Psychiatric medications: Are they being prescribed too readily?
Updated: Mar 4
I read an article in The Telegraph on Saturday which highlights the potential problems we are now facing as a result of increased awareness around mental health.
I had not considered there to be any negatives regarding mental health awareness before now, but after reading the article I have realised that there could be a problem.
Miranda Levy writes that although increasing awareness and stigma around mental health is obviously great, there is now a risk that people are confusing their feelings with mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder.
I had never even thought about this being a problem until I read the statistics - six million people were prescribed anti-depressants in just a three-month period last year, which, to me, seems like an inordinate number.
Yet again, these problems come down to a lack of education, which results in confusion between natural feelings or emotions and psychiatric problems and illnesses.
It infuriates me when I hear people say; 'I'm so depressed' or 'I think I might be a bit bipolar', because these conditions are serious, even life-threatening in many cases, and to those of us who suffer from them, these comments are insulting.
Depression is not sadness, tiredness, grief or even 'low-mood'. It is something far, far worse, in fact the word ‘depression‘ doesn't even describe the reality of the hell that it creates; I think there should be an even more graphic word that encapsulates the true horror.
For me it barely feels survivable, and I have only managed to stay alive by basically giving up everything, going to bed for months on end, living with my parents to the age of forty, desperately resisting my own thoughts of suicide and clinging on by the finger nails.
Depression is a darkness that is hard to describe but it rips your life away from you, makes it virtually impossible to connect with other people, completely disrupts your sleep pattern, takes every scrap of your energy away, and leaves you feeling terrified, alone and completely isolated.
Similarly, bipolar is not about just the usual ebbs and flows of mood that the average person experiences. If you have it then believe me, you know about it. Again, it is disruptive and it makes holding down a job or even performing simple daily tasks feel almost impossible.
In the article, Miranda tells us that she had a huge breakdown which resulted in her being prescribed anti-depressants. She refers to her dalliance with psychiatric medications as a ten-year-long 'safari' during which she was given countless different ones and labelled with all sorts of different diagnoses.
My own psychiatric 'safari' has lasted double that of Miranda's, I am just about back to being me again but it has taken quite something to get here. Like Miranda, I was given just about every anti-depressant on the market and then labelled 'treatment resistant' when I didn't respond to any of them. It is now generally recognised in psychiatry that anti-depressants make people who have bipolar disorder worse. These drugs can even preempt the onset of bipolar illness. There is so much trial and error, with the emphasis on the error, and it's affecting people in really serious ways.
Like Miranda I have endured a myriad of side effects from itchy rashes to brain zaps, hallucinations and nightmares. If the drugs don't work for you there's the added complication of getting off them which presents another whole range of problems. Other side effects include diarrhea, cold sweats, fatigue and sexual dysfunction. We're giving these to people who are already on the edge with depression, they really don't need all these added complications to add to their misery.
How I have survived this barrage of psychiatric medications and horrific side effects, as well as the illness itself, is little short of a miracle. The fact that I have makes me feel compelled to share my story, give insight into the illness and educate others around the subject of mental health through my own lived experience.
What we really need to be focusing on now is effective medications that don't come with terrible side effects, education surrounding all aspects of mental health, and suicide prevention to save more people and avoid the horrific knock-on effects that it causes.
The take-out point from today's post is that psychiatric medications can bring with them their own complications. The patient should be completely aware of the potential problems and be educated around their own symptoms so that regular feelings and emotions are not confused with mental illness.
If you would like to read more about the potential side effects of psychiatric drugs I have added a link to a site called Psych Central which you can find here.
I have also added an interesting video with a psychiatrist which you can find on the home page.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,