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janbb's avatar

If you were put on psychotropic drugs, does that mean you are mentally ill?

Asked by janbb (43613 points ) January 7th, 2014

I realize this a hot button question but a friend and I were discussing this. He says yes; I say that doctors can prescribe at your request or their own decision but that that doesn’t make you mentally ill. For example, I don’t see the occasional Xanax as meaning you have MI. He did qualify it by including depression and anxiety issues, but I still draw the line elsewhere. What say you?

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39 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

The definition of Mentally Ill is very slippery. I would say if a person needed drugs to control their behavior, they are M I.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Are they able to work? Are they collecting disability for it?
The answers to those questions will help you decide.

jca's avatar

In order for the doctor to prescribe any medication, he has to enter a diagnosis. The diagnosis will determine if the person is mentally ill. I would think the diagnosis for a prescription of a psychotropic drug would be some kind of mental illness. Depression qualifies as a mental illness. Anything in the DSM is a mental illness.

anniereborn's avatar

“Mentally Ill” means you have a diagnoses from the DSM V.
This is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-5

You must meet certain criteria for any number of disorders to really be considered “Mentally Ill”. For instance, I have Bipolar Disorder ll and PTSD.

Taking psychotropic medication alone does not mean anything definitive.
Seeing at least one psychiatrist (though I would recommend more than one opinion) and having a thorough evaluation is the only way to diagnosis such things.

anniereborn's avatar

@jca
A doctor could prescribe an anti-anxiety medication and simply put “anxiety” as the reason.
That is just general term and not an official disorder. Mental Illness is a real term, even though it is loosely used all the time. A diagnosis by a psychiatrist from the DSM V is the only true definition.

Coloma's avatar

Mental illness is a matter of degree as are many things.
A moderate situational depression with anxiety is not the same as having bi-polar or other organic brain impairments. A situational depression brought on by life losses is not to be compared to more serious mental health conditions, but technically yes, depression mild or otherwise, anxiety, with corresponding poor coping ability would be considered being mentally unwell.

hug_of_war's avatar

I consider the diagnosis, not the medication to define mental illness. Taking anti-anxiety medicine because you are nervous about a surgery the following day doesn’t mean you have an anxiety disorder. I have asperger’s (officially diagnosed) but I do not, and never have been medicated for it. You can’t define an illness but how it’s treated (though that’s useful information), but by its underlying cause and symptoms.

Mariah's avatar

My opinion is no. My PCP was willing to prescribe an SSRI simply because he understood that I was going through something very difficult. Anyone would have wound up depressed in that situation.

JLeslie's avatar

Absolutely not. People are put on neurotin for pain or sometimes it is prescribed for seizures. Some people take a few Xanax for an accute circumstance, they could get through without, but it is a relief from the nornal stress on their body during a traumatic period. Some doctors prescribe antidepressants to quit smoking. Antidepressants are also used for pain.

I oersnally don’t consider mild depression to be mentally ill, but it is a big fat grey line for me I guess with some conditions depending on the severity.

ibstubro's avatar

Have you ever known anyone that was perfect physical condition? If you have psoriasis or have a mole removed, do you quality as physically “ill”?

Perfection is an illusion and doesn’t exist. We’re all both physically and mentally ill to a degree.

If you take Zyban to stop smoking, it’s an aid. If you take Wellbutrin it’s indicative of mental illness?

Even in the West, mental health is somewhere physical health’s milestones of aspirin and the Polio Vaccine.
Oh, how we humans love to label!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

No. Mental illness is not defined by the drugs people take. They are way over prescribed IMO.

glacial's avatar

Assuming that the drugs were prescribed with good reason, then I’d have to say that the person has a mental illness. They’re plainly not in good mental health if they require a prescription to function. If they don’t require a prescription to function… why is the drug being prescribed?

I think that saying that a person who is on prescribed medication is not ill makes it easier to forgive overprescription of meds, and that this is something we should resist.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Most people experience depression and/or anxiety at some point in their lives. Does that make them mentally ill or just going through a rough patch? I think we need to be extremely cautious how we define “mentally ill” I think it should be restricted to illnesses that have some permanence like schizophrenia or psychopathy.

glacial's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me “Does that make them mentally ill or just going through a rough patch?”

I don’t see why we need to be coy about it. Having heart disease is a serious physical illness. Having a cold is also having an illness, though a less serious one. If we mean what we say about not wanting to assign a stigma to mental illness, why are we afraid to call it that?

ibstubro's avatar

I think it’s because, @glacial current standard English language immediately associate “sick, ill, and illness” with physical symptoms.

If you say to someone, “I’ve been sick,” it’s immediately a-ss-u-med to be a physical problem.
If you say to someone, “I’ve had a touch of mental illness,” you’re immediately ‘crazy’.

