Sunday, August 21, 2011

Puritans and Antidepressants

A doctor weighs in.
So why is there so much hostility directed at these medications? (The same question could be raised with respect to psychiatry and psychiatrists, but that’s another story). I believe that a good deal of the animus arises from our Puritan heritage, and its attitude toward suffering, sin, and expiation. For the Puritans of New England, disease was essentially a divine punishment for Man’s original disobedience to God. As historian An Vandenberghe has put it, for the Puritans, ‘Even though there were more than two thousand different diseases…the primary cause of all of them was the “Sin of our First Parents.”’ There was also a strong link between disease and personal sin: the person whose tooth ached probably did something nasty with his teeth!

Now, when psychiatrists see patients with severe major depression, these unfortunate souls often express the view that their illness is a “punishment” of some sort. Some believe that God is punishing them for their sins. But this attitude, in a less extreme form, pervades our society’s views about depression—that it is, in some sense, the “fault” of the depressed individual. Some clinicians who argue that depression has an “adaptive” value often begin with the premise that depression represents the person’s “failure to resolve their social dilemmas”—a clinical euphemism for blaming the sufferer. The logical extension of this line of reasoning is that the depressed individual must somehow “repent of his ways”—for example, by ruminating on his problem until it is solved, or by “pulling himself up by his bootstraps.” (Read entire article.) 
(Via Dymphna's Well.) Share

14 comments:

Divine Theatre said...

I am adamantly opposed to medication for myriad reasons. None of which are based upon religion.
There are too many "ifs" involved, especially in the pseudo science of the mind. Psychology is theoretical at best.
I won't delve into this but I highly recommend reading the work of Dr. Thomas Szasz.

Andie

elena maria vidal said...

I used to believe the same way you do, Andie. I still think our society is over-medicated. However, I know that some antidepressants do help, having a friend who tried EVERYTHING to combat her depression (healthy foods, meditation, vitamins, exercise, herbal remedies) but it was a low dose of celexa that ultimately brought her back from the brink of complete collapse. I think a lot depends on getting just the right medicine and just the right dosage and combining it with exercise and getting enough sleep.

Divine Theatre said...

I am glad your friend is feeling better but I fear the medicine does more harm than good in the long run.
She is in my prayers.
Has she tried running or other aerobic activity? I have never met a depressed runner!

elena maria vidal said...

No but she worked out on gym equipment and took long walks every day. However, now that she is on the meds she has more energy and started swimming laps at the YMCA.

Dymphna said...

Thanks so much for the link!

Dymphna said...

I spent years toughing it out and all I can say is that life is SO much better without depression. Thank God for medication.

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome, Dymphna. I agree. Depression is often created by a chemical imbalance which can be corrected by the right medication. It can make all the difference in the world for many people.

Jacobitess said...

Dymphna is the first person I have ever heard of saying that medication has helped her with depression, and of course I won't contradict her personal story. However, all the people whom I personally have known became zombies, or worse, suicidal on those pills.

Furthermore, the doctors prescribing the medications invariably tried to lure the rest of the family in on the act. 'You're feeling down taking care of your despressed teenager? You need the pills, too!' I'm inclined to be skeptical towards a doctor's ideological defense of this procedure.

Perhaps a person here or there may be the exception that proves the rule with anti-depressants, but I would discourage anyone I love from chaining themselves to chose drugs for the sake of a doctor's pecuniary gain.

elena maria vidal said...

Jacobitess, I knew of a family that was messed up by all of them being on prozac and zoloft. Then my friend got on celexa and it saved her life. Since then I have known of several other people who have been helped by meds. I REALLY think it depends on the doctor and the type of medication...and finding the right dosage. The wrong dosage and the wrong drug can finish you.

Christina said...

Zoloft helped me conquer PPD and be a good mother to my baby. I am glad I got the medication when I did because I was in such bad shape that I had trouble bonding with her. If depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, then it only makes sense to try and correct those imbalances. We wouldn't tell a someone to try and "think" their way out of cancer or another illness of the body. Depression runs in my family and I can tell you firsthand that it just doesn't work that way. Just my experience.

elena maria vidal said...

That's been my experience, too.

Kristina Seleshanko said...

Anti-depressants have so many side-effects, including violence when trying to get off them...this is why most people oppose them, in my opinion.

I really don't see a religion connection among my friends who are staunchly anti-medication, either. In fact, most of them would consider themselves "non-religious." I think, for them, it is mostly a matter of distrust - they don't trust Big Pharm or the government.

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Jason Smith said...

Exhaust all conservative measures first before going to those that include medication or surgery, that’s what I always do. I don’t directly resort to medications or surgery because even if I know that they can help, they still can put me into some degree of risk. The patient is not to be blamed solely of his/her condition for there might be other contributing factors. Like the DePuy Hip Replacement Recall crisis, the device caused the patient’s suffering and is to be blamed, not the patient.