Antidepressant drug use in the United States doubled between 1998 and 2005, according to a report in The Archives of General Psychiatry. But I’m telling you that there is no way in the world that the incidence of profound depression doubled in that same period. No way.
About 13 million people (or 6% of the population) were prescribed an antidepressant in 1996. By 2006, that number rose to more than 27 million people. Again, there’s no way that the incidence of profound depression increased that much.
Try this number on for size: more than 164 million prescriptions were written in 2008, totaling almost $10 BILLION in US sales. Unlike the incidence of profound depression, I believe that the incidence of making money off prescriptions for depression did indeed double between 1996 and 2005.
As a licensed psychotherapist, I can tell you with great candor that the psychological and pharmaceutical communities have a huge investment in income – plain and simple. It’s been amazing to me (and I have commented on this publicly for thirty years) how there are trends in diagnoses and grandiose treatments. For a while, everyone was agoraphobic; then every adult claimed to have some level of ADD; then there was a trend toward multiple personality disorder. Now, being bi-polar is the illness of choice, or so it seems.
I’m going to state the obvious: yes, there are people clinically depressed to such a severe level that medicine might be the difference between life and suicide. I have recommended interim treatment for people who seem to be suffering profoundly.
However, this “doubling” issue is occurring for a number of reasons: 1) trends in the psych industry; 2) money-making efforts by pharmaceutical companies (notice all the TV commercials); 3) the growing weakness of the American public to deal with frustrations and setbacks; 4) the social acceptance of copping to a mental illness to explain various personality/behavioral issues; 5) insurance companies not paying for psychotherapy (requiring high out-of-pocket expenses for treatment). The bottom line? Numerous studies show that therapy is as effective (if not more effective) than drug use alone.
I’ve become more and more concerned about people trying to “cure” what is normal. I’ve said this on my program many times: being sad and deflated over job or love losses is normal; having childhood disruptions in one’s life is normal; hanging on to them as an identity, attempt at attention, and as a cop-out for responsibilities is not accepting (and not enduring) what is normal.
A sixteen year old male called my radio program the other day. He was sad that “the love of his life” dumped him, and he didn’t see any future for himself. I told him that what he was calling the “love of his life” at 16 was not what he would choose as the love of his life at 26. I also told him that this adolescent “drama” was normal, and that he would go through it a number of times, before he truly recognized who would ultimately be the “love of his life.” His attitude lightened up as he began to understand what normal meant. I told him to distract himself with sports (releasing powerful endorphins) and friends, without harping on his situation, and it would pass…until the next time. That is just simply what life is like.
We have people who can’t take a joke, can’t tolerate a difference of opinion (after George W. Bush was re-elected, a psychologist in my area published an article talking about the massive depression in his patients who were Democrats – I was stunned and horrified that people would seek therapy for an election disappointment), who call everything “harassment,” who go through difficulties and say that the rest of their lives are “ruined” because of that event, who say they can’t function anymore in life because somebody pushed them too close to their actual potential, and so on.
Frankly, I worry that Americans are getting spiritually and psychologically weaker – voluntarily – because victimhood is attractive, and because there is a group for every type of victim that will help them to prolong the suffering.