“Mental Illness” already has the stigma built in. It’s too little understood, and too little discussed. If you euphemize, “I’ve been a little depressed lately” or “I went to the doctor to see why he thinks I’ve been so moody”, then you at least get past the flashing psychedelic neon ”CRAZY” sign and get to a point where you might discuss it with someone you’re not a intimate personal basis with.

When I quit smoking I was given the option (by my doctor) of paying out-of-pocket for Zantac, or getting a script for Wellbutrin which was same-as-free under my insurance, but would “forever label me with the stigma of having been treated for a mental illness”

Guess what? I’m now smoke free and mentally ill!

glacial's avatar

But @ibstubro, if they are on medication, then presumably it is a physical problem. A chemical problem, to be more precise. In case there is any confusion, I am not suggesting that anyone be called “crazy”. To be mentally ill is not to be crazy.

ibstubro's avatar

Exactly my point, @glacial.

If you have heart disease, we don’t announce that you’re ‘Vascularly ill’. It sounds ominous, foreign and cause for discrimination.

Yet if you say, ‘brain disease’, the immediate thought is “Tumor? Cancer?” DISease of the body is an illness. Mental illness is crazy. Until we find a way around that stigma, we need to be very, very careful about what we allow to be labeled ‘mental illness’. Some along the lines of “Chronic disease of the brain requiring periodic maintenance drugs and regular monitoring by a doctor.”

Finally, I’d like to add the happy thought that, as my doctor pointed out to me, you currently can never outrun the stigma of having been prescribed a psychotropic drug. You might be declared cured of brain cancer, but you can never escape that 3 months of depression you had when you were 22, if you were (the horror) treated.

I have no doubt that the new health care law will speed up the acceptance of mental illness in the US, but we’ve a long way to go.

glacial's avatar

@ibstubro I’m having trouble getting your point. Is your answer to the question, “Yes, but we shouldn’t say so”? Because that’s what it sounds like.

ibstubro's avatar

“Until we find a way around that stigma, we need to be very, very careful about what we allow to be labeled ‘mental illness’. Some[thing] along the lines of “Chronic disease of the brain requiring periodic maintenance drugs and regular monitoring by a doctor.”

@glacial I’m having trouble getting your point. Is your answer to the question, “Yes, and if that’s a lifelong stigma, so be it.”

I mean, the retards and the fags have managed to pull themselves out of the ‘mentally ill’ camp. Eventually the rest of them will too…if they’re not too crazy or can find an advocate.

Judi's avatar

I haven’t read all the answers but I need to say that it makes me sad that mental illness still carries so much stigma that this question needs to be asked. :-(

ibstubro's avatar

Read through, @Judi. There’s some good,healthy, discussion there.

Irregardless of it’s other strengths and weaknesses, universal health care in the US has got to help with the mental health stigma.

Judi's avatar

Ha! Just read the other answers. Me and @ibstubro are on the same page. :-)

Mariah's avatar

@glacial “They’re plainly not in good mental health if they require a prescription to function.” Even mentally strong people can be hit with situations that are too hard to get through without therapy and maybe even antidepressants. Are you insinuating that people are made mentally ill by their difficult situations?

glacial's avatar

@ibstubro This is not a question about stigma, or any other consequence of the label. The question is pretty straightforward, and requires a yes or no answer. You appear to be saying that there is no way to answer this question without qualifying the answer with a “because” or a “but”. That’s perfectly ok. I was just asking you to clarify your position, not trying to pick a fight with you about it. I have no idea why you are bringing homosexuality into the discussion, unless you think it can be cured with medication (and no, I don’t believe you think that).

@Mariah So it would appear, unless these people have been misdiagnosed. Most people who are prescribed antidepressants do not benefit from them. Unless the patient suffers from severe depression, antidepressants are not more effective than placebos. No doubt I will be shouted down for saying so, but it is nonetheless true. Read the studies.

But I am also saying that it should not carry a stigma. Please don’t use words like “insinuate”. I’ve been pretty clear about what I think, and I don’t think it’s a particularly controversial claim. I have nothing more to say on the subject; if people are not going to read what I wrote, I can’t break it down for you any further than that.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I think if it is a long time in the past and if you were young when it happened any stigma does dissappear for most people. A teen treated for depression or anxiety who is now 40 living a happy life is just seen as having tough teen years I think. Or, if someone loses their spouse and takes Xanax for a few weeks so they don’t get more weakened by lack of appetite and sleep loss, I don’t think most people really judge that. I hope not.

Plus, with all the pill doling out doctors do now I think the stigma of taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety pills is less and less, because so many are on the drugs themselves.

However, I agree there is still some stigma with mental illness, I am not going to deny that. Things like schizophrenia has a stigma I think no matter how severe. Many of the others I think it depends on the severity whether people think someone is mentally ill.

