Let me start by saying that I am not opposed to medication. What I want to speak of here is going beyond meds, not necessarily eliminating them. I have recommended them and have taken them myself. Sometimes they are an extremely valuable asset in feeling well and functioning effectively. When we can’t get beyond symptoms to actual causes, insights and growth, medication is necessary. There are also many psychotic disorders and other mental conditions that have their roots firmly planted in brain abnormalities and in such cases, medication is not only necessary by often lifesaving.
However, how did we get to the state where normal human responses to events, circumstances, experiences and simply life, get classified as disease, and why did we go there?
The short answer is the DSM, Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, which has been around in some form since 1952. By turning psychology into a medical discipline and by giving human responses a “diagnosis”, the architects of the system have succeeded in turning everyday troubles and existential dilemmas in to “illness”, thereby by gaining the keys to the insurance treasury chest.
In 1980, the DSM III was the first to describe mental disorders as biomedical diseases which was intended to and did, reestablish psychiatry (and by association, all psychotherapy) as a medical specialty. Once diagnoses were medicalized, they could be medicated. This meant doctors could prescribe lots of expensive psychotropic medication, guaranteeing vast profits to the drug companies.
The DSM V now allows the sleight of hand whereby an unpleasant but vague, human and often ephemeral mental state, by giving it a name, can be magically transformed into a biological physical entity and then acted upon as if it were verifiable fact. Thus, anxiety and depression or almost any disorder must be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals or a genetic anomaly or some other neurobiological glitch which “explains” the disorder in the same way a “virus” explains the flu!
Why is this bad? Because once firmly locked in a box of diagnosis, no further exploration or questions ensue about what that person is actually experiencing or what psychological/spiritual meaning can be gleaned by the experience the person is going through. The diagnosis box begets the treatment box and the treatment is most like pharmaceutical. Something like 80% of all prescriptions for psychotropic meds are prescribed by primary care physicians. These doctors rarely refer to psychotherapy. A much better referral path would be psychotherapist to psychiatrist to medication if necessary.
In my view, we have human dilemmas so that we can find their meaning and through that process, move forward toward our goal of being our best, most enlightened, happiest self. We do not move forward through medications. Meds remove the obstacles to this movement. Often those who take only medication will stop all inquiry into what is happening to them, sometimes not even discussing the issues further with loved ones, friends, clergy, let alone a psychotherapist.
Medications may be necessary, but let’s understand that they don’t change personality. They alleviate symptoms only. If needed and necessary, they allow the true self to emerge. They can allow the true work to begin. YOU must still do the work. The meds may be necessary to make this possible. Many studies have shown that the efficacy of medications without therapy goes down drastically. In order to heal, the nervous system has to be calmed down. This, I feel, is best done through breath, meditation, exercise, sleep, yoga, recreation, nature, friendships, laughter, empathy, understanding and yes, psychotherapy. Medication should be the last resort, not the first or only resort.
I really want to stress that if you need a medication, don’t blame or shame yourself. You are not a failure if medications are necessary or used. In my view all things come from the One Consciousness, the Divine Core that includes all things including medicines. But again, we must look beyond medicine and this must happen whether or not we ingest them. Popping a pill will sometimes slow or eliminate symptoms but it never gets rid of the cause of our anxiety and a pill alone will not offer insight or greater consciousness.