(the anatomy of a massive cocktail of drugs) or “In the age of anxiety, are we all mentally ill?”

What happens to the mother in the below excerpt from an article is extremely common. First she intuitively feels her anxiety shouldn’t be medicated and then the drugs make the issue worse. Her observation is not taken seriously by her medical team. This is where coercion often starts in psychiatric care. Her own bodies wisdom is denied by her “care” providers.

She stopped and thought about what was happening, perhaps, before ending up on a massive cocktail of drugs. Not everyone is so lucky. Many people take an SSRI, get worse, and then instead of listening to their gut instincts, listen to their doctor telling them the reaction to the SSRI is actually indicative of further pathology requiring yet another drug. This is a tragic thing that can lead people to take multiple drugs that are essentially only being prescribed to minimize side-effects of the drugs before them. It’s like a domino effect and I’ve corresponded with countless people over the years who have shared similar stories. I’ve seen it among 100s more in the psychiatric drug withdrawal boards I’ve spent so much time on. This is one of the sources of the epidemic that Robert Whitaker so eloquently documents in Anatomy of an Epidemic.

From Reuters: In the Age of Anxiety, are we all mentally ill?

When Cynthia Craig was diagnosed with postpartum depression eight years ago, she told her family doctor she felt anxious about motherhood. She wondered whether she had made a catastrophic mistake by quitting her job, whether she could cope with the long, lonely hours stay-at-home mothers face – and even whether she should have had children.

“Anxiety is something I have always had, especially during times of change,” said Craig, 40, who lives in Scotland, Ontario. “But I was never worried about the level of anxiety, and it never prevented me from leaving the house, driving, socializing or even speaking in front of people.”

Her doctor referred her to an anxiety clinic, where a nurse asked Craig dozens of yes-or-no questions – are you afraid of snakes? do you hear voices? do you vomit from anxiety? – and made a diagnosis. “She said, ‘Let’s call it Generalized Anxiety Disorder with a touch of social phobia,'” Craig said.

That didn’t feel right to her, but the clinic’s psychiatrist agreed with the nurse and said Craig’s concerns about motherhood constituted an anxiety disorder, a form of mental illness, and prescribed Pfizer’s Effexor and then GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil. Craig says the drugs exacerbated the very anxiety that she doubted required medication.

Craig’s case is one of millions that constitute an extraordinary trend in mental illness: an increase in the prevalence of reported anxiety disorders of more than 1,200 percent since 1980.

<snip>

…(some)  say the apparent explosion in anxiety shows there is something seriously and dangerously wrong with the DSM. Its next edition, due in May, would lower the threshold for identifying anxiety.

The criticism rests on three arguments. First, the DSM fails to recognize that anxiety is normal and even beneficial in many situations, so it conflates a properly functioning brain system with a pathology. Second, the DSM’s description of anxiety is more about enforcing social norms than medicine.

Finally, they say, anxiety is adaptive. Its brain circuitry was honed by evolution for a purpose. Only when that mechanism misfires should a person be diagnosed as mentally ill.

“No human emotion is more basic than anxiety,” said sociologist Allan Horwitz of Rutgers University. “Many forms of it simply should not be categorized as disorders, because they’re the result of the way people evolved thousands of years ago, rather than something going wrong.” (continue reading)

To see how this domino effect took over my life read: A portrait of poly psychopharmacology

My story may seem extreme, but I saw it done routinely in social service agencies and again and again among the 1000s of people I’ve now communicated with via the internet. It doesn’t happen just with anxiety. It happens with all diagnosis. Any drug applied to psychiatric distress has the potential of exacerbating symptoms. When this happens it is routine and acceptable protocol in psychiatry to add further drugs rather than stop the first offending drug. Being aware of this can help if you or any loved ones consider using a pharmaceutical when in distress. It’s okay to tell your doctor that you believe the drugs are making you sicker because it’s often the case whether they want to acknowledge it or not. If your doctor refuses to listen to you go to someone else or find another means of coping.

This blog speaks to many alternative means of coping and healing both.

If one needs to find a way off a large cocktail of medications (or just one drug too) one might start considering the process by reading: Withdrawal 101

The process of withdrawal can be problematic and even dangerous and it’s best to thoroughly educate yourself before starting since it’s often sadly the case that those who prescribe these drugs know little or nothing about safely helping people discontinue them.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters