Profits Over Patients: Psychology and the Pill-Pushing Economy
I'll never forget how in my late 20s, when I was struggling with anxiety-related issues, I went to a psychiatrist and after a 2-minute conversation describing my life circumstances he prescribed me anti-depressants.
It was surreal how easy it was for him to give me drugs, especially because I wasn't ambitious about taking pills for my problems. At the time, I was working a stressful call center job and I started developing panic attacks while I was at work.
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I believe I may have been having panic attacks for a while but I just didn't recognize what it was. They eventually switched my role to something that was far less stressful but after a year, they moved me back into the hellish role I initially escaped from.
Within a week, I had my worst panic attack while at work as I felt a sense of doom overcome me. With my heart racing, I came off the phone and sought out a supervisor begging him for some time off the phone to calm down, which he in corporate fashion denied my request.
After that incident, I went on medical leave as I tried to figure out what to do next. However, this meant days of isolation at home and that's when agoraphobia started to develop (which isn't uncommon for someone experiencing panic attacks).
The first time I felt scared to leave my house, I knew something was wrong and that's when I decided I needed professional help. I was never a fan of taking drugs for the sake of it and I wanted to conquer my issues with strategies and traditional therapy.
After a couple of weeks, my therapist said that I should go to a psychiatrist to see if they'd recommend me taking medication in addition to going through the therapy process. I didn't know what to expect as far as an answer, but I wasn't expecting what happened.
I'd never met this doctor before and in about 2 minutes of describing my situation, he wrote me a script for Paxil and suggested I come back if it's not helping or if I have side effects. For the first time, it felt like I met a doctor who was nothing more than a drug dealer.
Despite my uncomfortableness with how I received the drugs, I reluctantly tried Paxil to see how it would affect me. I returned to work after a couple of weeks and experienced one of its side effects: constant coughing. On top of this issue, I didn't feel any different.
After this, I started listening to my instincts and dove head-first into a therapy-only solution. I had a lot of unresolved issues to get over and I needed strategies to manage stressful situations.
In the beginning, I went 3 times a week and cried in most of my sessions. It was a relief to explore those areas of my past instead of pretending like they didn't matter. I was avoiding what was painful to acknowledge that I needed to confront so I could move on with my life.
By the time I was done seeing my therapist, I left my job and had broken up with my girlfriend, as this was also an unhealthy relationship. I could have stayed at the job but it was a hindrance to my professional growth and was a toxic corporate environment.
I learned to be more mindful and developed strategies to manage stressful situations. When you do these things enough times, you develop a habit and that was ultimately my goal. After this, life didn't get easier but I felt stronger and more capable of managing it.
I am a huge proponent of therapy because I've seen what good therapy looks like. A good therapist is supposed to arm you for the world and get you well enough to where you're no longer their client.
The psychology field appears to be riddled with therapists who want to confirm your victimhood and make you a long-term patient and doctors who are greedy pill pushers desperately trying to get a cut of Big Pharma profits, patient be damned.
Too often we talk about psychological issues as if they're always permanent when many of us are just reacting to our life circumstances and need help managing it. They're supposed to be temporary problems, but they make more money off of us if they are able to convince us that these issues are permanent.
I know there are good people in the psychology field, I am friends with some of them, and even they see this downtrodden trend of overprescribing and coddling patients for profit. So, my suggestion as a former patient: exhaust all options before swallowing a pill.
There is no overnight fix for your issue and it takes months, if not years, of mindful behavioral decisions in order for you to create a habit. Some of this work might involve a therapist but the real work starts at home. The professionals can help, but only you can fix yourself.