Do not make therapy or medication suggestions based on your experience

People think because they were diagnosed with a disorder at one time, or their friends, or family members were that they have some basis for suggesting mental health remedies in the lives of others. It can be actually dangerous, a waste of time and money, and actually detrimental for a lay person with mere “experience” to make such a suggestion. Please keep in mind, if you suspect a friend or family member to have some mental issue, always encourage professional help specifically a therapist, psychologist or even social worker, NOT your family practice physician! This example illustrates why…

I once dealt with a clinical situation as follows. Joe had an uncle who was 62 and went on medication for depression. Joe had known the uncle had been widowed, but was dealing with that quite well. This is all that Joe knew of his uncle. The medication worked quite well for the uncle, depression was effectively gone!

Joe’s niece was Jenny (well still is) and 20, who also indicated she was depressed. Jenny’s mom and dad were very religious and expected her to go into accounting while in college. As, a result of Joe learning of the depression, and critically, not knowing of the religious part and school expectations he suggested that Jenny go on the same medication as his uncle.

Here is where the problem occurs. When I met Jenny, I found out she was depressed specifically that she was now a confirmed lesbian in her mind and wanted to go into english vs accounting. Her family was expecting her to help with the family business, and was very conservative and religious. Hence, she was depressed because she was not able to be educated the way she wanted in english vs accounting. Also, was not being able to “be herself” a lesbian around her family of which she did love.

I ended up finding out (long story) that the uncle who was depressed, actually had long standing depression for decades in which he attempted multiple modes of therapy. In his case it was actually according to research appropriate to go on medications.

You make think you know someone, yet you don’t know the personal struggles that they are dealing with in life. Specifically, their private life they don’t want friends, family, co-workers, and even including you to know about. Also, simply because two people are labeled with Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, etc. the genesis or underlying cause, may be radically different. Furthermore, different therapeutic interventions will work better for different conditions, and personality types. This is why you must have a professional do the analysis, not you as a friend, loved, one etc.

In this case, therapy was appropriate for Jenny, and it worked out well. Yes, the family was not as close in the end, yet when checking with her years later, she was happy, with no need for medication.

Many may be thinking that trying the medications could have helped or worth a try, with very little side effects except wasting time! I would agree! However, when you consider other more intensive forms of intervention in Jenny’s case such as hospitalization, treatment centers, and even relocation. These can actually be detrimental to the person, when professional help is not involved. You may for example think pulling them from college for a year will help, Jenny divulged the family was thinking of it. When in actuality the person, Jenny being in college (in this case of depression) may be the only place they feel they can express themselves. In fact, she may have committed suicide if brought back “home” where she feels isolated and not around other gays and lesbians. In Jenny’s case she opened up to talking about depression because she actually felt free finally, around people she can relate to in the college setting. The point is you want a professional involved and not giving “arm chair” psychological advice simply because something worked for you or someone you know!

Again, note how this post dovetails nicely with the previous post on personal experience.

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