Knock Out Depression With Exercise

by Brett and Kate McKay on February 19, 2008 · 29 comments

in Health & Sports

knockdepressionout.png

Photo by timmmeey

“A brisk 30-minute walk or jog around the track three times a week may be just as effective in relieving the symptoms of major depression as the standard treatment of anti-depressant medications, according to the results of a Duke University Medical Center study.”

Quite the exciting headline, no? This news will probably be all over the front pages of newspapers and magazines. Only it won’t. And it wasn’t.


This bit of news comes from a study done in 1999. 1999! 9 years ago!

There have been follow-up studies since then that have proven the exact same thing. Yet the only place you may see these results are in tiny blurbs on the pages of health magazines. And still the number of Americans taking anti-depressants continues to increase. And when was the last time you heard of a doctor prescribing exercise to a depressed patient?

What is going on here? On one level, pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in downplaying these kind of stories. News programs and magazines are stuffed full of ads for the newest pill promising to cure the most recently discovered and suddenly pressing ailment. Media companies do not want to tick Big Pharma off.

Yet the American people are to blame as well. We live in a culture that is constantly seeking instant results and the chance to get something for nothing. People want benefits without work and happiness without sacrifice. Psychologist Roger P. Greenberg, PhD, in an interview with WebMD put it well:

“[Greenberg] says it is understandable that the SSRIs have become so popular in such a short time, despite the lack of data showing them to be effective. Both patients and their physicians, he adds, have adopted a “fast-mood mentality,” where the quick fix is expected for the treatment of depression.

“The notion that depression is caused by a biochemical imbalance that is easily treated with drugs has taken hold in recent years because it provides this easy solution…Biochemical imbalance is a handy catch phrase, but there is not a lot of evidence that there is such a thing.”"

Despite the fact that antidepressants are a quick fix, their usage is not without consequences. Tremors, nausea, weight gain, and what could be most worrisome to men-loss of libido-are all potential side effects.

Contrast that with exercise. Exercise is not only just as effective as antidepressants, its side effects are all beneficial. Weight loss and increased libido are frequent results. Best of all, exercise will help boost your confidence. James Blumenthal, a psychologist and the lead researcher in the Duke study, argued that exercise is so beneficial because the “patients are actually taking an active role in trying to get better.”

“Simply taking a pill is very passive,” he said. “Patients who exercised may have felt a greater sense of mastery over their condition and gained a greater sense of accomplishment. They felt more self-confident and had better self-esteem because they were able to do it themselves, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise.

Today we live in a vacuum of personal responsibility. Instead of surrendering their faith in willpower and work, men must once again take pride in being in control of their life and body.

A Caveat: Please note that we are not Scientologists and not in cahoots with Tom Cruise. We won’t accuse you for being glib if you disagree. But we do believe men need to start manning up and taking responsibility for themselves and their happiness.

Sources

http://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20020710/are-antidepressants-effective

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991027071931.htm

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 AGT February 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

As a Frugal Law Student and Connoisseur of Manliness, you usually rock, but, as a physician and scientist you suck! (This might have been obvious.)

Brett, I generally enjoy your blogs, but this article borders on the irresponsible. Major depressive disorder is a serious, potentially fatal, disease. Untreated depression is responsible for many suicides every year. Telling people that they have been tricked, that their medications are doing nothing, and that they should replace meds with exercise, is foolish in the extreme. Chronic depression is correlated with specific neurotransmitter imbalances, and is not something one can just “take responsibility for,” and get over. Would you tell a diabetic to “just make some insulin”?

The specific studies you cite are from 1999 and 2002. Learning about a disease, as it is currently understood, requires familiarity with the conclusions of a number of well-designed, recent studies. This January, there was a review article on Major Depressive Disorder in the New England Journal of Medicine, which summarized results of both classic and recent studies. You can read the article online if you know someone with a subscription to the journal (or if you spend $10), or read it on paper if you have access to a medical library.

A summary of our current understanding of depression is available from the National Institute of Mental Health. Here is a brief online “booklet” directed at men:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/summary.shtml

NIMH tells us that, as an alternative to medications, some forms of depression can be treated with “talk therapy.” It also provides information on non-medical self-help methods, beginning with exercise:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/how-to-help-yourself-if-you-are-depressed.shtml

SSRIs are not the be-all and end-all for antidepressant medications. They are simply the best we can do right now. Research is currently being done on entirely different drug “targets” (i.e., not related to seratonin levels). We can expect to continue to learn more about neuroscience and mental disorders for some time to come.

