Friday, 20 June 2014

The antidepressant age

"We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together 
Headpiece filled with straw..."

T.S. Elliot, The Hollow Men

Today's world is in stark comparison to the days of yesteryear. This is the era of over-prescribing and over-medicating. This is the medicated generation, and it's a shocking trend that's likely to continue growing into the foreseeable future.

In 2013, 70 percent of American adults were found to regularly take a prescription drug. That's an enormous proportion of the population. Not only that, but antidepressant medications are the third most frequently prescribed drug type among adults of all ages, and the most frequently used prescription drug by people aged 18 - 44 according to the CDC. It's perplexing that the use of antidepressants could be increasing so rapidly, and one question begs answering. Are we becoming less capable of managing our emotions? 

The young adults of today have a different view of pain and sadness. These days, any pain is considered unacceptable, and any sadness is considered a sign of deeper problems or weakness. You aren't sad because you've experienced hardship. You're sad because you have a chemical imbalance in your central nervous system. Or so they say.

It's not just happiness and joyous times that allow you to learn about the world as you grow up. A certain amount of sadness is inevitable, and it is this sadness that teaches us the most about life and the greater picture. Happiness allows us to paint a relatively sparse outline of the universe. You can understand how happy your friends and family make you feel, and form associations from that, but it takes the pain of losing them to truly understand what they really mean to you.
Source: Flickr

Sadness also teaches us to try again. That failure is inevitable sometimes, but we can start anew. It helps us strive to be better people because it is the driving force that allows you to see mistakes and learn from them, to meet the love of your life at the end of a long tunnel of failed relationships—to cherish the best moments whilst you're living in them.

More than that, every time we suffer through hardship, we become stronger, well-rounded people. You have to feel the whole range of the emotional spectrum and move through both the highs and lows before you can transform into a self-actualized human being. Sadness is just as much at the core of who we are as happiness and anger. The key is to learn from all these emotions and become balanced and stable as a result.

Of course, this isn't to say some people can't benefit from antidepressants, but the prescribing rates have run out of control and doctors are less likely to look before they leap. Antidepressants are no longer prescribed to handle recalcitrant clinical depression. Far from their original purpose, to help people who are needlessly sad for unknown reasons, they are prescribed to people to treat the symptoms of life.

Source: Flickr
If you lose your house—you need antidepressants. If you lose your lover—you need antidepressants. If you stub your toe—clearly it's time for the antidepressants. Doctors are less prioritized towards treating actual depression, and more apt to prescribe antidepressants just to numb their patients to the regular lows of life, and their patients are just as keen to be numbed.

It's become fashionable to see sadness as unnecessary, and to block it out by all means possible. For all it has done for our society—for all we have grown and developed due to it, we have cast it off. We don't want to feel that way and antidepressants are a means to block it out without having to look inside. 

The implications of this, could be severe. If we can't learn to deal with problems and treat them as the opportunities for growth that they really are, we will become stagnated as infants in a world we can't appreciate or cope with. We can't grow into balanced, stable adults who look at the world in a wise and responsible manner if we can't cope with our own emotions or work on our own identity.

If you make any change in your life, let it be the decision to allow yourself to feel how you are meant to feel. If you're struggling, or can't cope for whatever reason, don't just turn directly to psychotropic drugs to block everything out. Talk to friends, talk to your family, try a few different coping measures, look into counseling sessions if you have to. Don't rob yourself of the ability to feel, and don't rob yourself of the opportunity to live and grow, because you're missing out on more than you know.

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