All about the mind

Popping those pills

Last night I was watching (read: TV in the background while I was online) this show on Channel 10 called Nurse Jackie. It’s sort of like House except with a little more feeling. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the show or review it.

The episode yesterday had a bit on Jackie’s daughter, a 7 or 9 year old (wasn’t paying close attention) and how the little girl suffers from possible generalised anxiety disorder. This is identified at school by the teacher and the school counsellor. One of the shocking methods of identification included the girl’s teacher saying how the girl’s drawing didn’t have bright colours. I’m sorry, but that’s not a method of identifying if a child has a problem. On the other hand, the second example they gave for suspecting her anxiety was better — the girl circled her desk 3 times before being seated to prevent the planes from falling. Fair enough. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and go with the flow.

But no. The next thing that happens is the counsellor/nurse and the teacher tell Nurse Jackie and her husband that they should take this little child aged 7 or 9 to a psychiatrist for a diagnosis (fair enough) and get her put on medication. Medication! For a 7 year old! For anxiety!

I’m sure there’s going to be several people saying: “What about ADHD?” Medication for ADHD is required because the cause is medical…it’s a neurobiological issue and therefore needs medication to manage along with behaviour management.

Anxiety on the other hand, is psychological. And there are evidence-based therapies (including cognitive-behaviour therapy) that help manage the same. Especially when it’s a child, it would be more beneficial to intervene through therapy and provide them with these skills which can last a lifetime. When are these shows going to understand that medication makes a person dependent? Research for depression also shows that you need therapy in addition to medication for effectiveness. And the relapse rates are lower for those who undergo therapy (CBT) than those who only take medication.

Going back to purely medicating kids — what does it teach a child? It teaches them that they have no control over their thoughts and feelings and hence need to be medicated. Which is complete bull in the case of anxiety disorders and depression. It doesn’t provide them with skills for the future. The medication is not going to make the anxiety or depression go away. It’s not the flu. Once the medication ceases, it is going to recur unless they have skills to manage.

I think shows like this promote the wrong idea. It would be more beneficial to promote therapy, especially given the stigma that still seems to exist around it. But therapy first is how I would go. And only if there seems to be no change after a certain number of sessions would I recommend medication. So yeah, I’m not completely against medication. I have asked some clients to get assessed by a psychiatrist to see whether they should be medicated but these clients are aged 16 or older and they are really, really depressed that they cannot even do some of the work set out for them in therapy. The medication is more of a boost to get them to learn the skills in therapy.

Not something to depend upon.

Until next time,


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  • Sidthegnomenator
    13 October 2009 at 6:56 am

    You sound so much like me – I get annoyed with this sort of thing, but particularly when stories relate to autism.

    Last week we were watching that American show “Flash Forward” and there was a discussion between a doctor (who is also a parent) and a parent that went like this:

    Doctor: does your son have a toy that he depends upon?
    Parent: I don’t know, his condition makes him hard to reach. He’s autistic.
    Doctor: Oh – what end of the spectrum is he?

    OK, as a parent of a child with autism I have some problems with this. First – a child whose autism is so severe that he is “hard to reach” is more likely to have a toy he carries around with him everywhere and this would not be hard to know BECAUSE HE WOULD CARRY IT WITH HIM EVERYWHERE! With my son it was a stuffed Peter rabbit. He is now 12 and still sleeps with it, but is not so dependent anymore.

    Second: a doctor who hears that an austistic child is “hard to reach” should not have to ask what end of the spectrum he is on – it should be pretty bloody obvious or else you are not much of a doctor.

    Sorry. Just thought I’d share.

  • The Ketchup Girl
    13 October 2009 at 7:17 am

    1. totally love this new look. Your sister rocks!!

    2. I completely agree with you on the bit that medication makes u dependant. A family member is a depressive and is completely dependent on mood alleviating medicines. for those days that she is on them, its all cool. once she goees off them, its crazy how she goes back to being worse than before. we all underestimate the power of our minds, and don’t give therapy a chance. I’ve seen and completely believe that therapy/counselling can do wonders…

  • Psych Babbler
    13 October 2009 at 7:26 am

    @ Sid: That is just shocking! It’s ridiculous how they present subjects such as this in the most uneducated manner. I’m not saying they should educate us all the time but they really should get their details right! Thanks for sharing your rant and that you have a child with autism. Nice to know I’m not the only one that gets annoyed with the way the media or tv present things to us these days.

  • Amol Naik
    13 October 2009 at 7:35 am

    Hey yo! Quite informative article and yes, the new design is rocking cool….

  • Richa
    13 October 2009 at 7:56 am

    ooooh Love the new look. have been busy with a lot of things so no proper comments at the moment but will come back with comments soon…

  • Psych Babbler
    13 October 2009 at 7:58 am

    @ KG: Thanks for 1. 🙂 That’s the problem with medication — it masks the problem and unlike the flu, depression doesn’t go away. It’s good to know that some people are aware of that first hand but I’m sure the masses are not…

    @ Amol: Thanks 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    13 October 2009 at 8:30 am

    @ Richa: Thanks! I will be working on making my own template soon. But really happy about having my personalised header…

  • Indian Home Maker
    13 October 2009 at 10:20 am

    This reminds me of Tare Zameen Par… the intentions were good but the facts were not. Also there was no need to make the child win the art competition in the end.

  • Indian Home Maker
    13 October 2009 at 10:21 am

    The blog looks fabulous with this gorgeous header!! Love it!

  • Legal Alien
    13 October 2009 at 11:46 am

    Very interesting post Psych.

  • Psych Babbler
    13 October 2009 at 10:52 pm

    @ IHM: Yep…you’re right! I wish they would try and get at least some facts right. And thanks re the header 🙂

    @ Legal Alien: Thanks 🙂