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Oliver James guest blog: drugs are not the answer to mental distress

(113 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 14-May-13 11:09:13

Last week, the British Psychological Society was profoundly critical of the 'medicalisation' of mental distress - the idea that psychiatric disorders are by and large treatable by doctors using drugs.

They said it was unhelpful to see mental health issues as illnesses with biological causes when "there is now overwhelming evidence that people break down as a result of a complex mix of social and psychological circumstances - bereavement and loss, poverty and discrimination, trauma and abuse."

Here psychologist and author Oliver James argues that, while the reassessment of the 'medical model' might alarm some parents, it's actually good news for them, and their children.

Tell us what you think - and if you blog on this subject, don't forget to leave your URL here on the thread.

"If your child is unmanageable or hyperactive, it can be all too reassuring to hear from a doctor that she suffers from a genetically caused brain disorder which is best treated by a pill. That model makes it not your fault and if the pill works, hey, thank god for that.

If you are a parent in that position, its also all too understandable that you might not want to hear from me that: (1) The pills usually don't work and have unknown long-term toxic effects when used for years; (2) The Human Genome Project is proving that genes play very little part in causing any mental illnesses; (3) There is no reliable scientific evidence that the brains of the mentally ill are measurably different. But don't stop reading.

The fact that these latter assertions are all now pretty much confirmed by the British Psychological Society is actually incredibly good news for parents.

It means that your child is not fixed in its abilities and potential. Massive change can occur, if what she's like is not in your child's genes. Indeed, there is strong evidence that simply by convincing children that their maths ability is malleable, for example, increases their likelihood of doing well.

It also means that the way you parent can make a huge difference, even if there is a biological cause for a problem. Whilst genes are getting ruled out, prenatal, foetal factors look as if they may be crucial for problems like autism. But even autism is turning out to be very responsive to the right kind of early intervention.

It is true that the kind of care a child receives in the first six years sets its emotional thermostat. But it is a thermostat: the setting can be changed.

For example, children's brain electro-chemistry is very sensitive to parental disharmony. Levels of Cortisol, the fight-flight hormone, are raised or become blunted if parents row a lot. But that can be good news, not bad news, if you can find a way to row less or at the least, to not do so in front of the children.

It is further known that children who had unresponsive early care are that much more easily upset by parental disharmony. This is true at two and a half - care at 3 and 9 months predicts whether cortisol will be triggered. Early care also predicts vulnerabily at later ages. But even this is much, much better news than the genes and brain disorder story - because early deficits can be corrected.

Thousands of parents have used the Love Bombing technique to reset their childs emotional thermostat. If things went badly early on - nearly always through no fault of the parents, things like depression or debt-induced anxiety - it's quite possible to give the child a very brief experience of the feeling of love and control it may have missed out on. Astonishingly brief bursts can be all it takes.

Psychological distress should never have been medicalized in the first place. Now that science is proving that what we are like is not due to genetic brain disorders, a world of hope is opening up for parents. Go into that world and feel liberated from the pseudoscience which has dominated us for too long."

Oliver James is the author of Love Bombing - Reset Your Child's Emotional Thermostat, which he discusses in this previous guest blog.

justaboutalittlefrazzled Fri 17-May-13 01:28:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 07:57:49

'zzzz' you are purposefully trying to twist what I am saying!!

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 07:58:57

Sorry Kate that I got your name wrong!

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 08:06:39

Re: autism. I happen to live in an area where there are lots of parents of autistic boys. Lots. These parents have all clubbed together and created wonderful spaces for their children to interact, learn. Great courses are provided here to inform parents about autism. There is an amazing special needs school, which all these parents rave about. The teachers in this school are doing a fantastic job and seem to be very committed and extremely proud of pupils development.