My physician and other health professionals *have* consistently recommended exercise (preferably outdoors) as a good way to help with my depression, and I follow their recommendations. Nonetheless, I have severe clinical depression, that MUST also be managed with antidepressants. If I were to taper off and stop taking these meds, I would be in an endless living hell you cannot begin to imagine.

You are a relatively young man. Since the median age of onset of mood disorders is 30, you may eventually be privileged to join this club yourself. I firmly believe that a critical element of manliness (and womanliness) is the ability to know when to ask for help, and to be able to do so. That youthful illusion of being invincible will not last forever.

I wish you happiness, health, good judgment, and tolerance as you mature.

2 Justin February 19, 2008 at 11:42 pm

At least when I exercise, the affects are almost immediate – I feel freakin’ brilliant, and also about twice as handsome. A little longer term, it keeps my moodiness at bay and let’s me handle stress a little better. And also allows me to do crazy stuff when I’m traveling – like traveling purely on my own power for thousands of miles (w/a bicycle)

I even enjoy getting sore these days. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and I’m literally changing my body makeup.

And incidentally, I’m actually following the Stronglifts.com regime fairly closely when I’m at the gym. I’m probably going to switch to more insane things later, but for winter “off season” stuff, it really is the best use of my time and the results are literally seen in a week. Overhead presses were a new thing to me and I’ve been gym’ing it up for years. They rule. I will never do a workout without ‘em.

3 Dave February 20, 2008 at 4:00 am

What you say is mostly true, but lacks perspective.

Depressed people, by definition, lack ability to make positive cost/benefit decisions. Many of them know that exercise would help, but chemical imbalances within the brain (i.e., depression) enervate their motivation, the degree of debilitation depending on the acuity of the imbalance.

SSRIs are a kick start out of that spiral of feeling bad causing you to feel worse leading you to do nothing.

You’re right that pills by themselves are ineffective, but the notion that just taking pills can cure depression was a short-lived notion that — as you point out — was discredited a fair amount of time ago.

Unless they truly don’t give a shit, physicians are unlikely to just prescribe SSRIs without recommending or requiring a regimen of talk therapy, exercise, better diet, etc.

SSRIs are a tool in the toolbox; use them as one component of treatment.

4 sarai. February 20, 2008 at 4:17 am

I totally agree with Dave. SSRIs can be an important tool in treating someone who is already depressed.

However – my personal understanding of the benefits of exercise tell me that it’s likely to help prevent depression, and like the article suggests, every bit as helpful as antidepressants for treating it.

I just started exercising regularly, and it’s doing a lot to counter the winter blues. I find it hard to feel down after exerting myself and feeling strong and tough. I love the feeling of getting stronger and having more energy!

5 Brett February 20, 2008 at 5:51 am

@Dave-

I see what you are saying, but if depressed people lack the ability to make a cost/benefit analysis, and thus the motivation to start an exercise regimen, how are they then able to motivate themselves to go the doctor and get a prescription? Could they not motivate themselves to drive the the gym instead of the doctor’s office?

6 Dave February 20, 2008 at 6:14 am

@Brett-

it’s the kickstart quality of SSRIs that make them useful as a starting point for treatment. An exercise program requires a fair amount of commitment and resolution for its benefits to become apparent — exactly those qualities that depression saps.

Sure, it takes commitment to go to the doctor for a script, but the transaction costs of doing so are lower than a regular gym routine. I, too, don’t think Americans should be passive pill swallowers, but depressed people initally require treatment that is easy to participate in. It’s not that SSRIs, be definition, are a shortcut to feeling good — it’s that depressed people need low-barrier solutions, at least at first.

If curing depression was as easy as telling people to go to the gym, it wouldn’t be the problem that it is!

