Should mental health disorders be treated with medications?

Pillspills

I did not realize it but there is a population of people out there who do not believe mental disorders are illnesses. They don’t believe in the “disease model” for mental health issues and believe people should not be treated with medications. When I heard this I wondered what makes a disorder worthy of an illness label? And why wouldn’t there be something wrong with the brain if you had a psychotic episode?

Some people actually believe a psychotic episode is a “normal” response to certain life events. They also believe most people would do better without anti-psychotics than with them on board.

And then there is the evil empire pharmaceutical industry theory, which says pharma pays big bucks for drugs to be developed and approved so they can make profits, as if the sole purpose for all the scientific work is some preconceived conspiracy. Pharmaceutical companies did not create schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Sorry but I’m not buying this theory. They research compounds that make a difference and when they are successful they make lots of money. This is the American way. Without the profits there would probably be few life saving medications.

When I heard this view point I was a little shocked. It seems we have come so far with people understanding mental illness as an actual “illness” instead of just a state of mind and something you can control without any intervention. I suppose it really makes a difference as to what mental disorder you are talking about—but who gets to decide what is a serious mental illness that needs medication and what is a disorder that can be controlled with a behavioral modification program. Explain this to a person having a full-blown psychotic episode.

I am all for differing opinions and debates. It’s healthy discourse and keeps everyone in a position to back up what they say. But I’m really confused about why psychiatry continues to have so much controversy in utilizing treatments. I agree that not everyone who is prescribed an anti-depressant or anti-psychotic needs one, but that’s just how it is with every therapeutic class of drugs. There is always over-utilization and under-utilization of different medications.

I have suffered with bipolar disorder most of my adult life and have finally gotten to a point where the medication regimen seems to have stabilized me. I’d hate to go back off all my medication only to find myself very sick again. It’s hard enough to fight depression while trying different medications let alone stopping all medication all together. And I can’t afford to leave mania untreated because it almost always results in a psychotic episode. As far as I’m concerned psychosis is a dangerous state of mind and I don’t want to experience that again.

Just because we can’t see the broken “brain” on x-ray doesn’t mean it’s not broken. There are many diseases that we do not understand the cause. We can’t always know conclusively how a medication really works. Sometimes you have to use common sense and be okay with the unknown. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and trust that people studying mental illness treatments are doing so with ethics and integrity.

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Should mental health disorders be treated with medications?

  1. I could not agree more! I love this post! You could even take that last paragraph, and the line “Just because we can’t see the broken “brain” on x-ray doesn’t mean it’s not broken…..” and build so much on that. People need to be educated, and that is one powerful explanation! Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy, two thoughts here.
    1) Those who don’t “believe” that mental illness is a disease simply need to start living in the 21st century. Cancer is a disease. Diabetes is a disease. Anything that causes unnatural changes in body chemistry, causing the body harm, is a disease. Is the brain not part of the body?

    2) Re: Pharmaceuticals. a) I understand a “natural” approach to healing; that’s been around for centuries. Some respond to natureopathic remedies, some need chemical intervention. I’m one of those. Chemicals have saved my life.

    b) As for a profit, I understand reasonable profit. However, I also understand that the industry charges exorbitant amounts of money for life-saving medication (cancer, kidney disease, bipolar, etc.). They charge way above a reasonable amount. I’m sorry, but when there is no generic brand and no competitive company making the pill, and a single dose costs $250-300 – that’s exorbitant.

    Those who are uninsured or under-insured fall down a black hole of deciding every month between groceries and medication. I was one of those. I tried everything. I cut my bipolar meds in half, then in quarters just to survive. I was supposed to take a post-chemo medication (breast cancer) for five years, but couldn’t afford the expense the last year. That drug alone was over $1,400 a month.

