Why are we so unhappy?

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“Who are we?” a recent New York Times headline asked. The article, written by Dr. Richard A. Friedman, questioned how doctors are going to answer questions from adults who have taken antidepressants since they were teenagers. Friedman wrote that since we develop most of our self-identity when we are teenagers, these medicated adults cannot differentiate their own personality from the symptoms of the drugs such as anxiety, low sex-drive and an inability to orgasm.

Sure, the side effects of blurred vision, headaches, nausea, weight gain and so on are better than someone committing suicide. My objection is that doctors hand out pills too readily without trying other remedies. When I stopped in a doctor’s office for something completely unrelated, the form they handed me was a series of questions of things I’d ever experienced. Naively, I marked the check box next to depression. When the nurse looked over my form, she said, “Mmmm, I see you checked depression. I’ll have the doctor prescribe you some medication.”

Although I turned down her offer, I remained flabbergasted by how easy it was to acquire a prescription. The only way it could be any easier is if grocery stores stocked it next to Advil and Tylenol.

I’d known one of my friends for 12 years when she began taking Zoloft to cope with daily pressures in school and her mom’s rapidly approaching death from diabetes. When I saw her on her third day of taking antidepressants, she moved as though sleepwalking, just going through the motions. She said that she wasn’t sad anymore, which was good. What jarred me was when she told me, “I can’t get happy anymore. I don’t feel anything.”

I read an article about a woman who was depressed because her husband was mishandling their money. When she told her doctor, he prescribed an antidepressant and she allowed them to fall into financial ruin– but at least she wasn’t depressed. This isn’t an isolated case of medication being handed out in place of therapy, which can help a person through difficult times and move forward.

Depression is a normal condition that most people experience at least once in their lives. Antidepressants should be saved for people with serious, life-threatening depression who have tried healthier alternatives first. For most people, therapy will get them through a rough patch. Sometimes, better nutrition will lift spirits enough to avoid medication. A lack of B vitamins and hypoglycemia brought on by eating too much sugar are both causes of depression. For people not taking birth control, a supplement of St. John’s Wart may cure depression.

Once a patient is on antidepressants, doctors don’t like to permit the person to stop taking it, because of the unstable results. Antidepressants are highly addictive, and after someone stops taking them, they may suffer from Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. Withdrawal symptoms include depression, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, nervousness and shock-like sensations, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Once people start taking antidepressants, many figure they’ll take them for life. However, they can have life-impacting consequences. For those wanting to bear children, several health reports have shown antidepressants like Paxil to cause defects in the fetus.

If your doctor wants to prescribe antidepressants, ask them about healthier alternatives before taking something that may affect the rest of your life.

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