You see people with eyes clouded with hazy sadness, and wonder why are 27 million Americans taking widely prescribed drugs for depression?
Depression rates in the U.S. “have roughly tripled over two decades,” according to several studies, reported in the lead story for the CBS News TV show “Sunday Morning,” March 18; while also stating that “in America that represents 27 million people” taking pharmaceuticals such as Wellbutrin, Celexa, Pristiq, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor and Prozac; that was once proclaimed on a Time Magazine cover titled “Prozac Nation.” In turn, more and more people are whispering “did you hear that so and so killed themselves, while the infamous quote about suicide: “I’m going outside and may be sometime,” is also being heard more during these uncertain times. Overall, this dark state of mind is bringing millions of Americans to tears after complaining to their doctor that they “feel depressed" and need help. In turn, the solution for these depressed people is a pill of some sort.
“The End is Near” views doesn’t help depressed people
A man walks down the Pacific Coast Highway with amusement lurking in his eyes; while carrying a hand-made signboard asserting in bold black letters: “The End is Near.”
Nearby, along a stretch of the Oregon coastline, a couple holds each other with a tinge of sadness in their eyes as they gaze out to sea.
Meanwhile, a man took his life Saturday morning, and now friends must “deal with it,” said one food service worker with her eyes hooded, and mouth pursed. She then reveals that the man who committed suicide “was depressed for a long, long time.”
At the same time, a poster at a senior center warns those getting up in age “To Seek Help if You’re Depressed;” while explaining that depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being.”
In turn, one senior told Huliq during a March 19 interview over a cup of coffee that he sometimes feels “real sad,” and “I don’t know why?” The senior said “it’s a feeling of being sort of anxious, you know empty or even hopeless and, yes, helpless at my age.” The senior then shares that he’s also had problems concentrating, remembering details about his past. And, he added: “I can’t sleep sometimes and in the morning I don’t feel like getting out of bed.”
One could say “join the rest of the country” to this depressed senior after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported finding “nine percent of 235,067 adults surveyed in 45 states who met the criteria for current depression.”
Depression resists Spring’s bloom of hope
Depression is an affliction “that seems to resist the rejuvenating power of Spring,” reported the CBS News “Sunday Morning” TV program March 18 as the “subject of our Cover Story;” while then explaining: “Here's something depressing: The Centers for Disease Control says roughly one in 10 Americans is depressed - the Land of Opportunity apparently offering a lot of opportunity for misery.”
"It really started to take hold for me in my 40s, and I would have these depressive episodes," said novelist Louis Bayard. "In the middle of the Starbucks line, I would just, like, start welling up with tears. So that this was happening was very strange to me and I couldn't figure it out."
Bayard had no obvious reason to cry; in fact, he seemed to have every reason in the world to be happy, he explained in this Sunday Morning interview: "I was living a really good life by my standards," he told Spencer. "I was doing the work I wanted to do. I had people to love. I had a nice house. I had all the sort of markers of happiness, right? And it still wasn't sinking in."
Depression has been recognized as a medical disorder since as early as medicine started, said, Jerome Wakefield, a professor at the New York University School of Social Work.
"Basically for 2,500 years there is a tradition in which people have recognized that at times something goes wrong with people's ability to process loss, or it goes wrong where they're just generating sadness in an unstoppable fashion that immobilizes them," said Wakefield.
Depression just sort of happens to people
Dr. Richard Friedman also told CBS News, during this March 18 Sunday Morning interview, that some of the problems with depression that can all of a sudden arise: "People have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep. They have a change in their appetite. Their energy level's low. They start to have a lot of negative thoughts about themselves.
"It's like wearing a dark pair of glasses," says Richard Friedman, a psychiatrist at New York's Weill-Cornell Medical College - and more and more people are seeing the world through those glasses.
"The rates of depression have been going up over the last several decades, in most industrialized nations," Dr. Friedman told Spencer.
Depression rates in the U.S. have roughly tripled over two decades, according to several studies. In America that represents 27 million people.
Why so much depression in America today?