7 Santa February 20, 2008 at 7:33 am

This is true. A few months ago I was dating a girl that I truly fell in love with for 7 months, she broke up with me right before Christmas and I ended up severely depressed. I decided that I would fight this depression with something positive, and take all that negative energy and put it into something that would make me a better person, so I started weight lifting and taking up baseball and jogging again. I work a full time job but once I get home, I put 30 min to and hour just exercising. I’m 29 and I had not been active for probably 2 years. It’s been a few months now and my body is showing great results. I am toning up and muscles are starting to show again. It feels great. I feel better about myself, and am building up confidence to start doing other things and slowly the depression is going away because I have my mind focused on other things (bettering myself.) I really believe exercise does play a role, because I have a close friend who has gone through the same thing and he is on medication. His depression has caused him to basically give up hope, and he has become very lazy. Unfortunately, most of these pills that his doctor prescribed also have side effects that have made him gain weight. I’ve been watching him slowly become a zombie. The medication gets rid of certain emotions, but it feels like something is missing in the process.

8 David H. Sundwall February 20, 2008 at 7:37 am

I think the point is that too many are quick to prescibe and take medications as the only way to treat depression.

To be sure, some are so depressed and desperately need medical treatment. A psychiatrist told me that depression not only only affects mood but actually depresses the body’s motor system, making exercise even harder for someone depressed. Sinister.

But exercise and other more holistic methods should be used if possible.

9 Brandon February 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm

@Santa

Its good that you didn’t let a breakup control your life like that, all too many guys do and it takes a perfectly good man and turns him into zombie, like your friend. You just have to keep in mind that there ARE women out there who are better than that.

And you can never let something like a break up get you down! Hail to that! haha. They also say that sex is great for depression too because of its release of hormones and things like that which make you feel good. Because depression doesn’t just come from a bad break up, it can come from anything.

And to be perfectly honest with you, a lot of the time exercise just makes you feel good about yourself that your not sitting around the house doing nothing and eating potato chips all day playing World of Warcraft. It brings you back to your roots.

10 amy February 20, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Brett, I think you broach a germane topic. How interesting to see all the different experiences with and definitions of depression that have already been mentioned in the comments- and this story was only posted today!

My husband has severe clinical depression and has benefited from medication during times when, despite frequent intense weight-lifting and cardiovascular exercise (working as a stone mason full-time with heavy weight-lifting and jiu-jitsu in the evenings) the depression was dangerous and unbearable. However, we have also experienced periods where, despite effective medication, absence of exercise left a noticeable gap in mood and motivation. What a complex issue. My hats off to any others attempting to negotiate life with depression as a factor.

Adding anything good to life will improve life, even with depression, however. I think life can be almost like an equation in that way. I wanted to throw in a brief mention of nutrition as another central issue in health and wellness, mental and physical. My husband and I have made great strides in improving our diets, reducing animal products and refined food products to almost nil while dramatically increasing our intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Such a dietary shift has been demonstrated to improve health of all kinds. Although, perhaps I am giving away the topic of your next post…Surely anyone concerned about and interested in exercise would not neglect nutrition as a crucial component.

I really enjoy your blog, Brett! and Happy Birthday again to Mrs. McKay!

11 Brett McKay February 20, 2008 at 9:05 pm

@ AGT and Dave-

I knew when I wrote this post it would probably cause a debate. It wasn’t my intention to offend people who suffer from depression. I just wanted to bring to light a different perspective on possible solutions.

I don’t think what I wrote was irresponsible. I didn’t pull these ideas out of thin air. They came from a legitimate scientific study. I do not think, AGT, that proposing that people try exercise over drugs is in any way a dangerous idea. Remember, SSRI’s and exercise proved just as effective in alleviating depression.

I don’t claim to be a scientist or expert on depression. And I will be quick to admit that this is a complicated issue. But I don’t think it is delved into deeply enough by many people. For example, in addition to the study showing that exercise is just as effective as medication to cure depression, a recent report has come out showing that pharmaceutical companies failed to publish reports that antidepressants only marginally outperform placebos in effectiveness.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/17/health/17depress.html

The way advertisements present SSRI’s, you’d think they were a miracle drug. It is not “foolish” to present exercise as a possible cure; it is foolish to widely recommend drugs that perform little better than a sugar pill.

If drugs work for some people, then that is great. But I think there is a large section of SSRI takers who would do fine with exercise alone. And there are many who are not clinically depressed at all and are looking for a quick fix to their problems. This is not a call to abandon pharmaceuticals altogether, but rather a push to seek solutions that emphasis personal responsibility first, before turning to other methods.

