Have you read this BBC article about a major study finding that anti depressants work?
The conversation it has prompted risks using this research as justification to medicate more, and polarise a sensitive and complex issue.
Conversations around depression can be emotive. Depression impacts real people…you, your mum, son, brother, colleague, neighbour. The are actual people who are experiencing a really tough time. When people are experiencing depression they are low in resourcefulness and so are likely to be far more sensitive to discussions about something that affects them than potentially other people are.
First and foremost, let’s respect that.
Is it ok then to delve into public debates about the rights and wrongs of taking a medication that many feel is their lifeline?
The questions we ask determine the information we find.
Asking whether anti depressants work is polarising. It invites us to enter into a debate that focuses on one thing…the use of anti depressants. And my invitation is to go down that rabbit hole but change the question to something that could be more useful:
What is depression?
What are the causes of depression?
What supports people to recover from depression?
Humans are complex and wonderful beings who are meaning-making machines. We search and search for THE answer…when there isn’t one, there are many.
YOU are a complex being and so is every single person around you. Your body, while similar, has different needs to others. It may not have the ability to produce certain hormones or it may not process certain vitamins as well as others. It may be sensitive to some things that don’t bother others.
We all have our own ecosystem to nurture for us to be our best and healthiest selves. And for me, it’s important that we are each helped to understand our own ecosystem and how we can best support ourselves.
Anti depressants have a place. They are far from ‘happy pills’ and some describe, rather they are there to lift someone from depressed to neutral. That’s why ‘positive’ psychology came into being…to explore how to help people go from languishing (neither depressed nor happy) to flourishing (optimal mental and physical wellbeing).
Anti depressants are simply a medicine like any other. Sometimes people need a quick fix from their pain, enough so that it gives them access to their inner resourcefulness enough that they can heal themselves.
For others, their bodies and brains may never produce sufficient levels of what it needs and so a long term plan is necessary.
And others may not need pharmaceutical intervention as nutrition, exercise, lifestyle changes and/or talking therapies or personal development may be their panacea.
None are better or worse. It’s really important to stop judging and just use what works.
Here’s the thing, we ALL experience the world through our own lens.
- I am invested in the benefits of personal development because that’s where I hang out and in my experience it’s very beneficial.
- A therapist is invested in the benefits of therapy because that’s where they hang out and in their experience it’s very beneficial.
- The nutritionist is invested in the benefits of nutrition….
- The pharmaceutical companies are invested in the benefits of anti depressants….
There is evidence to back up every option so it can get muddy for Joe Bloggs to decide what is best for him or her.
That’s why it’s so important to trust yourself because no one knows you as well as you do, but I appreciate that’s a lot easier to say than do when your lights are turned off by depression.
Which is why it’s soooo important for people to appreciate and respect the uniqueness of each of our eco systems…and for each of us to to discover what we need and be curious about what others need, being aware of their own biases. What works for me may not work for you….and that’s ok.
Curiosity is key and here’s why.
A couple of years ago I really struggled with my mental health, my brain felt foggy, I couldn’t focus and I was tired ALL THE TIME. Classic depression symptoms. I did all the ‘mindset’ work yet nothing changed and to be honest, I spent a bit of time beating myself up as I’m a life coach for goodness sake…I ‘should’ be able to shake this off with inner work. But I couldn’t so I went to the doctors. He said it sounded like depression (as I sobbed in his office) but I asked for my bloods to be checked. It turned out I had a low thyroid and was deficient in vitamin B12 and D. Deficiencies in these cause depressive symptoms yet after some vitamin injections and being prescribed a synthetic thyroxin (my body doesn’t produce enough of it) I was back to full steam. Depressive symptoms = physical cause.
There is a strong correlation between people who have experienced several Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and then go onto experience depression (and other health issues). Without looking at the WHOLE person, it’s too easy to medicate without ever finding out the root cause. Depressive symptoms = potentially major depression = emotional cause.
Which is why it’s so important to be curious about the cause because depression isn’t one simple thing with one simple cause. Your experience of and the ultimate cause of your depression may not be the same as the next person. So let’s stop judging and instead get curious about our own ecosystems and what it takes to thrive.
If you’re in any way cynical about the use of anti depressants or depression, or indeed you’re jyst fascinated by our brains watch the video below. Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Daniel Amen has scanned over 50000 brains and found that the same cluster of presenting symptoms often have very different causes. If you’re short on time cut to 6:10 minutes for the section on depression.
And let me know in the comments what your thoughts are. I’d love to hear them x