CBS News also reported that “several studies claim rates of depression are three times today what they were just two decades ago. But as usual in this complicated field, not everyone agrees. Professor Wakefield says there is no real spike is in depression - just a spike in diagnosing it.”
"What's happened is that the definition of depressive disorder has gotten so generalized, covers so many forms of sadness, that these figures have exploded and encompassed many people who are having normal reactions to loss," Professor Wakefield said.
In turn, Wakefield says just turn on the TV, and you'll see commercials bent on convincing people that they're depressed.
"We have direct-to-consumer advertising, where pharmaceutical manufacturers can tell the public, 'If you experience sadness, you're unhappy with your child and your spouse, you're not yourself for a period of time, you should see a physician, you may have X disorder,'" he said. "Now, I'm not saying that these don't have sometimes a good result, of certain people who need help going in for help. But it also reshapes our cultural view of what is normal range emotion that individuals can handle, and what needs to get medication or needs to get professional help."
At the same time, Professor Wakefield explained that “I think we are getting to that point," and that’s to be more or less brainwashed into taking these pharmaceuticals as a quick fix for their blue periods, sadness and depression.
To put it in perspective, added CBS News, “more Americans take antidepressants than go to the movies each week - an estimated 30 million. That's about double what it was just fifteen years ago.
What depression meds do to the brain
"I was concerned that it was going to turn me into this smiling zombie of bliss, you know, with a cloud of Disney birds around my head. I thought it would alter me in some fundamental way,” explained novelist Louis Bayard of his real fear in taking Paxil and other drugs to treat his depression.
But in fact, Baynard said, “something very different happened: Nothing at all, or so it seemed.”
“Louis Bayard is not alone in his uncertainty,” added the Sunday Morning report. “Depression is almost as big a mystery today as it was at the dawn of medicine.”
In turn, Professor Wakefield told CBS News “even today we still do not know why people get depressed.”
"We are putting drugs into people's bodies that may be helpful, and that's necessary sometimes in medicine. But if you ask, can we say for sure what the mechanism is that caused the depression, and by which these drugs are helping, and what the long-term effects if you stay on it for endless years - we just don't know. That's the reality,” Professor Wakefield explained.
Depression happening to people in a hurry
In the new bestseller, “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them,” by authors Joe and Teresa Graedon - who both hold Ph.D.’s as medical anthropologists – say one reason for 27 million Americans taking drugs to help ease their depression is “these days, everyone is in a hurry.”
In turn, the authors explain that “patients want a quick fix,” and thus it’s no surprise that medications to help ease one’s depression “are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States.”
“At last count, over 160 million prescriptions were dispensed for pharmaceuticals such as Wellbutrin, Celexa, Pristiq, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Zolioft and Effexor,” states the Graedon’s in their new book “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”
At the same time, the Graedon’s explain: “The most likely explanation for so many antidepressant prescriptions is that nurse practitioners, family practice physicians, internists and many other physicians are prescribing antidepressants for a wide range of psychological symptoms.”
Suicide warning for those taking antidepressant meds
An official FDA “black-box warning” now on antidepressant drugs features this Suicide Warning: “Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Families and caregivers should be advised of the need for close observation and communication with the prescriber.”
At the same time, clinical psychologist Stephen Ilardi, PhD, states in the new book: “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them,” that those thinking antidepressant will ease their mental pain should be prepared for “disappointment.”
Doctor Ilardi states: “For about 85 percent of the patients who are clinically depressed who take these drugs, the drug will not outperform a placebo (sugar pill), and that is absolutely stunning. It’s a breathtaking finding, and it’s one that should give us all pause in the field.”
So what can people do - when contemplating the loss of their home in foreclosure, or struggling with job loss or even dealing with the ever rising cost of food and gas prices – ask those who are hurting? Doctors don’t have the answers, state experts, because no drug can stop the rising tide of negative mental health woes that millions of Americans are feeling right now.
Still, the experts say this fast-passed nation has “27 million Americans who are taking widely prescribed drugs for depression,” and then thinking it will help.
Image source of a couple holding each other with a tinge of sadness in their eyes as they gaze out to sea along the Oregon coast. Photo by Dave Masko