There's No Shortcut to Happiness
I am not a doctor, these are just my opinions. I was looking into antidepressants and found some harrowing
statistics from the CDC that I think are important and I want to share.
• One in six Americans takes some kind of psychiatric drug, like anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication.
• Eight in 10 of those adults reported the long-term use of those drugs.
• Less than a third of Americans taking an antidepressant have had an appointment with a mental health professional within the past year.
I'm frightened by this data, but in no way am I shocked by it. When I was younger, my parents gave me candy bars, pasta, hot dogs, and other unhealthy foods to make me happy without considering the potentially harmful side effects. Now, it seems Americans are turning from white bread to white pills to soothe themselves without considering the big picture.
There are people out there with actual chemical imbalances for whom psychiatric drugs can be life-saving. Of course, I'm not advising against that. I'm only suggesting that Americans who are experiencing depression or anxiety caused by stressors in their lives are turning to medication both too quickly and too thoughtlessly.
We all experience stress, worry, anxiety, and sadness at some point. That's a natural part of life. But today many of us are running to get a prescription without putting enough thought into the decision. Unfortunately, some doctors are quick to oblige. This is what I call a designer diagnosis—you're stressed about something, you can afford the doctor's visit and the medication, so you pop a pill to feel better.
But many of these psychiatric drugs have serious side effects that shouldn't be glossed over. Just listen closely the next time you see a television commercial for the antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication if you can—they talk extremely fast.
These drugs can cause nausea, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, agitation, and anxiety. Some can also have much more serious side effects, such as an increase in suicidal thoughts, induced comas, and even death. These harmful side effects often have to be treated with other medications that have side effects of their own. That's a lot to take in!
You may be thinking to yourself, then what am I supposed to do when I'm faced with a hard reality like the loss of a loved one or foreclosing on my home? What if I need help coping? My suggestion is to take a more holistic approach.
Change your environment.
Before delving into altering your chemicals with medicine, try to improve your environment first. You could brighten up your home, get rid of clutter, treat yourself to a new wardrobe, or even spend some time in nature. When I'm especially stressed, I'll take a short vacation to clear my head. It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for a person's mood.
Usually, you can isolate a noun that's getting you stressed out: bills, school, marriage, etc. If you're unsure, I suggest keeping a journal to help you identify what's causing your anxiety. Once you've done that, try to remove those stressors from your life—if you can. Personally, when I've been stressed about bills, I've cut up every credit card in my house to eliminate unnecessary spending.
Take care of your body. If you're feeling low, it's important to fight through the impulse to sleep in, eat poorly, and do nothing. Instead, encourage yourself to take care of your body. Get out of bed. Go for a walk. Eat clean, healthy foods. The psychological and physical benefits of doing so may help reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
Confide in someone you trust.
If you're struggling with feelings of anxiety or depression, talk to a friend or spouse. Be sure to confide in someone who has your best interests in mind and wants you to feel better as much as you do. If you're dealing with something that feels more intense than a bad mood or normal everyday stress, you may want to see a qualified therapist. My advice is to find someone who has a lot of experience in the field and has a balanced view of the role of medication in treatment.
If none of that works, and you still feel poorly, then you may want to consult with a doctor about medication. The important thing is that the decision is a deliberate one. Weigh the pros and cons, consult with one doctor (or two or three and never stop taking medication without speaking with the doctor who prescribed it. Stopping cold turkey is extremely dangerous), and make the best decision for you and your long-term health.
Psychiatric drugs should not be used as a band-aid or a shortcut towards happiness. It's my belief that most of us already have the power within ourselves to cope with the adversity that life brings. Isn't that sort of wonderful?.
Norman Balassiano's company Angels of Debt helps people resolve the massive business debt. Angels of Health will try to accomplish the same with weight loss and stress control.