The Times: Parents demand prozac for high achieving children/anxiety “masks” depression?

Two articles about depression in The Times today came to my attention.

Firstly, Lucy Bannerman reports on research which shows that 36% of medical professionals feel “bullied” by parents into prescribing dangerous anti-depressant drugs as a “quick-fix cure” for children who are under pressure to do well in exams. What is even more alarming is that six out of ten GP’s feel obliged to prescribe prozac because they rated local, more “holistic” treatment health services as “poor” or “very poor”.

This lack of knowledge about how depression occurs and how to effectively treat it must be fought. There is a dramatic need to improve access to health services that treat depression quickly without drugs.

Secondly, an article by Thomas Stuttaford, the Times resident Doctor, discusses anxiety with relation to the cricketeer Marcus Trescothicks recent withdrawal from the Ashes cricket team and begins:

“Those who suffer from depressive illness, such as Marcus Trescothick, often also exhibit symptoms of stress, which can mask the true problem.”

Stuttaford then stumbles through the relationship between anxiety, stress and depression (sometimes implying that they are same ‘disorder’) and describes in depth the symptoms of each – without reaching any firm conclusion.He correctly identifies that anxiety and depression go hand in hand, but what he is missing is that anxiety eventually causes depression

“There is a close interrelationship between depression and anxiety. When I was a junior hospital doctor in a psychiatric team, one of my chief’s oft-repeated observations was that depressed patients also showed signs of anxiety, and in all anxious patients there was evidence of depression. It was therefore easy to miss the true diagnosis.”

The need for increased REM sleep (to dearouse unresolved anxiety) leads to waking up feeling exhausted with lowered motivation. Stuttaford touches on the connection between depression and poor sleep..

“The sleep pattern is altered — often the small hours are spent restlessly as despondent thoughts go round and round. All energy seeps away, as the patient complains of being tired and suffering an unnatural fatigue.”

..but the idea that worrying increases REM sleep and causes depression is not mentioned.

This connection is a fundamental development in our understanding of depression that needs to be far more widely recognised by the NHS and health professionals so that it can be treated more effectively.

See here for more information on the importance of dreaming and its relationship with depression.

Posted by: Eleanor


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