In 2019 America, we are fortunate enough to be able to talk about our mental health openly. Therapy and other forms of counseling have become a normalized part of self care in our culture. Finally, people have started to acknowledge the importance of taking care of their minds — and that looks different for everyone.
As someone who is prone to anxiety and fights depression, I am often asked if I have considered taking antidepressants. I am aware that this has become increasingly popular amongst those who struggle to function with mental illness. However, I would say I’m more hesitant to medicate myself.
Antidepressants and other medications have proven themselves to be helpful in the healing and regulating process. A few of my friends have vouched for the medicine approach. But knowing that I can function without them, it worries me that so many people have been so quick to suggest that I take pills.
An article in Time Magazine from 2017 informed us that about 13 percent of Americans are on some kind of antidepressant. Given the most recent data available, the National Center for Health Statistics shows that from 2011 to 2014, about 13 percent of Americans 12 or older said they have taken medication in the last month. That number had grown 11 percent since 2008.
Looking at the statistics for the use of psychological drugs in America makes me nervous for a couple reasons: how quick are doctors prescribing these drugs to patients? And when do they take them off of it?
I can only speak for myself when I say that I’m not fully sure that I want something interfering with my brain chemistry. When I’m feeling my lowest, it is hard to cope sometimes. But then I wonder if I really would be better off finding something to neutralize my mood when it gets really challenging.
In a recent article from the New York Times, they covered the haunting reality that many people taking antidepressants discover that they cannot quit. A clip of the article says, “Many, perhaps most, people stop the medications without significant trouble. But the rise in longtime use is also the result of an unanticipated and growing problem: Many who try to quit say they cannot because of withdrawal symptoms they were never warned about.”
Antidepressants were originally created for short-term use (about 6 to 9 months). So why are so many people prescribed these drugs without an end in sight? Apparently when doctors first started putting patients on medication indefinitely, they had no prior data as to how it would affect them.
If you have challenges with mental health and struggle to decide whether or not to seek out medication, it is completely normal.
Taking care of ourselves includes what we decide to put into our bodies. The side effects of antidepressants range from nausea to sexual dysfunction to a worsened emotional state.
Medicine is for sure a possible solution. Many people have chemical imbalances and need stabilizers so they can function throughout the day. The pills are not the problem; the issue is that doctors are often too quick to prescribe it. People are becoming more and more needlessly dependent on pharmaceuticals.
As someone who experiences intense waves of depression, I have found it most beneficial to wait it out. I am patient with myself and with the emotions that are flooding my mind. While it can be intense and difficult to deal with, I have personally chosen not to take antidepressants. I’m cautious mostly because I believe that medicine is for severe cases. They were meant to be taken during emotional crises.
A crisis is not the same for everyone, obviously. And a one’s ability to handle a crisis definitely depends on the person. Doctors do want to help patients get better, but those who visit a psychiatrist may find it in their best interest to ask more questions when they are prescribed medication for their emotional needs.
Pay attention to the way your body and mind react to how you try to take care of it. It is possible that psychotherapy may be the best option for your mental health needs rather than antidepressants. It’s okay if you are hesitant to medicate. You may find that the best option is medication, there is no shame in that either. Be sure to take care of yourself, and be mindful of what you are using to help you heal!
Also published on Medium.