Are We Over-Medicating Women For Depression?
Are We Over-Medicating
Women For Depression?
I can get emotional. It’s true. Not just me, either. Many women get emotional and sometimes we’re just plain moody. Chalk it up to hormone fluctuations, unexpected situations, or the fact that many of us feel this unending nagging pressure to trudge up Status Quo Road in order to be the type of women that society (and Hollywood) expect us to be. Additionally, many of us are quite empathic, which leads us to literally feel what YOU are feeling.
Research shows that women in general tend to be more adept at feeling their emotions and being led by them. It’s not always a bad thing. I actually think that it’s a good thing that we are emotional to a degree; it’s a sign of health.
Interesting Fact: 1 in 10 Americans take antidepressants to combat depression.
Interesting Fact: 25 percent of women in their 40s and 50s take antidepressant medication, which is a greater percentage than any other group. This is my age bracket. Although such meds can be beneficial for someone who is clinically depressed or suffering with an intense anxiety disorder, many women are being wrongly diagnosed. In fact, according to a study several years ago published in the Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Journal, almost two-thirds of the 5,000 patients sampled were diagnosed as clinically depressed, yet they did not meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (D.S.M.) criteria. 
Not to mention that anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs are supposed to be short-term aids to reduce or eliminate symptoms, yet many women end up on them for decades or lifetimes. Are we overmedicating?
Showing emotions can be empowering I used to suffer with depression and anxiety. In fact, most of my life I simmered on depression. I didn’t take medication for it. I didn’t get counseling. I just went day to day with this mask on pretending that everything was alright and it wasn’t horrible by any means, but still. I felt heavy. I’d bought into the fallacy that accomplished women don’t show negative emotions. I learned at an early age to stuff, repress, and suppress negative emotions and continued to do so until my mid-30s. It was then that the dam broke and I feel as if every emotions I’d stuffed since birth came flooding out…
All emotional hell broke loose. It was through a process of finally tending to a lot of old wounds and an emotional hangover that I learned that expressing authentic emotions is actually quite empowering. It’s not a sign of weakness or immaturity (although it can be if you’ve not dealt with these things at a deep level in your psyche) Now I could have immediately gotten on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, or at the very least self-medicated by drinking. Believe me; I wanted to, but at the same time I had this inner knowing that if I did, I would not be getting to the root of my issues and I would never experience true happiness.
The pressure to medicate Yes, many women find relief through medication. I’m not discounting that one bit. In fact, I know women who are happier and less anxious on meds and I’m happy for them. What I am concerned about is that many women will walk into their doctor’s office and immediately state that they want to go on such medications and the doctor will oblige without much of a discussion or a referral to counseling. I might add that many psychiatrists will do the same.
Most women are prescribed antidepressants that boost serotonin transmission. These selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (S.S.R.I.s) help you to feel “better”. This is wonderful, but what the doctors don’t tell you is that while they can curb your sad or anxious feelings, they can also numb other emotions that you might want to feel; like excitement, joy, empathy, creativity, etc. Not to mention they can kill the libido, which totally bites.
Maybe we’re sad because of our lifestyle
When my emotional dam broke, I had no idea how to process the tidal wave of emotions. I tried to repress and stuff them back down and I just couldn’t. For the first time in my life I was out of control. Sure, it was because I was going through a life crisis. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or make sense of much at all. My doctor told me I could try an antidepressant. Though I was hesitant, I took that sucker for one week and was glued to the couch most of the time with no energy. No thanks. Not for me, so I vowed to try more natural and alternative ways to treat the depression and anxiety so that I could overcome it; not just manage it. Maybe many of us struggle with these emotions because of the lifestyles we lead.
We strive for excellence, we work damn hard (bordering on workaholism), we wear masks, we distract, ignore, rush around, jump from one lover to another, neglect sleep and nutritious foods, and many women self-medicate with alcohol. I think that the world needs more people who will embrace their emotional nature, take some time and effort to contend with an unbalance or their dark night of their soul in natural, spiritual, and alternative ways, and move forward clothed with compassion, empathy, and vulnerability.
I’ve learned that it’s alright to own and express my emotions (negative and positive) in a mature and healthy way. When I’m feeling sad (which I certainly do at times), I’ve learned to sit with such feelings momentarily; feel the sadness.
Be mindful of the energy I’m feeling. I accept the feeling, as our emotions are simply trying to tell us something. I embrace it, ask it to speak to me, give it some attention, and interestingly enough as I do, it tends to dissipate. It integrates into my energetic body and I feel lighter. I am not my feelings.
The alternatives to medication for anxiety There are a number of alternatives to anxiety medication, and some women might find it useful to try these alternative methods. Just like with any mental condition, stress, anxiety, and depression is usually solved on a trial-and-error basis, where the patient will eventually learn to manage their emotions through a combination of different factors.
Counseling. For example, group therapy or one-to-one counseling can provide someone with the support they need just by talking through the problems they face in life. While some medication can alter brain chemistry or come with a raft of side effects, good old-fashioned conversation can prove to be the solution that many patients are looking for, especially when they have nowhere else to turn.
Meditation. Meditation has proven to be a wonderful technique to help lessen depressive symptoms. In fact, I firmly believe that this technique has been my life saver over the past several years. What does meditation do? It actually has several benefits, as it reduces anxiety, helps you get your thought life under control, get in touch with your inner self, Creator, and process and heal old wounds that could be causing you to feel sad.
Fitness. Other medical professionals might suggest exercise as a natural way to beat the blues, especially cardio-vascular or resistance training, which can help to release endorphins in the brain (known as the body’s “feel good” chemical). Finally, making healthy changes to your diet can also play a crucial role in how you feel, especially if you opt for natural whole foods instead of processed meals and junk. Incorporating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit into your diet can have a wide range of health benefits, and a diet consisting of high protein and low fat can give you a much-needed boost whenever you feel stressed.
Stress and Relaxation Techniques
Yoga. Yes, yoga enthusiasts state that when they began consistently doing yoga, they experienced less anxiety and depression. Combining breathing exercises, various stretching postures, meditation, and a wonderful philosophy, yoga rocks!
Acupuncture. The Chinese are full of wonderful alternative healing techniques and acupuncture is a leading one. Those little needles an acupuncturist uses really do manipulate your body’s flow of energy, getting rid of energy blocks and helping you feel better!
Spirituality. Many men and women have found healing via religion or spirituality. I can vouch for the validity of belief in a higher power helping to get through my dark night of my soul.
Art, music, and dance therapy. I dare you to try this! Get your creativity juices going!
Supplements. I’ve not used any of the following, but I’ve heard good things from women who use them. Consult a natural physician before taking any of these supplements. Please.
- John’s Wort
These are but a short list of many alternative paths to emotional health. Women, it’s alright to feel your feelings. All of them, but if you’re struggling consistently with depression, it’s time to really get proactive in contending with it. Remember that what works for one might not work for another, but we have options. We don’t have to run straight for medication, but more so as a last resort. Getting through depression is a journey, but I’m fully confident that we can make informed decisions about treatment and help one another out along the way.
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.