Sunday, July 6, 2008

If it Ain't Normal, Drug It!

The range of behaviors society is willing to call "normal" seems to be narrowing at a rather alarming rate. Behaviors that only twenty years ago were considered part of the incredible diversity of human expression are now considered pathological, and we are encouraged (every night during numerous television commercials sponsored by Big Pharma) to seek help and take powerful medications (whose actions on the brain and long-term effects are only vaguely understood) to control our symptoms.

When I look at the sweeping changes the Age of Technology has wrought in our society just in the past twenty years or so, I have to ask myself, is it any wonder that some of us just can't deal with our environment? Our genetic heritage has us hard-wired to be running around outside in the sunlight, foraging and hunting in order to feed ourselves, not slumped in front of a computer or a television screen under artificial lights eating processed chemical cocktails marketed as food day after day. But instead of asking what we can do to make the environment more healthy?, we ask what is wrong with these people? and medicate them so that they might better fit society's ever-tightening definition of "normal".

I'm thinking about something Furious Seasons reported on a while back about workplaces offering ADHD screening for their employees. And I'm thinking about antipsychotics being used for "social phobias" including fear of public speaking. And I'm thinking about the questionnaire I got on depression the last time I went to my GP's office for a thyroid check.

This trend to medicalize and pathologize every emotional condition that deviates even slightly from the norm worries me. I foresee a grim future in which all that is unique and brilliant and different in a person, all that sets us apart from each other, will be drugged out of us so that we better fit in the nice little boxes society uses to classify and control us.

Brave New World, anyone?

Writing Prompt: When I was about fourteen, I refused to grow up to be anything like my parents. I thought they were dull and boring, and I told them so (my mother has never let me forget this!). I wanted lights and music and excitement, and I couldn't figure out what was so great about a weekend spent sewing and reading and gardening. The Box People, I called them, all fitting so nicely into their middle-class suburban boxes. It's easy to label people when you're looking at them from the outside in. What labels have you carried? Do they tell the whole story? Why or why not? What labels would you give yourself?


Gianna said...

we aren't just medicating things that deviate from the norm...we are medicating downright normal...all the time!!

My mom was offered drugs when my brother died. Did she feel crappy? Yeah, it's called mourning.

People are offered antidepressants when they break up with their boyfriends, get divorces, have problems at their jobs, etc etc....

This is a push to medicalize's not about only medicalizing that which falls slightly outside of normal, but that may be true too...

I don't believe there is a normal...there is the spectrum of human experience and it's all being pathologized.

Jazz said...

Yes, it's pretty scary, the direction we seem to be's like it's not okay to respond to situations in a perfectly "normal" and "natural" way...if these normal, natural responses interfere in any way with anything, they should be drugged away...which is wrong...we respond to things in a certain way for a reason. I can't think of anything worse for someone who is mourning than to block their ability to respond emotionally. How on earth would they heal?

Anonymous said...

Yes, and we are giving anti-depressants to our soilders who are in war. If you can be distressed during a death or a war, then when can you?

There is a time when people need help, help to get through a rough patch, but sometimes life is bad and you need to go through it.

I am worried about what will happen to all these soilders with PTSD. Is it REALLY a disorder, or is it a NORMAL reaction to experiencing hell?

I am worried that the nation will just medicate these guys. The do need "treatment." I just fear what type of "treatment" they will get.

Jazz said...

I worry about them, too. I hang out on a bipolar forum sometimes, and there is a woman there who is a vet diagnosed with PTSD. She has to get her care through the VA and it is just a travesty the kind of crap she's gone through. They misdiagnosed her as bipolar at first, and she endured years of medication side effects. She's on disability now because of it. They only recently changed her diagnosis and took her off meds, telling her that therapy is much more effective for PTSD...but the therapy she's getting is also a travesty. All the stuff that's coming out about the VA, I don't think they are equipped to take of these people who are coming home from Iraq...and they should be. Those people should be our country's first priority right now.

Sorry to ramble, but this country's inhumane treatment of our honoured vets is one of the things that makes my blood boil!

Hannah said...

I remember having a difficult time at school when I was 13, the doctor diagnosed me with depression and prescribed prozac!
The trouble is there is no time for people any more, no time to talk and get to the root of our problems. Doctors are so quick to send people packing with a prescription.
Surely the patient knows their body the best - but they seem to be the last one to be consulted in their treatment!
After all the medication I've been taking over the years, I wish I had been given the opportunity to discuss my treatment more, I probably could have avoided filling my body full of unnecessary chemicals.

Jazz said...

I fully agree, Hannah!
I'm pretty sure the situation that got me diagnosed "bipolar" could have been resolved more effectively and less harmfully with therapy and lifestyle changes rather than with medication. The guy who prescribed the drugs for me didn't even suggest therapy--except as a way to deal with my "attitude" about taking medication.

Jazz said...

Oh, and I should add--
thirteen was a really tough time for me, too. I spent a lot of time in my room by myself, thinking gloomy thoughts. My parents chalked it up to "growing up", which is exactly what it was...but these days, I suspect I would have ended up medicated for depression.