I don’t know, I live in a family where a couple of the people worked in mental health, and my grandparents generation on my father’s side had a lot of mental health issues, so I grew up around mental health discussions so it doesn’t seem so foreign to me. A lot of my friends take psychotropics and they aren’t embarrassed to say so; at least not within our friend circle. They pop pills easier than I ever would.

mattbrowne's avatar

Here’s one counter example:

There are experimental drugs for women who were just raped. They can prevent trauma by influencing the hippocampus and its role in forming longterm memory.

anniereborn's avatar

@mattbrowne I have not heard of that. That is very interesting. I am assuming this will prevent PTSD.

JLeslie's avatar

@anniereborn Those drugs are used for prevention of PTSD caused by a variety if things. The military uses it for soldiers in time of war. There have been expirements done and ongoing using the drugs even well after the event. This also has lead to the current trend in psychology that talking the specific details through of a traumatic event immediately after it happens is actually detrimental.

LostInParadise's avatar

How do you distinguish a medical procedure that corrects a problem from one that enhances your capabilities? In a hunter-gatherer or agrarian society, being passive and maybe even a little depressed can have survival value. Not so much in an industrial society. What is acceptable in one society becomes a problem in another one. The book Listening to Prozac did a nice job of addressing this issue. The book is slightly dated, since SSRI’s have been shown in most cases not to be very effective, but the philosophical issues are still relevant.

ibstubro's avatar

I disagree, @glacial that the OP was a straightforward, yes-or-no question. The discussion you and I have been having (amicably I point out) mirrors the discussion given in the ‘details’.

My original point was that since perfection doesn’t exist, all of us are both mentally and physically ill from the time of birth. As you point out, pretty much all mental illnesses have a physical cause. It’s not beyond the realm to see that a young woman developing a severe allergy with the onset of puberty could have been burned at the stake or locked in a ward. Today, she can take a Claritin. Therefore I see the term “mentally ill” only useful when it’s applied to someone that may cause harm to themselves or society without some form of outside monitoring/intervention.

Mariah's avatar

I didn’t meant to make any accusations about what you did or did not say with my choice of vocabulary, @glacial. I’m surprised you think someone is mentally ill because they are feeling down about something situational. Or, perhaps, is your stance that people should not be prescribed antidepressants for situational depression – because they’re not mentally ill? Just trying to understand.

glacial's avatar

Yes, @Mariah, that’s exactly what I’m saying – antidepressants should only be prescribed for severe depression. I don’t think that a person who is “feeling down” is mentally ill. That is precisely why I think that person should not be put on drugs.

Mariah's avatar

Huh. Well I guess my disagreement just comes from my personal experience. I was prescribed antidepressants because I was having surgeries for 15 months and it was terrible. I don’t think being depressed about this situation means I’m mentally ill – it’s a pretty normal reaction, I would think. But the meds really, really helped. I don’t know if you would consider this not a severe enough situation to warrant the prescription, but since I was helped, and I didn’t get any side-effects or other negative consequences, I feel it was worth it?

It seems your stance is that these meds are overprescribed. Can you describe why you think it’s problematic to prescribe anti-depressants to people in situations like mine – what harm comes of it?

snowberry's avatar

—@mattbrowne “There are experimental drugs for women who were just raped. They can prevent trauma by influencing the hippocampus and its role in forming longterm memory”

That’s just scary. So if I’m raped, they can give me a drug that will prevent me from remembering the details of the details and of my attackers so they can’t be prosecuted. Yikes!—
.

glacial's avatar

@snowberry That was my first thought, too.

ibstubro's avatar

Crap. I wrote a good answer to this, @snowberry, apparently changed pages before I sent it.

At the time the drugs @mattbrowne speaks of were in development, it was my understanding that the drugs didn’t mess the with memory itself but with the debilitating emotion associated with that memory. Reduce the mind-searing pain to more of a wince, if that. Instead of the memory ruling or overtaking your life, you’d be able to rationally help with whatever closure is possible and maybe even eventually forget. Most of us have had a trauma in our lives that seemed like it was going to hammer us into the ground. This is a tool to stop that intense emotion from ruining people’s entire lives.

mattbrowne's avatar

@anniereborn – Yes. See also @ibstubro great answer.

glacial's avatar

So… if a person doesn’t want to take the pain-reducing post-rape drug, she has only herself to blame for the fact that it hurts. That’s awesome.

ibstubro's avatar

Is a person breaks their leg and refuses to have it set, the blame is…who’s, @glacial.

It’s my understanding that the emotional trauma reducing drug isn’t ‘a morning after’ pill. It can be administered anytime after the fact if the emotion is proving debilitating. Of course, the longer someone let the strong emotion rule their lives, the more damage would be done that the more conventional therapy needed.

It’s also not confined to rape. It’s an experimental way of treating anything that might be a cause of PTSD. If a person is at reduced function because of a severely traumatic emotional episode, it’s another tool to help that person regain their life.

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