One of the sons in question that I have sometimes minded is now talking clearly, playing happily with other children, doesnt seem disruptive anymore at all and after just two years at this school will be joining a 'mainstream' school. That is all I wish to share on this subject due to the sensitive nature of the subject/ parents involved/ anonymity etc.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 08:14:42

Re: drugs for mental distress-depression etc. which IS after all the actual subject of this thread, they are HIGHLY ADDICTIVE! Once that path is taken, it is very difficult to go back and seek other courses of action in my experience and opinion. It is very hard to come off the drugs. Very sad scenario indeed.

hazeyjane Fri 17-May-13 10:10:14

I was very reluctant to start ADs after I had ds, and had hit rock bottom. There is a family history of depression, bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia in my family - I have seen the effects of medication, both good and bad. But to me, I was not my family, I had hit a bad patch, and suffered a traumatic event, I did not need drugs.....except, life isn't that simple, in reality. I needed to get my children to school, look after my disabled son, stay married, keep my friendships, get out of the house, get through the day. I talked about counselling with my gp, what was available on the nhs was limited, and frankly having had counselling previously, I wasn't sure I could mentally and physically afford to have that long slow falling apart, and putting back together of my life. I was also suffering awful pmt, hitting me for 2 weeks of every month. I started on a very low dose of citalopram, and very soon was able to function again - get the girls to school, stay calm with them, rather than flying off the handle and bursting into tears, get ds to his many appointments, realise that I could face life. I started doing some exercise, seeing friends again, talking on here with people who were going through similar.The drugs helped me find the means to climb out of the hole I was in, and find ways to improve my mood and find strength to get through difficult bits. I know they don't suit or work for everyone, I know they are addictive, but sometimes and for some people they really are very helpful, it angers me to see such a complex issue reduced to a bold, inane comment like, the drugs don't work.

And snoopy, no need to keep shouting, it doesn't make what you are saying any more true or persuasive.

zzzzz Fri 17-May-13 10:16:50

snoopy I'm not trying to twist what you are saying. I disagree with what you are saying. I think the blogger needs to spend some time with parents with children with additional needs.

Parenting children with sn is hard.

It's hard because it is simpley so much more work to for example potty train a non verbal child. Physical work.

It's hard because you need to do things in a different way to the norm so you are constantly searching for a method rather than doing what your Mum did or friends are doing. Mental work.

It's hard because you are isolated because people would rather have an easier child to play, and your child can't do a lot of the things their friends can do.

It hard because the hyper vigilant sleep deprived years stretch on sometimes for decades.

But one of the very hardest parts is that the behaviour looks like the behaviour of a child who has not been cherished and loved. Because you are judged and criticised everywhere you go. It's hard because of blogs like this spewing nonsense and because perfectly nice and intelligent people are sucked into it.

"Love-bomb". hmm

Lottapianos Fri 17-May-13 10:18:35

hazeyjane, I'm really glad that the ADs have worked for you. Psychotherapy is the best thing I have ever done for myself, but you are absolutely right that it is a long, slow, protracted, intensely painful process through which there are no short cuts. I'm in the lucky position of having no DCs, a very supportive DP and friends and enough money to pay to see a private psychotherapist. If I had even half of the responsibilities that you describe, I'm not sure how I would have functioned without ADs and I just don't think I would have had enough time or energy to devote to psychotherapy without medical help as well.

It's too black and white to say 'the drugs don't work' - they certainly do for some people. However, I do share Snoopy's concerns that they get dished out unthinkingly in some cases.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 12:25:19

'Zzz' you were twisting what I was saying and trying to make out that I was saying that parents of sn children had been giving 'inadequate' care to their children.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 12:34:53

When I said 'the drugs don't work' I was talking about my own personal experience of choosing the route of psychotherapy with no drugs in the face of considerable personal hurdles, very small support network etc. and of my own personal experience of watching certain friends and family completely ignore the issues that led them to where they were and use high dosages of drugs such as prozac as a coping mechanism. And I am pretty sure that these people will ALWAYS need these drugs now. Of course that was and is their personal choice and we all have to do what's best for us but I just feel that they were badly informed by their GPs and psychiatrists at the outset. I'm not judging anyone for their choices. And I'm not shouting. I'm using capitals because it's something I feel very strongly about and I'm entitled to my opinion too.

zzzzz Fri 17-May-13 12:39:45

You said "As for autism, I am not an expert however I have seen amazing turnarounds in autistic children's behaviour and development when adequate support is found."

I said "Please tell us more about the "amazing turnarounds" you have seen in children with autism you have seen once their inadequate support was improved."

In what way is that twisted? hmm

The "once adequate support is found" implies the support before was inadequate.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 15:14:27

No it does not imply that. As you are well aware, children with autism usually need additional support. I did not once imply that the parents were inadequate.

Sunnywithshowers Fri 17-May-13 15:29:36

Snoopy you don't know for certain that the people you know on prozac will always need it. That's a ridiculous statement.

