Many individuals who are prescribed and use antidepressant medications may not have met criteria for mental disorders. Our data indicate that antidepressants are commonly used in the absence of clear evidence-based indications.
That’s the verdict of a recent article in The Journal of Clinical Psychology which found that 69% of antidepressant users never met the criteria for major depressive disorder.
The studies almost exactly mirror some placebo studies which usually find about 60-70% of people prescribed with a placebo do just as well as those given an anti-depressant. No wonder, if 70% of them never met the criteria for depression.
As usual, many with their own agendas have jumped on this news to continue their campaign against all medication for mental illness. Such knee-jerk reactions forget or ignore that the statistics still leave 30% who have been accurately diagnosed with depression, many of whom do benefit greatly from medication.
Just as we should campaign vigorously against shocking misdiagnoses and horrific over-prescription, we should also advocate compassionately for the 30% who have been accurately diagnosed and who desperately need such medications.
And the numbers are massive. According to psychiatrist Julie Morris, at least one in every four American women are on antidepressants and one in seven men. That’s tens of millions of people who are being treated for a non-existent disorder. But it still leaves tens of millions whose sanity, and even their lives, depend on medication.
When I am counseling anyone with symptoms of depression and the subject of medication comes up, I always make the following points:
Don’t rush to it: Usually meds shouldn’t be the first option we consider. There are many other things we can do first before resorting to meds.
Don’t rule it out: Yes, many would rather not be on any med, and yes, they should try other means including biblical counseling, to aid healing and recovery. But meds should never be totally ruled out, especially when the grounds for ruling them out may be sinful pride, over-simplistic anthropology, or false presuppositions.
Don’t wait too long: While rushing to meds is to be avoided, so is waiting so long. You may sink so low that it’s going to be much harder to emerge from the pit. The deeper you sink, the longer the recovery.
Don’t rely on them alone: I’ve never seen anyone recover from depression on meds alone. I’ve seen many people do really well who use meds as part of a holistic package of care for the body, the mind, and the soul.
Don’t dwell on side-effects: Some people (a small minority in my experience) experience side-effects from anti-depressants. If you read enough on the Internet, you’ll come across the most extreme examples of this. Side-effects should be weighed, but so should the side-effects of doing nothing. Especially consider the side-effects on other people in your family of your refusing to even try medications because of the possibility that you might experience some side-effects from the drugs.
Don’t be ashamed of meds: Just because some misuse and over use them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. Try to view them as a gift of God and ask for God’s blessing upon them. Also pray for researchers as they seek to develop more drugs that will be more sophisticated and successful in the future. And pray for your doctor that he/she would diagnose you correctly and, if necessary, prescribe the right drug for you as part of a balanced package of spiritual, physical, mental, and social measures.