Thursday, 29 September 2011

Anti-depressants are like pain killers - they don't treat the cause

It is shocking to hear the latest statistics on the number of anti-depressants being prescribed in some parts of Scotland, (see 

The fact that around 1 in 10 adults take these medicines says a lot about the pressures of the world we live in, and the number of people struggling with low mood and anxiety (the two often go together).

Of course it is easy to leap into a polarised view, seeing anti-depressants as either a panacea for all problems or alternatively a way of avoiding the underlying difficulties we are grappling with. Neither perspective in its extreme is helpful. Anti-depressant medicines are a form of pain relief, and as such have to be used with care and thought. Like any form of pain relief, it is not always sensible to avoid addressing the underlying cause of what is hurting. Yet to ignore the fact that things can sometimes be too painful or difficult to address without anaesthetic, is equally unhelpful.

Sometimes, of course, things heal over time (often as the situations or circumstances that invoked our painful feelings change or we adapt and adjust). However often they don’t. Then a different approach is needed – one involving understanding the problem and finding ways to address it. This approach isn’t necessarily easy or pain-free. It involves talking, and working at it, with someone else who can help. However, if this has the outcome of resolving things once and for all, it may well be a choice that is worth making.

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