Anxiety, Bioidentical Hormones, Estrogen, Hormone Imbalance, Libido/Sex Drive, Mood Swings, PMS, Postpartum Mood Disorders, Progesterone, Women's Health

Are Women’s Health Issues Being Painted with a Mental Health Brush?

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Mental Health is more than just prescribing an anti-depressant

I recently realized that some people view me as being “against meds”.   It’s true I refused anti-depressants for my PMS and again for my postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) because I knew there had to be a better solution.  Finally at my wits’ end with the PMS I took Zoloft for 6 weeks before throwing them out!  It may surprise you to know that I’m not anti-meds.  What I am “for”, however, is doctors providing patients all the alternatives & letting the patient participate in the decision.

Obviously many people are helped by taking anti-depressants.  Lives are saved by such medications.  But did you know about 1 in 4 people are made worse by taking SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors)? There are studies showing a placebo effect may be at play for some people – this suggestion is controversial.  But here’s the thing – the number of SSRI’s being prescribed for everything from acne to PMS to IBS to hot flashes has me concerned.  Anti-depressants aren’t just being prescribed for depression.  Did you know they are even formulating a new SSRI specifically to treat low libido in women?

Here’s more stats that may surprise you:

  • Anti-depressant use in America is up 400 percent in two decades!!
  • 11% of Americans take an anti-depressant
  • 23% of women age 40 – 59 take antidepressants
  • Anti-depressants are the third most prescribed drug in America
  • 14% of people taking an anti-depressant are taking more than one type

I don’t think my situation is unique –  I wasn’t offered alternatives and I was offered anti-depressants for PMS and later for PPMD.  So my position is that year after year, health issue after health issue my “condition” was never “treated” but rather my “symptoms” were just “prescribed” medication.  That’s what I have trouble with.

Women’s health issues are being painted with a mental health brush all too often.   Here’s how I know this to be true:

  • Millions of women with hypothyroidism are being undiagnosed and misdiagnosed, many are being given anti-depressants without ever checking for thyroid.Dr. Barry Durant-Peatfield, author of “Your Thyroid and How to Keep It Healthy” , believes that up to half of all depression is due to unrecognized hypothyroidism.
  • Some women on synthetic thyroid meds develop depression and are treated with anti-depressants instead of a medication change.
  • Hormone imbalances can be the culprit in mood disorders – Using anxiety as an example, progesterone is considered a neurosteroid – it’s a long story and I won’t geek out on you too much – but basically it is synthesized in the central nervous system and affects the GABA receptors in the brain – similar to benzodiazepine drugs.  Its anti-anxiety affect occurs very quickly and there are no side-effects to using natural progesterone, in fact if you need it perhaps you’re deficient!  Spend some time on a benzodiazepine forum to listen to women who have been on these drugs for 20 years discuss either their side effects or about the withdrawal symptoms when they try to wean themselves off.  It makes me weep knowing that most of these women have never encountered a doctor that considered checking their hormones before writing the prescription.
  • Some women who don’t respond well to their anti-depressants are being treated with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).  Yes, ECT is alive and well still today and without their hormones or thyroid ever being checked some severely depressed patients are undergoing ECT.
  • Studies show Postpartum Psychosis may be a symptom of an auto-immune thyroid disease (AITD) – Here’s just a sample of a small study in the Netherlands in 2011 that showed 19% of women with postpartum psychosis had an AITD.  So are 19% of postpartum psychosis sufferers being given the wrong meds for their condition?
  • Women, like Jana, are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder when, in fact, they have Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disorder.  There’s a problem with that – a big one in fact – the Lithium prescribed for bipolar destroys their thyroid gland.

Instead of opening the Endocrine Manual, many doctors are scouring the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) searching for our mental illness.   Instead of investigating for hormone imbalance or metabolic and auto-immune disorders, prescriptions for anti-depressants & benzodiazepines or other similar drugs are being written for women in record numbers.

Sometimes when you are the patient suffering, you will grab onto the first life preserver that is being thrown out to you.  And maybe that is the one you need but what if it’s not?   I think we need to let women know about all the life preservers that are available for her and then let her decide.  


Disclaimer:  The information provided on this site is not intended as medical advice  – seek medical advice from a doctor.  If you take medication never stop taking them without the supervision of your doctor.  Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency if you or someone you know is suffering seek medical attention immediately.