12 Brett McKay February 20, 2008 at 9:15 pm

amy-
Thanks for your comment and kudos to you and your husband for all the healthy changes you’ve made. That’s really impressive. I agree that depression should be fought with different weapons, including exercise and proper diet.

I hope to see you around here more often. Take care.

13 Jason February 20, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I’ll have to disagree with all the naysayers and affirm that you wrote a great article. People are looking for an easy fix, admit it. The easy fix might still be a good fix, but exercise is needed for your body anyways. Exercise has positive side effects, drugs tend to have negative ones. This should be a no brainer for most people, but sometimes it’s tough to let go of the pre-conceived notions of the world we live in.

14 Evan February 21, 2008 at 7:29 pm

It makes me really aggravated to see the attacks upon this article and the ideas that it is proposing. Calling the idea that people should stop taking antidepressants and start exercising irresponsible is LAUGHABLE. Physicians are always going to recommend the pills and the meds as the answer because they are the staples upon which their profession was built. People who take the meds themselves are always going to defend them as the only possible answer because they are trying hard enough to get themselves to believe that it is the right thing to do.

Part of being a man is knowing when to ask for help… YES! But if your Idea of asking for help is asking somebody for a chemical that your body is obviously not deficient in then you need some lessons in manliness. In my case, asking for help was reading up on the cause of depression and learning that the hormonal and physiological imbalances were due to the lack of exercise, wrong type of diet and lack of spiritual and emotional fulfillment that can be easily corrected through hard work. The depression is there for a reason. It is trying to tell you something is wrong. And no, its not that you need some crazy f’ng drug in your body.

It takes hard work people, and a type of attitude that you can overcome anything with the proper determination. What do you think Teddy Roosevelt would say if you told him that people with Asthma always need inhalers??? He would laugh in your face and tell you to be a man and climb a mountain and to stop making excuses. He would tell you that your asthma was caused by a lack of exercise and that you have the ability to make the kind of body that you want through hard work.

This Idea is the essence of manliness.

This article is an expression of the personal determination required of men who wish to become self reliant champions in their lives’

I wrote a very similar article on my blog check it out:
http://livingindubiously.com/pitch-your-prozac-5-ways-to-treat-depression-naturally/

15 Anonymous March 3, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Logical flaws in this article. It says both:

A brisk 30-minute walk or jog around the track three times a week may be just as effective in relieving the symptoms of major depression as the standard treatment of anti-depressant medications, according to the results of a Duke University Medical Center study.

and

Exercise is not only just as effective as antidepressants, its side effects are all beneficial.

Is it “may” or “is”?

Also, this is factually incorrect:

“And when was the last time you heard of a doctor prescribing exercise to a depressed patient?”

It is very common for doctors to tell depressed patients to try exercise. It’s printed in most ‘what to do if you are depressed’ leaflets. It is beyond the capabilities of a doctor to ‘prescribe’ anything other than medication.

“I do not think, AGT, that proposing that people try exercise over drugs is in any way a dangerous idea. Remember, SSRI’s and exercise proved just as effective in alleviating depression.”

This is dangerous misinformation. Some forms of depression have a suicide rate of 20%.

16 Kate March 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm

@Anon-

Studies always use the word “may” because with any scientific study it is hard to prove something 100%. But the fact that exercise worked just as well as SSRI’s IS what the study found. And follow-up studies showed the same thing.

Also see the NYT link above for an article that shows conclusively that SSRI’s ARE only marginally more effective than sugar pills.

17 Anonymous March 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm

No. The sciencedaily.com link refers to Major Depressive Disorder. There are a number of illnesses classed as depression with many causes and treatments. The results of this study do not include them. Some of these forms have very high suicide and self-harm rates. Also, withdrawal form many SSRIs is a process that must be supervised carefully by a doctor due to the high chance of dangerous withdrawal effects if they are stopped too quickly.

If people feel pressured into dropping their medication because of this blog posts ‘man up and stop taking your pills’ message and then suffer, their blood is on your hands.

If anyone suffering from depression is reading this – please talk to your doctor about the various treatments available – medication, diet, exercise, therapy and so on. Be aware that different combinations of these will work for different people. Do not withdraw from your medication without checking with a doctor first.

