Depression – Pills and Skills

I am all for clients taking medication for anxiety, depression and other metal health issues under supervision of their GP or Psychiatrist.  However, I often say to clients that if only have pills they run the risk of having not skills to cope with issues.  I am not sure if pills alone are a good idea in all circumstances. 

Anti-depressants are among the biggest-selling drugs of all time. Antidepressants supposedly lift the moods of those who suffer depression and are taken by millions of people in the UK every year. 

The popularity of the new generation of antidepressants, which include the best known brands Prozac and Seroxat, soared after they were launched in the late 1980s, promoted heavily by drug companies as safer and leading to fewer side-effects than the older tricyclic antidepressants. In the UK, an estimated 3.5 million people take the drugs, collectively known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), in any one year, and 29 million prescriptions were issued in 2004. Prozac, the best known of the SSRIs made by Eli Lilly, was the world’s fastest-selling drug until it was overtaken by Viagra.

I am a counsellor and therefore a big believer in “talk therapies” for depression along side medications. Cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT has been a highly successful treatment for depression.  In previous centuries depression or melancholy as it was called was thought to be caused by the lack of wisdom the person had to live their life by.  We have progressed further along in our understanding of the brain but some of this early ideas depression still ring true.

Depression isn’t just a random chemical event but has an emotional logic which makes it a very accurate guide. It kicks in when I’m not listening to what I really know, and when I’m being harmful to myself.  Psychologist Dorothy Rowe says that “depression is a lie detector of last resort. By knocking you out for a while, it allows you to ditch the out-of-date ideas by which you’ve been living and to grasp a more accurate description of the terrain. It doesn’t have to come to this, of course, and most people are able to discern their own truths perfectly well without needing to be pushed by an illness. But my imagination is strong and it takes some people longer than others to sort out pleasing fancies from delusions”.

Depression is an important gift, an early warning system I ignore at my peril. When you become depressed you have a choice. You can choose to make your depression a prison from which you get rare glimpses of sunlight, or you can make it a tough school which teaches you wisdom.

Source from Counselling Australian Vol 13 No 2 Winter 2013 page 4 “Revisiting Kirsch’s  ground-breaking study about the effectiveness of antidepressants” by Irving Kirsch et al

“Depression: The way out of your prison” by Dorothy Rowe