The over-prescription of antidepressants and other medications in situations where psychotherapy should be a first recourse (and may very well be all the treatment needed) is increasingly common. A new report finds that in many cases, clinicians are going a step further. Many are prescribing antidepressants in very specific instances when their use is explicitly not recommended by widely accepted guidelines. Specifically, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder are receiving prescriptions for antidepressants during periods of mania, exactly a time at which antidepressants are not recommended as a course of treatment for the person’s emotional and behavioral state.
This is not to say that people diagnosed with certain mental health challenges do not benefit from prescription drugs. In some of the most serious cases, the combination of medication and psychotherapy has found to bring the greatest benefit to the patient: more benefit that either approach alone. But this report brings up a stark concern: what are the motivations of clinicians who go against recommendations, which are set in place for the benefit of patients, by prescribing medication when it is not recommended? In the study cited here, people who were described antidepressants during episodes of mania had significantly higher rates of depression after coming back down compared to people who were not given the drugs.
Psychotherapy may not be the single cure-all treatment for every single person’s issues. Many people benefit from relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, Others find balance through exercise or sports, or find outlet in visual art, music, and other hands-on, creative activities. But quite often, it is a combination of approaches that brings the greatest amount of growth and healing. Simply throwing a drug at the concern is neither effective nor safe. As more reports shed light on the way mental health issues are treated in various sectors of the health and mental health fields, perhaps this transparency encourages a higher level of responsibility among professionals of all stripes.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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