The Hidden Treasure

Where Ancient Wisdom Meets Contemporary Psychology

Part II: Skills vs. Pills

Written By: Vic Rebman Ph.D - Dec• 05•11

In Part I, I reviewed the clinical literature which clearly contradicts the “clinical imbalance” theory of depression and anxiety.  Results indicate approximately 80% of the effectiveness of anti-depressant medications are due to placebo.  Here are some other interesting facts to be aware of in the effective treatment of depression and anxiety:

Genetic pre-disposition for the development of anxiety and depressive disorders is about .4.  This means that about 40% of the tendency toward development of an anxiety or depressive disorder can be attributed to genetics.  This also means the majority of what influences the development of anxiety or depression is due to environmental influences and stress factors.

There is no evidence to claim that drugs are the most effective treatment for depression and anxiety.  This claim that drugs are the most effective treatment has been made by the American Psychiatric Association and widely published by the pharmaceutical industry, but is not consistent with clinical research.

Research over the last two decades indicates CBT, not pills, is the most effective treatment for depression and all anxiety disorders, both in the short and long term.

There are exceptions to every rule.  Medications can be helpful, even lifesaving, for those struggling with severe depression or anxiety.  In these cases, however, they should be combined with CBT.

There are several psychiatric disorders which absolutely require medication.  These include schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders.  Uni-polar depression, generally referred to as major depression, is most effectively treated by CBT alone.

Treatment of anxiety and depression through CBT generally leads to the ability to taper off medications with no relapse.  Treatments for anxiety and depression can be just as effective when CBT is used alone, as when it is used in combination with medication.

The withdrawals from anxiety medications, such as Xanex and Valium can produce anxiety far in excess of the anxiety they were prescribed to treat.

Dr. David Healey, from the University of Wales College of Medicine, recently used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data fromt he FDA on adults treated with SSRI anti-depressants, such as Prozac.  The results were startling and indicated the suicide rates of those individuals receiving placebos.

While these are shocking truths, the news is beginning to get out.  Just last year, in January 2010, Newsweek’s cover story, entitled “The Depressing News About Anti-Depressants” exposed truths about the placebo effects at work with anti-depressant medications.  In this article, they wrote, “Yes, the anti-depressant drugs are effective in that they lift depression in most patients.  But, the benefit is hardly more than most receive when they, unknowingly, as part of the study, take a dummy pill (placebo).”  As more and more scientists study depression and the drugs to treat it conclude, the research suggests that anti-depressants are basically “expensive tic-tacs.”

If you are one of the millions of individuals attempting to treat your depression or anxiety medically, it would be wise to educate yourself.  I recommend David Burns, M.D., “When Panic Attacks” 2006.  This book provides a great review of the research and literature, and a treasure-chest of CBT tools and techniques for developing skills to break free of anxiety and panic.


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