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I Do Not Agree with Your Past Suggestion That People Can Use Antidepressants... How Do You Feel About These Medicines in 2019?

01 Apr

I have your book Invisible heroes published in 2004 but do not agree with your suggestion that people can use antidepressants. I have seen these medications destroy people's lives instead of helping them. In some cases, I have seen them become very ill with little help from the medical community, psychiatrists, or counseling. There are many studies about the danger of these treatments. Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker has lists of the problems as well as the fight that Peter Breggin M.D has brought to the attention of the danger of these drugs in the many books he has written warning us about the dangers. These antidepressants and antipsychotics are causing deaths in nursing homes because they are given to patients who are too much trouble. I would like to know how you feel about these horrible medicines in 2019.

-T


Hello, T,

Thanks for writing. I appreciate where you’re coming from and how you feel – in fact, I worked with Peter Breggin decades ago, during my training days in Chicago, and his point of view was necessary and beneficial, lending some balance and perspective to the overly enthusiastic medicators.

But, bottom line, I have to respectfully disagree with your position. The short answer to your question about what I think about antidepressants in 2019 is the same thing I thought when I wrote the book. (Certain classes of addictive anxiety medications, and some old school anti-psychotic meds, and certainly opioids are another story, but that’s not what we’re discussing here.)

To my mind, saying no one should ever take antidepressants because they are universally horrible for everybody is as extreme and dangerously rigid as promoting them to everybody as the cure-all for whatever ails them.

Is it a good idea to try other things first? Of course. Most anti-depressants have side effects that many people find annoying or unpleasant. Some people get tremors. Others lose their libido. Still others put on weight.

And if exercise, light therapy boxes, yoga, psychotherapy, a change in diet and nutrition, some new sleep hygiene, prayer, support groups, and certain kinds of guided imagery, meditation and breath work, can remediate the symptoms – and often these interventions can – great! That’s the way to go.

But sometimes they don’t.

And some people need the medication to get them to a place where they can regain the energy and power to take charge from there. Often these are the people who resist taking pills, feel it’s a defeat, or weak, or dangerous, or addictive and they fight tooth and nail against it.

But all I can tell you, after practicing psychotherapy for 33+ years is, some people need them and benefit from them. For some people, it’s the game changer that makes all the difference.

I remember working with a wonderful woman and her husband off and on for years. She suffered from familial depression all her life. She fought it valiantly, living a productive, loving, contributing life, but there came a time in her late 50’s when she was brought so low, it took every ounce of her strength just to get out of bed. She tried but couldn’t budge the dark, joy-stealing, debilitating clouds that had enveloped her.

Once again I urged her to try medication – just long enough to get back enough of her energy to pick it up from there. This time, after the usual arguments, she agreed.

The impact was dramatic. Three weeks later she was feeling a significant difference. She jokingly said to me, maybe a month and a half later, “Gee, Belleruth, why didn’t say something sooner? You could have saved me years of unnecessary struggle!”

She was back off the meds in a very short while – as I knew she would be. They’d served their purpose and she was functioning with an ease she could not get over. Even now, when I run into her out in the community, she looks at me and winks. Her patient, loving husband? Well, he's downright ecstatic. They haven’t had to use meds in years, but for a while there, it was a comfort to know that if things got horrible again, they had this backstop. It was a big deal.

So, no, I don’t feel any different about antidepressants. For some people, it’s a godsend. For others an unnecessary choice. Everybody’s different.

All best, and thanks for the question – it’s an important topic, especially nowadays.

Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award