Nothing puts people on a high horse quite like telling others what to do with their body (with the exception of telling people how to raise their children).
People love to talk about diets and weight loss. They like to give “advice” on what you should do. Lately, I’ve noticed the (maybe) well-intentioned yet unsolicited advice is more about psychiatric medications. Instead of telling others how to drop a few pounds, it’s how to drop their medications.
It’s insensitive to talk about someone’s weight, and many of us know this. It’s just as insensitive to talk about someone’s psychiatric medication usage.
I’ve found that there are three types of people who like to tell others to get off their meds. In their own ways, all of them are uninformed — partly because my body is none of their business.
The testimonials are people who used to take psychiatric medications. They generalize their experiences to an individual. They tell you every med they used to take and how they’re “so much better” without them.
It’s true that some people can come off their medications and never need them again. It’s true that medications can make things worse for some people. But our brain chemistries might as well be fingerprints — they’re different for everyone.
There are also a lot of compounding factors when it comes to who can come off meds and be OK and who can’t. Antidepressants may be prescribed for situational depression, meaning there’s a particularly trying time in your life and your doctor thinks medication may help you come out of it more effectively.
Then there are patients who are prescribed multiple meds who end up feeling tranquilized or “out of it.” They taper off the medications and understandably feel better. Polypharmacy is a huge issue in psychiatry, but that is a post on its own.
If someone is able to stop taking psychiatric medication, that’s great. I’m a big proponent for doing what is right for you. This doesn’t mean I can come off my medications, so please stop with the patronizing.
The all-naturals may include some testimonials. These are the people who believe if you take this supplement or do that diet, you won’t need the medications anymore.
It’s true that your lifestyle can have an impact on your mental health. Multiple research studies have shown regular exercise has mental health benefits. I’m not minimizing the importance of taking care of your mind and body.
Assuming people who take medications haven’t tried nonpharmacological therapies is the problem. Most people who take psychiatric medication do so in conjunction with other treatment approaches like therapy or lifestyle changes. Our brains might need that extra push medication gives us.
Giving unsolicited advice might also hit an emotionally sensitive topic. Very few people who take psychiatric medications find the right medication the first attempt. Medications may also be the last resort for someone who has tried everything else (therapy, lifestyle changes, etc.) but still needs help.
If you must give your two cents, maybe suggest something you found helpful without making it seem like the Holy Grail. For example:
“I tried ____, and it seemed to help with my energy. I know you said your energy levels are a little low, so I thought I’d let you know in case you wanted to look into it.”
If the person doesn’t seem interested, back off. There’s a difference between being compassionate and demanding we try something to “help.”
Conspiracists like to talk crap on Big Pharma. I mean, I do too. It’s no secret Big Pharma cares more about making money than helping people. That’s why we have people pinching pennies to pay for their medications, even with insurance.
Conspiracists like to tell others that psychiatric medications were made up for people to buy pills they don’t need. They tell people that doctors are in bed with the pharma companies, so they’re more likely to push medications, even if you don’t need them.
Yes, psychiatric meds are some of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. I’d even say some medications are overprescribed, but this doesn’t mean psychiatric medications aren’t beneficial for many.
Recent research shows that antidepressants do work, and researchers hoped the results would quell some of the wariness about the medications. The researchers did point out that we still don’t know exactly why antidepressants are effective, and there’s a great need for more research into this and other treatment options.
You can criticize the health care system, the lack of research funding and Big Pharma. Don’t criticize those of us trying to feel better.
My medications, along with therapy, have helped me rediscover myself after my diagnosis of bipolar 2. They don’t change who I am. If anything, the depression stole me from me, and the medications helped get me back.