Category Archives: Mental Health

Overdosing on Antidepressants

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.

Knowing is Better Than Not Knowing, or Why I “Push” Some Callers to Discomfort

Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied people who had undergone genetic testing to determine their risk for developing the neurodegenerative terminal disorder known as Huntington’s disease.  Did you know (and can you believe) that those subjects who learned that they had a very high likelihood of developing this horrendous and ultimately fatal disease were “happier a year after testing than those who did not learn what their risk was.”

Many of you probably think that not knowing would result in more happiness, but you’d be wrong.  According to Dr. Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University, “…when we get bad news, we weep for a while, and then get busy making the best of it.  We change our behavior; we change our attitudes.  We raise our consciousness and lower our standards.  We find our bootstraps and tug.  But we can’t come to terms with circumstances whose terms we don’t yet know.”

Even those of you who listen to my program regularly may be shocked when I tell somebody their mother or father or spouse or even their child is a bum.  You may wince when I have them scream out how righteously angry they are at parents who didn’t protect them.   You may also sometimes recoil from your radio when you hear me push and push and push a caller until they reveal their innermost horrible truth.  Perhaps you’ve seen me as cruel…or hawking for ratings stemming from the drama.

The fact is, that as a professional psychotherapist I have long realized the value of dealing with the truth – as ugly as it might be.  I’ve seen and heard people fighting to keep ugly truths submerged as though it protected them.  In fact, the energy that goes into burying reality is huge, and not available for healthy living.

Not everyone who calls is willing or ready for this evolutionary leap in their lives.  Sometimes, they have to think about it more and come back later.  That’s fine.  The seed is planted.  I don’t see my job as making every caller feel happy at the end of our brief conversation.  I see my job as one of freeing them from their own personal jail of denial and avoidance, all of which lead to depression, anxiety, and poor (very poor) choices in life.

Knowing is always better than not knowing.  Several recent callers have demanded that I give them some magic to get their loved one to stop smoking or stop being obese.  I tell them to give up that ongoing, unpleasant battle, and simply enjoy the time they do have with that person.  Accepting what is out of your control opens you up to more happiness, because you are left with dealing with “what is,” instead of fighting to have it be something else. 

You can wrap your arms and joys around what is.  You can’t do the same thing with what you wish was the truth.