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A new national report is out and the use of antidepressant medications -- including those prescribed for anxiety -- is up 400 percent by Americans over the last 20 years. And 11 percent of Americans age 12 and older take such medication. The study shows women are more likely than men to take antidepressant medication at every level of depression severity.
What is troubling is most people who take these medications have not seen a mental health professional within the past year. That bothers me since studies consistently show that patients do best with a combination of medication and counseling.
It's understandable that those of us with busy, high stress lives would rather just take a pill to help us cope. Scheduling a visit with a counselor can be seen as just one more hassle that raises our blood pressure. But these medicines are not sugar pills. They are powerful and need to be monitored.
Depression and anxiety are real illnesses that need to be taken seriously. So it is good that Americans seek treatment. But understanding what these terms really mean and getting to the right treatment is a process. An anxiety disorder, for example, is more than just anxious feelings that just come and go away.
If you are interested in learning more this then please listen to my interview with Dr. Catherine Frank from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago: Anxiety Disorders: How to Control Worrying Yourself Sick at http://goo.gl/W8LoH
Depression and anxiety should not be ignored, but, if you have seen a provider and are on a medication to treat one or both, you no doubt were told that the pill is just part of the solution. Lifestyle changes, self-reflection and counseling are important too. Your health -- every aspect of it -- is important for your own well-being.
About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness. Audio and video programs, plus transcripts, help patients make informed decisions to support their health in partnership with their medical team.