The point stands that the author of the blog post has commited the flaw in reasoning of promoting “may” to “is”. If you read the links you can see the amount of backpedalling done by the interviewed researchers to stop people from making this mistake. For anyone who wants to learn more about how to interpret scientific studies and the pop-sci articles written about them, the bad science blog and the book ‘Voodoo Science’ are worth looking at.

18 Mark May 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm

How one handles depression shows the true core of ones being.

Yes, all seems fuzzy and there is great lack of motivation when one is depressed. But just as much of this site talks about, it’s a matter of being the man and rising up to the moment and doing the right thing when it really is hard to do so that shows how much of a man you are. You may not want to work out, you might not feel the attractiveness of it. Most people, when depressed, are only motivated to do things that make them even more sad, like moap around in how sad their lives are, watch tragic movies to self-reflect with, etc.

But doesn’t getting out of most cases of depression involve starting a positive momentum in life and maintaining it? Some say that drugs and chemical adjustment to your brain is needed because your brain is holding you back. But I believe this is true only for the few most severe cases of depression that initiated from some biological issue. From what I can tell most people’s depressions are caused by negative interaction with life that perhaps ended up in a chemical imbalance.

Think of it this way. Just like a long relationship ending can cause you to crash hard and develop depression and thus chemical imbalance, starting something new and seeking out joys in life and self-respect through exercise and other positive acts can promote chemical balance. I think it’s this modern lack-of-responsibility that’s preventing most common depressives from pushing through and taking initiative. It’s hard, but you gotta do it. No different from anything else.

And yes, I’ve been depressed.

19 Anony May 6, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I think problem in this argument is the understanding of depression.

Personally, I feel the term is overused. There is a difference between clinical depression and just feeling (extremely) down. Doctors do not always jump to medication as a solution; if one does so, this is an irresponsible doctor. In cases of clinical depression, as some have mentioned above, medication is needed as an aid. It is not prescribed just to cure all the symptoms. It doesn’t work without taking steps and finding support to pull one’s self out of depression.

I think you mean to suggest exercise as a solution to the down and out feelings that people will often say, “I am depressed”. This I agree, because often I feel a high after exerting myself. If you don’t have clinical depression, stop moping and go out for a run or something.

20 apollonian May 15, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I just wanted to throw in with others who warn against suddenly stopping an anti-depressant regimen. Also, why shouldn’t one use both medication and exercise to address depression? Like others have mentions, medication can offer a jump start that makes self-improvement efforts manageable.

Also, major clinical depression is not a “case of the blues.” If you have experienced major clinical depression, you’d absolutely know it. Neurochemical imbalance is most definitely a proven factor in major clinical depression: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_depression#Physiological

That said, exercise and diet is the bedrock foundation of a productive existence.

21 Me June 20, 2008 at 5:08 am

Great article. Thank you. I did it myself, I am curing my depression with exercise every day. This is the only way for me and it really really works. Also, I now look fantastic! That helps to some extent but the most important thing is just increased energy, endorphins, increased circulation, all the things that make me feel better and happier and stronger biochemically. Looking good alone isn’t enough but it helps to feel proud of my fit and strong body as well. Along with daily rebounding and pilates, I follow a raw food lifestyle.

22 Baniz September 13, 2008 at 12:28 am

If you want my advice docters should prescibe them exercise and give them enough laughing gas that they have a smile on their face.

23 Billy November 14, 2009 at 1:41 am

Yes, depression is such a big topic for both men and women. People who do not understand depression usually have the mentality that all you need to do is ‘pull your socks up’. Well, no need for me to tell you that that is rubbish. But then to say, all you need to do is see a doctor, take some drugs and spend time with family is not that much different. To prescribe stuff for something so complex is always rubbish whether it is exercise or drugs.

I’ve not been diagnosed with depression so I find it hard to empathise with people who have it. Still many times, I’ve not been able to get through situations alone. I agree with the comment above that a man will be able to ask for help.

