Before you take pills for anxiety, think about this

Before you take pills for anxiety, think about this

The most important concepts are often the toughest to accept. That's part of why they're ignored.

Sometimes, your brain sends you loud alarms to alert you that something is wrong and that needs fixing. Anxiety, depression, fear – these aren’t necessarily symptoms of a disease or illness. They might actually be signs of a healthy body trying to warn you about a problem elsewhere.

These mental alarms are often just your healthy body telling you that you need to change your outlook, your behavior, and/or your environment. Treating these negative feelings as symptoms of a disease can miss the point – and eventually make things worse.

  • I used to experience horrifying levels of anxiety almost entirely because I had an extremely negative self-perception. If I wasn’t achieving some comically big goal, then I felt like a failure. Eradicating this mentality got rid of almost all of my anxiety.
  • Most of the people I know who struggle with serious depression, uh, well, it kind of makes sense they would be depressed. Many of them have horrible outlooks on life, no passion projects, unhealthy lifestyles, bad financial strategy, or toxic relationships.
  • Most anxiety “fits” the bad strategic decisions almost everyone seems to make. In a world with massive consumer debt, horrible career decisions, and heartbreaking family life… how could anxiety be any lower?
  • If you spend decades making bad decisions affecting almost every area of your life, your brain would be broken if it didn’t make you feel bad.
  • We live in a society characterized by mindless consumerism, collapsing institutions, increased political polarization, and, ironically, more and more drugs flowing through everyone’s system. Is it any wonder that our bodies’ mental health alarm systems are going off non-stop?

Taking drugs can make you oblivious to the real root of the problem, leading to drastically worse “alarms” over time that you’ll probably keep ignoring. A vicious cycle begins and it’s heartbreaking to think about where it ends.

Unfortunately, we live in an era where pharmaceutical companies have formed an unlikely alliance with social justice culture to sell pills. The idea of seeing yourself as a mental health patient who is some kind of a victim is drastically more appealing to most people than a more useful interpretation that requires changed behavior.

There are, of course, major exceptions. Some people truly have chemical imbalances that no environmental or behavioral changes will cure. Some people have gone through truly traumatizing experiences that have left an incredibly profound physical impact on their brain.

PTSD, for example, is extremely real and heartbreaking. That’s why it’s still critical to work with health professionals, including mental health professionals.

But “I’m an exception and a legitimate health victim” is a conclusion that should only be reached after exhausting the alternatives, as I wrote about in the blame-yourself first principle.

This doesn’t mean anxiety and depression should be ignored or that the only response is some kind of moronic attempt to vaguely “get tough” or something like that. Just the opposite; they should be taken deathly seriously. Your body is freaking out, trying to tell you something. It’s up to you to figure out what it is as soon as possible.

When your body is warning you, listen. Don’t try to drug your brain’s alert systems into silence.

This is, of course, not advice. It’s an observation. Talk to your doctor before doing or changing anything. And don’t blame me for whatever decision you make.