I'm on antidepressants, hoping to come off them shortly. I've had a variety of shitty life circumstances that have predisposed me to depression. I have had counselling, pyschotherapy and CBT and have worked as hard as I could at 'not being depressed'. IIRC, depression in particular is best treated with a combination of meds (where appropriate) and talking therapies. But the NHS doesn't have infinite resources wrt talking therapies.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 16:17:09

I didn't say that EVERYONE who takes Prozac will always need it. The ppl I know who take it are ppl that I know very well and I can say with some authority therefore that they will be taking it for the rest of their lives.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 16:19:07

Nb. My initial comment was that I am 'pretty sure' they'll always need it

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 16:25:11

My main point, however, is that I agree with the Psychological Society's research that genes are not at the root of mental distress and that the factors are very complicated. Dishing out drugs as GPs do for the slightest hint of depression is NOT the answer. Therapy is very very difficult but it can work very well in my experience. That's all.

zzzzz Fri 17-May-13 16:25:17

I think it does imply that support was inadequate before. Otherwise surely the improved support didn't prompt the "turnaround"?

Your posts are utterly confusing.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 17:39:14

Look I know you want to 'read into' what I said and you're determined that I think that parents of sn children are to blame for their children having these needs. You're deliberately misinterpreting my posts and making me overexplain my point. Children with sn need adequate support. They have special needs that require adequate support. See my post above for an example of great support for autistic children. And that is all. Do you understand now what I'm saying? Surely this is a commonly acknowledged statement and does not imply that parental care is 'inadequate??'

strawberry17 Fri 17-May-13 18:30:33

I have no clue who Oliver James is, and I'm not going to comment on parenting special needs children as I have no clue.

I do think that AD's are dished out far too easily though and although for many they do work, but for me they were like papering over the cracks, you still have to address the underlying issues, and once you go down the AD route it's bloody hard to come back and get off them, I've spent years trying to come off and failing because of debilitating withdrawals, and there is no help or information with withdrawing from AD's, my blog:


hazeyjane Fri 17-May-13 18:34:08

My main point, however, is that I agree with the Psychological Society's research that genes are not at the root of mental distress and that the factors are very complicated.

Sorry, when you say, 'mental distress', are you referring to something specific - or is that an umbrella term for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc - because as far as I know the influence of genetic factors in these and other disorders, are still being researched.

Therapy is very very difficult but it can work very well in my experience. That's all.

No-one is saying therapy doesn't work well, it can and does. And sometimes it does in combination with drugs, and sometimes it is not appropriate for the circumstances in a person's life, and will not help in the way that drugs would.

zzzzz Fri 17-May-13 20:35:44

snoopy I think possibley we should just disengage. I was merely responding to what you wrote. Of course I don't know how you feel about the parents with children with sn that you know.

Most parents of children with ASD, though by no means all, agree that there is a strong genetic predisposition in their family. Though I'm not sure any of them would describe ASD as a MH issue, certainly it can lead to MH problems. sad

I'm sure schizophrenia is highly inheritable too???.

I personally think drugs do have an important part to play in the treatment of MH. I don't think they should be prescribed willy nilly, but they are another weapon in the battle.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 21:16:54

Hi Strawberry17

I was really interested to read your blog. I was aware that these drugs were addictive but I had no idea of the horrible nightmare that they can sometimes induce. Helps me understand a little bit better why they just can't keep off them. Thank you so much for posting this blog. I hope that you're ok! Sounds like you've been through the wars. I'm glad you've got a sweet husband and your sons to help you through it all.

SnoopyLovesYou Fri 17-May-13 21:19:54

Sorry I edited my last message and realise now that it doesn't read very well. When I say 'they' I was just referring to some friends and family who have been, like you, on Prozac or similar drugs for a very long time.

Ubermumsy Fri 17-May-13 21:34:05

snoopy, I'm a depressive. I come from a long line of depressives. I respond really, really well to low dose SSRIs. But as I don't know what makes me depressed, I don't find talking therapies helpful. So in my case, the drugs do work and thank fuck for them. Yes, probably on them for the rest of my life, but so what? Without them my life would probably be shorter...

Sunnywithshowers Fri 17-May-13 21:45:49

I should add... like ubermumsy the drugs work for me.

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