“Psychiatric diagnosis and treatment is particularly subject to fads and undue drug company influence because judgments are still based on subjective data that cannot be confirmed or disproved by laboratory tests.” – Allen Frances, Professor, Duke University
The statistics on people who suffer from depression are staggering. For example, according to the National College Health Assessment of college students (carried out by the ACHA):
- 86.8% of students felt that they were overwhelmed with what they had to do.
- 86.1% felt like they were exhausted.
- 61.0% felt very sad.
- 57.3% felt very lonely.
- 46.5% of student felt hopeless.
- 31.3% felt so depressed that they found it difficult to function.
- 7.1% seriously thought about committing suicide.
- 5.5% intentionally bruised, burned, cut or physically hurt themselves.
- 1.2% attempted suicide.
A significant percentage of people in the above survey undoubtedly suffer from a clear-cut chemical imbalance that can be helped by (and only by) medication. By significant, I don’t mean 61%. I mean fractions of 1%. Everything else is the ups and downs of life. Part of being human is learning to ride through that rollercoaster without falling off.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to determine whether a person requires medication, or if a more proactive life-oriented action would be more productive, such as change of diet, lifestyle, career, relationships, etc.
Steven Rinella on Joe Rogan podcast mentioned the counter intuitive notion that when you’re camping and you’re freezing, you don’t want to move, but the right thing to do is to start moving and in so doing you begin to feel great. I think of the state of depression in the same way. It’s a dark place that you get out of by doing stuff you don’t want to do at first.
Some cultures treat people suffering from major depressive disorders as weak whiners that just need to suck it up, while other cultures treat anyone who is sad with a daily dose of medication and multiple therapy sessions a weak. There must be a healthy middle ground erring on the side of prescribing medication only when all else fails.