of therapy.


Because it's their job, that's why; and everyone wants to be successful in their job.

It's the old carpenter problem "when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail".

I have NEVER met a psychologist who didn't think that just about everyone could use therapy. In fact, they are explicitly taught that everyone except true psychopaths can benefit from some type of therapy, if only they would try, or accept it, or be honest etc...

I have RARELY met a psychiatrist who didn't think that at least some of most peoples "problems" could be "solved" pharmaceutically.

The problem here is most peoples "problems" are not subject to a therapeutic solution, be it psychological or psychiatric. Their problems are either practical in nature "I don't make enough money", or they are issue of personal emotion "I'm not happy with how much money I make".

Neither of those problems can be solved by a doctor with a couch or a pill.

Then there's the fact that most of the time, emotional issues are temporary; and guess what, that's OK.

It's OK to be depressed, or upset, or sad, or angry, or hyper... sometimes. It's even OK if they get in the way of your life... sometimes.

We here in the U.S. seem to have bought into this idea that everyone has to be perfectly happy, and satisfied all the time. Never angry, never depressed, never manic...

How boring.

I WANT to be angry sometimes. I WANT to be depressed. I want to be manic, and hyper and super happy.







... all of these things march hand in hand with strong emotions.

It's only when those issues, and emotions screw up your life all the time; and you can't deal with them on your own, or with your family and friends; that people should really start thinking about seeking outside help.

Ok yes, I'm exaggerating a bit. There are a fair number of mental health professionals on either side, who will tell people "you don't need me, or him"; but they are a small minority in my experience.

Also, don't take this to mean I think all psychiatry or psychology are useless; I don't. There are millions of people who are helped by psychiatric medicine. People who could not otherwise function, because their brains just don't work right. Millions more are helped by therapy, because they need to talk to someone who understands their emotional issues; and can help them work through them.

Most people though, most of the time; what they need is a buddy, a beer, and a better job; not a bottle full of pills.