24 MickG December 26, 2009 at 3:15 am

I think one thing that is being left out of this discussion is the fact that the claims made about antidepressants by drug companies are not proven to be 100% factual. So many people with depression go around talking about “chemical imbalances” and major depressive “disorder” and do not realize that all of this information is based on a theory that has to this day has not been scientifically proven to be 100% true. The comparison of depression to diabetes or any other measurable illness is invalid because unlike any of these diseases, major depressive disorder is a subjective diagnosis that cannot be accurately measured. In fact, evidence has been mounting for years that the “chemical imbalance theory” of depression and other mood disorders may not be true at all. A quick glance at the package insert/prescribing information of any SSRI on the market today will reveal that these drugs “may” or are “thought to work by correcting a chemical imbalance” however their exact mechanisms of action and effects of long term use are actually unknown. In addition, while there are some people out there that believe that they will have to take these drugs for the rest of their lives to correct this so-called chemical imbalance, the ugly truth is that they often stop working for people after 10-15 years of use. Furthermore, these drugs have been proven to increase the risk of suicide in children, teens, and young adults and the effects of long term use have not been studied. While they may have their place in life threatening situations for acute relief, they are no more fool proof or scientifically sound then recommendations of exercise and certainly far more risky.

25 toni November 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Taking andidepressants is like creating a army but that army needs to have a target and be organized, to have success. So one we take andipressants and feed our brain with chemicals. But in reality we need to use them. To use them by thinking constructivly and by not burning them in no necessary way.

26 Allan January 11, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I think everything you said was very true. I have some things to say in regard to other commenters. People will call me arrogant and irresponsible for this, but I have a major beef with modern day Psychology. It takes human beings and turns them into animals. It takes away their autonomy. If you think differently then what is normal, you are diseased, have a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’. Instead of promoting people to work through their problems and become better, they put them on crutches. People just accept these things as fact, despite the fact that no empirical testing has pointed to any such conclusion. People can change who they are and how they think, no matter how many chemicals they have in their brain. Read some on Thomas Szasz and his “The Myth of Mental Illness”. I hold it self evident that every human is an autonomous being and has his own free will to act, on not just be acted upon by the world, or some ‘chemical imbalance’.

27 Mat#$% December 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I love boxing. I have had severe depression for 20 years. The time when I was boxing was a time when my depression was almost nonexistent. There has been no other time in the last 20 years where I walked free from depression. I would strongly encourage anyone with depression to find a sport that they enjoy and put all of you energy into it.

28 Kjaamor December 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm

As a professional working in Mental Health, I felt that the article, whilst obviously well-intentioned, displayed some major misunderstandings not only in terms of the condition itself but also in terms of the referenced articles.

I fully agree with the assertion that the overwhelming majority of people suffering from depression would benefit from regular exercise – particularly in the group settings used in the referenced study. I do, however, strongly dispute the suggestion that SSRIs are a negative influence or inappropriate on the basis that exercise is also beneficial.

This is a relatively minor criticism of the blog but you ask “when was the last time you heard of a doctor prescribing exercise to a depressed patient?” For yourself, I assume the answer is never. For me it was in the last week. I am not US-based, but my understanding is that the situation is not so wholly different there.

I do believe that there are people who will read your article and benefit from it. However I fear that there are others still who upon taking your advice could place themselves in at best unnecessarily difficult and at worst highly dangerous situations. Frankly the situation is not helped with your final paragraph talking of ‘responsibility’, which unfortunately is something of a by-word for ‘blame’. I need hardly suggest that such terms are grossly inappropriate.

I reiterate that I respect the positive nature this article intended to have, and I shall continue to read and enjoy other articles on this site. This article, however, is in need of serious review and, and I hope that this final criticism can be taken in the best possible way, the author would do well to significantly improve the breadth and depth of his subject matter before advising people with serious clinical conditions stop their treatment.

@Allan
It is nice to see Szasz mentioned! The book of which you speak is actually at arms length from me at this very moment! While I agree that modern psychiatry almost certainly deserves some major beefs, the likes of Szasz have played a very influential role in shaping modern it. Naturally it is an ongoing process, and often a case of being ‘two steps forward, one step back’. Still, I felt that Szasz’s criticisms were, quite rightly, that Psychiatry was overvaluing itself as a medical discipline when he regarded it as more of a pseudo-science.

Still, while unquestionably work remains, I would disagree with your suggestion that medical treatment and working through problems are in any way mutually exclusive. Similarly, neither does being an autonomous being prevent the existance of chemical imbalances or a social environment. I also have to disagree to the implication that no empirical testing has support the use of medication. Due to the complex nature of the human mind, the personal results vary in scope but the benefits of the great majority of such medications have been proved time and time again. No professional worth their registration would suggest that medication is the only worthwhile path to becoming better, but it is one of many valuable tools to doing so.

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