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Really have no comment. Wanted to delete my initial comment, but could not find “how” to. Thanks.
None of what you have said is “hard for me to believe” as I have heard these arguments before. I am an educated individual with an MS degree. My BA was in Psychology. I have read peer reviewed, scientific articles that actually do indicate that there are chemical and structural differences in brains from those who have Bipolar disorder than those that do not. I never indicated that the brain was “broken” or that a brain would be “fixed’ by a medication. I do feel it can manage certain mental illnesses, but I do not see medication as a cure or “fix all”. And I have never had any psychiatrist tell me that a medication would cure my illness. Often one will help for a long while, then it has to be changed in time. My illness is chronic and thus far, there is no cure. Not all those who suffer with a mental illness have trauma in their lives, so that throws out the idea that we need to recalibrate from the past. Some people do not even show symptoms until they are much older, as in both schizophrenia and Bipolar illness. My DX actually are; ADHD, C-PTSD, Bipolar 1, Somatic OCD… etc.(I have had others, but those stuck around) Do I question these diagnoses??? YES. Do they define me??? NO. I definitely know that I have a brain issues as I have struggled on and off since the age of 6 with YEARS of therapeutic approaches that never “recalibrated” my brain. Some of my symptoms are only controlled with medication. Other symptoms, if I practice religiously meditation, etc. (which is nearly impossible with the episodic mania, depression), I can see some relief. Bottom line, a diagnosis (from the DSM) is just a way to describe a set of symptoms and ultimately helps to file an insurance claim for reimbursement. Any psychiatrist (good one) will share that they use them to “point them in the right direction” for treatment modalities and possible medications. I have had psychiatrists who wanted me off of all my medications. And all of them have actually disagreed (some in large ways, others in small) in the end with certain diagnoses. However, none of this takes away from the FACT that the biological illness (that no matter how hard I have tried), has disrupted my life and I am actually on disability currently. I worked for over 20 years, even getting an MS degree, but my illness was that disruptive and exacerbates my chronic pain, IBS, and migraines. I also am someone who would rather it NOT be called “mental” illness as it affects my physical well being as well. And when you separate the two: mental and physical, there are inequalities that exist in the treatment and even payment from insurance of these disorders. “Mental” illness causes MANY people to be on disability as it is very disruptive and I feel if it were treated as a biological illness, perhaps it would be taken more seriously. After all, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America.
I do not believe I ever stated that there were NOT other ways to address a mental illness. I do know that many of those who struggle with schizophrenia actually are seeing benefits with only psychotherapy and other approaches. I was referring to my own lived experience of 30 years with Bipolar illness of which I know without medication I function very poorly. That being said (and I edited this out of my last comment b/c it was getting to LONG)… I actually do feel many medications are harmful. Benzodiazepines do make things much worse (not to mention can kill you if stopped abruptly), and should not be used but very briefly. And yes, I do feel that certain medication have caused people problems. I think I shared above that I have declined MANY prescribed medications over the years, even for “physical” ailments. Yes, some antidepressants for some people have increased suicidal ideation and have made things worse. There are those who do benefit from them, I know of people in my personal life who have taken them for YEARS and they are helpful. That being said, I lost my best friend to suicide last October and she was on a new medication (safris or saphris, not sure of spelling) and I do feel it may have lead to her suicide. She wasn’t the same after being hospitalized.
As far as the DSM, I actually do not like the current classification system. There is plenty wrong with it. And I do feel that many of the current diagnoses have lead to stigma. Often because some of the labels have been hijacked by the mainstream and used in daily vernacular.
I still feel that most mental illnesses are caused by am imbalance or a structural issue within the brain…. this could have resulted from stress over time, etc. We are literally just a bunch of chemicals in the end (highly organized and complex) and I have read studies that show biological differences between those who suffer and those who do not. I have even seen non-pharmaceutical approaches, like meditation, that shows compelling evidence that it can repair certain chemical and biological structures over time when practiced.
I question everything. I KNOW I struggle with an actual “brain disorder”. Your brain is the central command for perceptions, emotions, executive functions, etc. etc. etc. When an individual begins to have very distressing hallucinations, delusions, and acts in erratic ways there is obviously something going on with the brain. It could be a brain tumor. It could be a stroke. It could be dementia. It could be a side effect to a medication (some antibiotics cause mania, etc.). It could be a food intolerance (that can cause depression, anxiety, etc.) Etc. Or it could be what we now call a “mental illness”. I feel the brain is a complex organ, in our lifetime and beyond we are not going to “figure” to all out. I think it is laughable that anyone would believe they can dictate to anyone what is TRUTH or not… even science is only a collection of observations and theories. Science cannot indefinitely prove a phenomenon. And humans are only classifying and agreeing on semiotics to define the phenomenon occurring.
