Let’s All Trash Antidepressants (Not!)


I recently read an excerpt of the book A Brief History of Anxiety by Patricia Pearson, in which she more or less trashes every aspect of psychiatric drugs. She notes that people posting to websites comment on feeling emotionally flat or numb when they’re taking them, and says that they “yearn for their sorrow back.”

I am so sick and tired of hearing this over and over. For one thing, in the same way that companies generally only hear from dissatisfied customers and not the satisfied ones, you’re going to hear more from people who are unhappy with their antidepressant response than from people who are happy with it. Happy people are not still looking for a solution. They’ve moved on. People who are dissatisfied with their medication are either venting out of frustration or hoping someone has an answer.

Let’s get two things straight. One, if you are feeling numb on your antidepressant, it’s not the right one for you (assuming that you do need to be on an antidepressant). I was on Prozac for a year and it made me feel numb. Did I give up on taking antidepressants? No, I had my doctor switch me back to one that did not make me feel numb, that let me feel joy, and when appropriate, sorrow or pain.

Second, as far as yearning for sorrow, get a clue. Clinical depression isn’t just about sorrow. It’s about sadness and hopelessness and fatigue and yes, emotional numbness. And seriously, if you want your sorrow back, you’ve forgotten what it really felt like.

Since I was only able to read the excerpt, I can’t tell whether overall Pearson’s book is more balanced when it comes to antidepressants. I’m guessing, that since her experience was negative (she claims that an adverse reaction to them caused her to make a pass at her daughter’s friend’s mother), probably not.

She faults psychiatrist for not providing her with all the facts about antidepressants. But when I read that, I ask myself why an intelligent well educated woman didn’t do her own research on the medication she was putting into her own body.

I’m not picking on Pearson specifically, although it may sound like it, but using her as one example of the scores of people and media publications that are ready and eager to characterize antidepressants as addictive, dangerous and an easy way out. You sometimes hear them compared to street drugs. Guess what? If they were street drugs, there would actually be a market for them on the street. There isn’t.

As far as being dangerous, hello? Anyone ever hear of Vioxx? Lipitor? Almost any drug, or even natural supplements, has the potential to be dangerous. As far as them being addictive, yes, there are a few that do cause withdrawal symptoms when they’re discontinued, especially if they’re discontinued abruptly.

And when I hear or read someone saying they’re the easy way out, I think “Would anyone say that to a diabetic about insulin? Heart medication?” Even pain killers usually are considered more respectable than antidepressants by your basic “suck it up” personality.

And let’s not forget the rants about the “greedy pharmaceuticals.” Okay, I’ll go along with that one. But why is this frothing at the mouth about the drug companies so much more common when talking about antidepressants as it is about another class of drugs.

I’m not sure why it’s open season on antidepressants. My guess is that anything that alters brain chemicals just freaks people out more than other drugs. Well, guess what? It’s pretty freaky when depression alters your brain chemistry, too. I know which alteration I’ll choose, thank you.

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