    Attitudes AND costs have to change.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Amy, You hit the nail on the head! One point to add, when people are sick and meds are helping us get on our feet, we don’t care what you think. I’ve seen this debate for over 30 years, it’s great, all the people w/o mental health issues talking about a brain not functioning properly as if it were a blister. Do I think every child/teenager on ADD/ADHD meds should, no. Each one requires a strong look at total picture. I once read of a 2 year old on ADD meds, I about went thru the roof. What child under 5-6 isn’t going to look ADD/ADHD some days. I look at my kindergarden report cards recently, disrupts class, won’t stay in her chair, talks during class, interrupts teacher, doesn’t share, it goes on. I wasn’t either one of those, I was a child who was severely abused and acted out to get attention. Attention from people would not hurt me. I see this pattern for many years in my younger life. I used to lie and say I had some horrible cancer, just for someone to care about me for one minute. I’m a bit off track however that is the whole point. Sometimes the parents need a kick in the ass and to take meds themselves. All meds are over prescribe and not always with malice. I look at my medical team and they have spent 15 years making the best decisions of my behalf. I had a say if the side effects were to much, I knew my Psych wasn’t driving a Bentley. I trust them with my life. In fact during a very difficult time, I told him, I look forward to the day when he and God weren’t keeping me alive, just God. It’s about finding the right doctors, I went thru many wackos before I found the one. There are many illness that don’t form a scab or ravish your body yet there are all these others. One last point for someone who is 50 and doesn’t care what people think about me. We each need to learn about our own and child’s needs, once you have more info make an informed decision. I don’t live for others, just my health. If I’m not healthy, I can’t enjoy the life I have. Sorry to rattle on Amy. I only speak the truth and sometimes it hurts.
      Warrior

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      1. Looking for the Light,
        Thanks so much for your comment. I think what is most important is that you have found your way to recovery regardless of what other people may or may not think..and that is what makes a difference!

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      2. Hey Looking for the Light,
        I’m glad you liked the post enough to send it to your therapist! 🙂 Anyhow, I’m having a much a better day. Adjusted meds..seems to be working. Thanks for asking.

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    2. Hi Susan,
      I actually agree that pharmaceutical companies get way to greedy with their profits hurting innocent people and the uninsured. But what I don’t agree with is that pharmaceutical companies create disorders or diseases to drive profit, especially in the mental health area. When it comes to anti-psychotics the price of the drugs are really expensive and some people can’t afford the cost. On the other hand, there are lots of programs out there for people who qualify to get free medications. It’s not a fool proof system. But we do have more and better treatments today than just 20 years ago. I think we are moving in the right direction.

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    3. Bravo. Well said. Agree wholeheartedly. My father when he studied business in grad school conducted a study for the pharmaceutical industry that indicated they could make more total profit selling at a lower margin because they could sell to (treat) more people, their market would increase (more people would be helped). But the industry did not want to hear it. Ridiculous! Not even rational good business sense. More people could be helped and more total money could be made.

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  3. Very insightful, Amy. I wish I could blog as well as you do. It is difficult to wrap your mind around that people really do think mental illness is not an illness. Seriously, anyone who thinks mental illness is not an illness, then they should spend a month dealing with one and without medication and see how well they do. They just don’t get it. I just think its their ignorance and that ignorance feeds into stigma. We NEED to fight that ignorance and the stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gertiesjourney,
      Thanks so much for your comment and your kind words about my blogging. I agree with you…I wish we could have those “doubters” live a month with a mental illness and get back to us. I’d like to have them spend a month in the psych ward too–just for fun! 🙂 And I do think if we keep talking about these issues we will knock down stigma one post at a time! Thanks again.

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  4. The antipsychotic “seroquel” has been my game and life changer. No more racing, disordered, paranoid or suicidal thoughts. I want to live rather than thinking about suicide every day. And I have reconnected with the world. The obsessions have all but abated and the attention is far better than it used to be prior to seroquel.
    Antidepressants, in the absence of seroquel, exacerbated my psychosis.
    Ironically, when I was paranoid I believed all the conspiracies that abound. Now they are relegated to thoughts of fancy and former delusions.
    Reality is great.

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    1. glenn2point0,
      So glad you had great success with Seroquel. It is refreshing to know when we need medication it is available and that today we actually have several choices, including the choice not to take medication. I just wanted to make sure people knew there was a relatively large movement that includes well known psychiatrist who are talking about these issues. I completely agree with you..I”ll take reality anytime, even if I have to take a medication to get me there! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  5. If the brain diseases we all suffer from were dealt with instead of ignored until we have a psychotic break of suicide attempt then MAYBE there might be more people who, after a short term intervention of therapy and meds, can continue the trajectory of an un-medicated existence after the fact.

    Until people on the look out for these diseases rather than purposefully trying to disprove their existence nothing can change. We’ve just got to keep talking loudly about them.

    Great article. I agree with everything Su said, further up there ^

    All the best,
    H&J

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    1. drheckleandmrjibe,
      You make some great points about early intervention and treatment of mental illness. Research tells us that the sooner people are treated the better outcomes they will have…and often times treatment means a combination of medications and other remedies. I just wanted to make sure those of us who have brain diseases were speaking out on the topic so we can continue to make sure our voice is heard. Thanks for your comment!

