The Myth of Psychiatric Medication

  • 2 Apr, 2018

The Myth of Psychiatric Medication

by Dr. Frank Tornatore

Psychiatric medications is certainly helpful in ameliorating symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar illness, depression, anxiety, as well as many other mental illnesses, but they are not curative. Unfortunately, the medical model has contributed to the belief that mental health disorders can be treated like medical conditions such as diabetes.  In diabetes, biological markers such as blood sugar, hemaglobin A1c, and physiological symptoms are utilized to assess the disease. However, no such biological markers are available in mental health, making symptoms the only mains of assessing mental health. A patient with depression may have symptoms such as weight loss or gain, waking up in the middle of the night, or anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), however, despite extensive research, there are currently no known biological markers available to assess depression. Furthermore, if a patient's brain scan was analyzed, there is no specific region that can currently be identified as the cause for mental disorders.

Currently, patients with depression given placebo (sugar pills) were shown to improve by 40% while those who took antidepressants improve by 70%. Though not curative, this certainly lends support to the use of antidepressants, particularly in severe depression. Biological theories of depression such as the biogenic amine hypothesis, pro-inflammatory cytokine hypothesis , and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) receptor theory will help increase our knowledge in the treatment of mental illness. The current view on depression is that neurotransmitters are altered, resulting in mental illness symptoms, and medications can address this alteration. Perhaps alterations in neurotransmitters in the brain can also be addressed through lifestyle and perceptual changes through therapy. In a society fixated with instant gratification, people have the fantasy that medication can solve any mental health issue. In fact, if mental illness can be resolved with medication then there would be no need for the field of Psychology. Epigenetic factors, which are responsible for gene expression and corresponding systems, also play a bigger role in mental health disorders that may be more prominently biological, such as dementia, bipolar illness, and schizophrenia.

The need for a holistic approach to mental health that relies not only on medication, but in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and
commitment therapy, and other practices, are important in the overall treatment and lead to a synergistic effect. I encourage you to schedule a 10 minute free appointment to discuss if your medication is needed with psychotherapy to improving your mental health.


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