Someone had made a “claim” Bipolar people are living a lot shorter lives due to the pharmaceuticals and I challenge that ‘theory”. Plus, I looked it up and it is not 25 years. It is 9-20 years. There are too many other variables to weigh than to isolate 1 variable and say that is the cause for the shortened life span.
In conclusion, in my 30 years of being treated, I was never once told a pill would fix anything. I was told it might lessen the intensity of my episodes. I have been prescribed countless meds over 30 years and I routinely refuse medication as I am one to weigh the benefits and risks and sometimes the side effects are not worth it in the end.
Science is just a way to describe phenomena that is occurring. I agree that we have a LONG way to go in the field. I said already that most things are layered in corruption. I am not a huge fan of capitalism and having healthcare be the business that it has become. And it’s truly sad, but money is driving everything in our very capitalist society. Until we find a way to separate money from the acquisition of pure knowledge for the sake to improve lives… then research will have bias. And there can be biases that influence consumers away from medication… naturopathy is a HUGE market and often many of their products have turned out to be harmful too in the end (like certain essential oils that have not been tested).
Anyway, I probably won’t write much more. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. I know that I am made up of chemicals in a highly organized system and yes my system will always strive for homeostasis, but sometimes that cannot be entirely reached. My illness has been truly disruptive and difficult to manage. Thanks for the discussion.
I personally do not like NAMI and have never felt that I benefitted from their organization. That being said, I do feel that mental illnesses are often biologically derived, and medications for some, are helpful. I’m somewhat confused by some of the comments here. Many of the comments seem to be very anti-science (not just anti-pharmaceuticals). Medications have many times helped me to return to my baseline. I feel most mental illnesses do stem from a chemical imbalance. That doesn’t mean that ALL imbalances need to be treated with pharmaceuticals, but for some people who suffer, medications have been a true “game changer”. I do feel that certain environmental influences, like abuse, or a traumatic event, etc. can cause the brain to “misfire” and become imbalanced. The brain is like any other organ and with repeated stress to it, certain pathways can be formed or activity can be diminished that can cause true dysfunction and disability. My MRI imaging actually showed areas of my brain that were more “lit up” than in a “normal brain”. When I am episodic, non-medical approaches have not worked for me. I do not separate my brain chemistry from the experiences or stressors in my life, but see the interplay between the two, as both impact one another. We all are part of a system of continual flux. Those who have a genetic predisposition or who endure trauma as a child more than likely experience chemical changes in their brains that may cause increased hormones and adrenalin that later in life result in illness or disease. I feel the process is complex and something that cannot truly be articulated well here. I still feel pharmaceuticals should be a last resort and if possible something you eventually can live without in time. But for some, like myself, they are necessary. I seem to do better with a mood stabilizer overall. If I am not on a medication I am more likely to quit jobs, have suicidal ideation, and feel truly dissociated. I’ve had 30 years of therapy, hold an MS degree and will STILL argue that medication are truly helpful for ME. I feel stigma is created when others deny mental illness and insist it is something that can be easily controlled with certain behavioral “approaches”. Where I can agree that trauma can be a definite trigger or even a cause, once the brain becomes truly imbalanced, it can take medication at first to even get to a point where therapy and other approaches are effective. I do mindfulness, meditation, yoga… but I also take my medication. And I do not take it because I have been manipulated. I take it because when I have tried being completely off of it, (primarily mood stabilizers), I have decompensated to dysfunction.
So, the comments here concern me. I just cannot get a sense of what people are truly saying. I can see how medications should not be the first line of defense and I also get that NAMI and pharmaceuticals are corrupt. Nearly everything is these days! But as a 30 year consumer, with a serious and persistent mental illness, I find some of these comments truly irresponsible as they seem to only discourage people from taking their medications. Every time I have started a new medication, I have done ample research and have weighed the pros and cons. It is for that reason, I have declined MANY meds in my lifetime. People do need to do the research on each medication they ingest!!
In the end, I agree we have a long way to go in understanding mental illness. I do feel much of these illnesses are derived from allergies, food intolerances, immune issues, and then just trauma and other stresses that impact the development of the brain that predisposes some to illness later in life.
I know personally medication has helped me, but I also do many of the other natural approaches… acupuncture, medication, mindfulness, weighted blankets, CBT, DBT, essential oils. magnesium, other supplements.. etc. It should be a holistic approach.
And if people can get back to baseline and stop a medication… that is IDEAL!! So, yes I agree there is corruption. I see the issues with NAMI. But, I do feel mental illness is a true biological illness, disorder, imbalance… and that does not mean it HAS to be treated with pharmaceuticals, but some have helped certain struggling.
Some of these comments worried me and I wondered what qualifications people possessed to discuss these concerns. Some seemed a bit extreme and misleading.