THE BLOG

Who Should Prescribe Anti-Depressants?

30/06/2014 16:00 BST | Updated 27/08/2014 10:59 BST

Having got me to understand the physical aspect of my depression and what was happening (previous article), Dr Cantopher then turned his attention to the anti-depressants I was being prescribed.

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I have always hated taking tablets unless I really, really have to. Unfortunately, for all the years I avoided taking even an aspirin to treat a headache, my injuries led me to the necessity of taking a lot of various forms of medication in order to cope with the pain. I swear that most days you could have picked me up and rattled me like a maraca!

Once my PTSD had been diagnosed I was quickly put onto an anti-depressant called Seroxat by my then treating psychiatrist. At the time this was a fairly new drug to have entered the market and I don't think that the side effects were properly known. As we are all different I appreciate that Seroxat may be the right anti-depressant for some and I agree that with the state I was in some form of medication was necessary. However for me , Seroxat turned out to be a worse enemy to me than the depression. Perhaps it reacted badly with the cocktail of other drugs I was being prescribed though, from reading up on other peoples experiences of it, I am not so sure.

My mood swings varied wildly, I sometimes hallucinated and imagined things that were not there. My behaviour was erratic and unexplainable, I was verbally abusive and began thinking of all the ways I could end my life. To shut out the jumble of thoughts that I could not seem to control I began to drink...heavily...which just exacerbated the problem.

While I was behaving totally out of character, the real me, the real Pam, felt like a deeply buried voice within me that no-one could hear. From inside myself I would watch and listen with horror as the automaton that was my body and voice continued down this path. Luckily my family came to realise that there was more wrong with me than just the PTSD so sought a second opinion on my behalf.

This led me to Dr Cantopher who realised what my symptoms were, was pretty damming in his opinion of Seroxat and immediately took me off it. He had to put me onto a new type as I was not well enough to come off anti-depressants altogether, but he knew what the potential side effects might be and monitored my progress on them. "We are going to treat these as you would a plaster cast on a broken leg", he advised, "we'll keep you on them while your mind heals and when mended we'll wean you off them". This course of action, while it was years before I could be weaned off, proved extremely beneficial in my case though, like many bad leg breaks, my healed limbic system will always be a little weaker than before.

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There is an argument, as I still suffer episodes of depression now and then, that I should remain on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. I understand why others might consider this a sensible course of action. However, and luckily Dr Cantopher accepted my point, the anti-depressants whilst very good at levelling out my moods so I did not suffer the extreme lows also stopped me feeling any highs which quite literally sucked the very joy out of life. I don't want to live on that grey, even, uninspiring plateaux and I am lucky that my form of depression is of a type that means I don't have to. I am also lucky that my depression happens in the form of short episodes rather than being a long, continuous affliction so for long periods of time I don't require any help at all.

Of course, anti-depressants are only part of the answer for depression. They must, and should, walk hand in hand with other forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy, NLP, talking therapies, hypnotherapy etc, etc. To rely on medication alone is, in my opinion, a slippery slope to never recovering or being unable to ever come off medication.

This is why I passionately contend that GP's should not be prescribing anti-depressants. They are simply not specialist enough to treat depression with medication. There are such a myriad number of types of depression (my next article) that it really takes a specialist to diagnose which form someone might have and how best to treat it. There are also a confusing array of anti-depressants, all with side effects, that a GP cannot possibly know them all without careful and intimate study. After all, if someone presents to a GP with symptoms of cancer they do not prescribe for it. It is immediately referred to a specialist for tests, proper diagnosis and treatment. Depression can be just as life debilitating or life endangering and it seriously worries me that a well meaning GP's uninitiated prescription could do more harm than good.

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So if you have to take anti-depressant medication I would urge caution as to what you take. Get the very best advice you can find before committing to anything. Realise that they are not a quick fix - it will take time and they should be used in conjunction with other therapies. Above all else, try to look at them as only a plaster cast that will help the 'break' in your mind to heal and be removed when it is.

Pam's book 'From Behind the Mask' tells the inspiring true story of Pam's experience before, during and since the Paddington train crash. Get your author signed hardback copy or download the eBook now from Pam's website: www.pamwarren.co.uk.