Should medication such as antidepressants be a last resort or are they required in the treatment process? I realise everyone is different but it seems as though they are too easily prescribed and are a band aid solution. What are your thoughts on how medication should be used?
Thank you for your great question! Considering how medication is used for mental health is really important, especially given your point that they are so easily prescribed these days.
Whether or not medication is used in the treatment process for depression/ anxiety is dependent on each individual situation, severity of symptoms, the person's history with mental health concerns, coping mechanisms, and support network.
From a holistic psychology perspective, antidepressants should not be prescribed as a ‘band aid’ or ‘quick fix’ solution. They may soothe some symptoms temporarily, however will not assist individuals to develop and/or build helpful changes in the brain in a long-term way. Research shows that developing new healthy thoughts and behaviours, and learning skills to manage anxiety or depression, largely relies on talk therapy and assisted professional support rather than on solely medication. In cases where medication is used, outcomes are most meaningful and effective when it is taken in conjunction with supportive therapy, as well as engaging in self-care activities such as eating well, moving your body, and having health social supports around you.
It is also helpful to consider that sometimes we experience strong symptoms for a reason. For example, if there has been a death in the family, or a significant life change, big feelings can come up, and it may be important to seek support to safely feel and express those emotions (with people you trust or with a therapist), rather than seek medication as a way to numb, avoid or 'fix' the emotions.
This being said, medication does have a place in mental health treatment, and can be helpful if symptoms are severe, making it difficult to focus in therapy, or function in everyday life. Medication can also help as a booster or help to ease off some symptoms, while you are actively engaging in talk therapy or accessing support. In other words, it is most helpful if used while also in therapy as we mentioned above.
If you are considering medication, here are some helpful questions you can ask your GP or Psychiatrist -
1. What are the side effects of this medication?
2. Can we make a plan together so that this is only a short- term solution for me?
3. What might I experience when taking this medication?
4. When can we book in for a review?
5. Can you recommend a therapist I can see?
Unfortunately there is no straightforward answer to whether someone will benefit or not from taking medication, as there are many factors to take into account, and every person's situation is unique. It also depends on your own personal views and your individual way of looking at health treatment. Some people prefer to consult alternative practitioners prior to taking medication, such as a naturopath or acupuncturist. If you're already seeing a therapist, chatting to them too about medication can be useful.
When making the decision whether antidepressants are right for you, it is important to consult with at least 1-2 medical practitioners and do your own research to help inform you as much as possible. It can be helpful to consider that no decision is permanent. If you do decide to take a prescription and find that it doesn't work for you, you can chat to your GP/psychiatrist/therapist and see what other options are available to you.
Wishing you all the best,
~Thania and Christina ~