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  6. Great post. With all the stigma surrounding mental illness, the LAST thing we need is stigma around the medications that may help us. It can be devastating to realize you can’t “fix” yourself by yourself and may need intervention from outside sources: having people belittle a viable treatment option doesn’t help in the slightest. (Can you tell I’ve been there, done that? 🙂 )

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    1. Chibi Jeebs,
      Thanks for your kind words about the post. I agree with you that the last thing we need is a movement of people telling us we shouldn’t be using medications that work for us and in some cases have been life savers. This is really what motivated my post..I wanted to tell people it’s okay to take medication especially if you need it. Thanks again for commenting.

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  7. Very well said! I have debated the medication, no medication thing for so many years for myself. When the medication works, I do very well. This was an awesome post. Thank you for writing it.

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  8. Honestly, I feel lucky that I live in an age where medication is even possible. There was a time when the mentally ill, like myself, were housed in jails and chained to walls. Of course they make money selling the medication but it costs a lot for the research and to get it approved. It can take years. I don’t mind paying for my medications, those medications make life possible for me; marriage, college etc.

    But I do remember in a general pysch. in college and the teacher asking if the class thought medications were over prescribed. The class was very energetic in there reply of “YES!” The teacher said that they know that medication has turned around the lives of people but that didn’t seem to matter to the class.

    It’s all about understanding and stigma. My husband, who is ‘normal’, knows the importance of medication but he also has lived with me for 6 years. Maybe those people haven’t really talked or gotten to know someone who openly talking about having mental illness and taking medication.

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    1. No doubt medication has helped many of us with mental illness. I recognize that when treating any disease/illness you are always going to have inappropriate utilization of the drugs. It happens with every drug category, not just psychiatric medications. But many people who advocate for no meds focus on how the psych drugs are over used. The problem is they don’t tell you how many of us have recovered and gone on to have good lives because of the medications. They can be life changing. Thanks for commenting.

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  9. My life would be miserable without medications. It took a while to find the right ones because I was misdiagnosed at first. My first psychiatrist wanted me to join a study about food and vitamins etc. I didn’t have money for medications, or really to see him, but he supplied me with samples from the drug rep. He said as long as he told them the # of patients that couldn’t afford the medication they would supply him.

    My psychosis started out minor and progressed until around 3 years later I had a total break with reality and had to be hospitalized for over a month to bring me back to stability. I was trapped in an absolute nightmare.. paranoid delusions and conspiracies.. seeing nightmarish things all the time. Medicine brought me back to reality. In diagnoses: schizophrenia it says that schizophrenia is a progressive disorder and that people that stop meds tend to relapse within a year of stopping them, to the tune of over 90%. I never want to go back to not having a med to deal with that ever again.

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  10. I am going to take the contrarian view here. I do not trust that many researchers funded by Big Pharma are completely ethical and honest. Many of them are motivated by profit, and they overstate the benefits and understate the potential harmful side effects of drugs. Robert Whitaker wrote about this very convincingly in his recent book, Anatomy of an Epidemic.
    Nevertheless, if you take medication and find that it works, that it works. It does for some people. The problem is, there are a number of studies showing that a majority of people taking medication long-term for psychosis / schizophrenia / bipolar do worse, rather than better, over the long term – compared to those who never take medication. These studies are summarized in Whitaker’s book. They are also discussed at length in Paris Williams’ excellent book on schizophrenia, Rethinking Madness.
    As for what makes a disorder worthy of an illness label, it has to be reliably identifiable by physical factors that are very consistent from person to person. This is not the case with a condition like schizophrenia or a personality disorder. They are based on subjectively assessed behavioral-psychological traits that must reach a certain threshold intensity for inclusion in the “diagnostic” picture as assessed by an outside observer. It’s quite well established that different psychiatrists will diagnose the same patient with different disorders, as well as that the DSM keeps changing and investing new disorders. On my blog, I write about this problem extensively. Psychiatry would like us to think that we can pigeonhole people in these simple categories, and that taking a pill will make most people better, but life and human experience is not that simple.
    No offense intended by this post again. As you said, it’s good for everyone to have their own opinion. If you are finding help through medication, all for the better. However, many people are not, and so I thought that needed to be noted as well.

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    1. Edward,
      I write from my own experience and know that without medication I would not have a functional life. My experience speaks to that, though I understand people are resistant to medications. It is the risk vs. benefit equation and for myself and many other people living without medication is a serious risk. However, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I respect this view. I simply know of too many people who have resisted treatment and have lived a life in and out of the hospital. For me, I prefer remaining stable on a medication regimen and for me there is no other option.

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