Rx: Do your research - Experts from PsychTests.com Prescribe Knowledge As The Best Approach Toward Mental Health

PsychTests.com encourages people seeking help for mental health issues to do their research before accepting a quick fix.


PsychTests.com, a pioneer in online personality, mental health, career, and IQ assessments is offering up a dose of practical advice during May's Mental Health Awareness month. Rather than trying to find a "quick fix" with drug therapy, PsychTests encourages people to pop online and do their own research before popping a pill.

Drug therapy can be an effective treatment for several mental health disorders, including Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and very severe, debilitating levels of Depression, Anxiety, and Attention Deficit problems (National Institute of Mental Health, 2008). These days, drug treatment can be readily prescribed by GPs. General Practitioners have now become the first line of defense for many individuals who still fear the stigma of visiting a mental health professional. The greatest concern for proponents of mental health like PsychTests, however, is the potential for misdiagnoses or over-diagnoses, ready availability and the ease at which drugs are prescribed for mental health issues. The lack of full disclosure about the potential side effects of many medications and the availability of alternative methods of therapy prevent patients from making a truly informed decision about the best treatment option. Some of the more alarming statistics include:

  • From 2005-2008, 11% of Americans as young as 12 years and older were taking antidepressants; 6% were taking antianxiety drugs (National Center for Health Statistics).
  • Less than 1/3 of those taking antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005-2008).
  • Since 1988, antidepressant use in the U.S. increased nearly 400% (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005-2008).
  • From 1994-1995, 25 out of 100,000 children were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. That number increased to 1003 by 2005 (Archive of General Psychology).
  • 1 in 2 Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder. Of those with a diagnosable disorder, less than half of adults get help and less than one third of children get help (Center for Disease and Control, 2007).

So are we in the middle of a mental illness epidemic? "Judging by these numbers, we should be very concerned, points out Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests "I mean, half of the population is considered mentally ill - but should we be concerned about losing our collective mental health, or rather, should we worry about the labeling of common reactions to normal life experiences as pathological? Are we really helping grieving people by prescribing antidepressants? Do so many kids really need ADHD medication? Many mental health professionals don't think so."

In fact, more than 13,000 mental health professionals and 13 of the 53 APA divisions endorsed a petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dsm5/) urging a serious reconsideration of the DSM-5, the newest yet-to-be released version of the diagnostic manual of mental disorders, which plans to relax the guidelines for many disorders and add a number of new mental health issues.

"Loose diagnostic criteria inevitably lead to loose diagnoses. And in the minds of the general population, as well as well-meaning but Rx-happy GPs, when there is a diagnosis, there is a pill that can fix it," explains Jerabek. "So instead of helping people to learn new coping and social skills, enabling them to deal with the skeletons in their closet and to move on, we are telling them to pop a happy pill. And that's just wrong."

"We want people to seek help for personal issues they may be having, whether it's from their GP or a mental health professional. What we also want, however, is for people with these issues to make informed decisions about their treatment options. And if you are not getting the information from your doctors, then you have to take responsibility for your own health and do your own research as well," encourages Dr. Jerabek, CEO of PsychTests.

So what does PsychTests recommend if you or a family member is diagnosed with a mental disorder? Here are a few tips:

  • Do your research. What types of therapy are available? For most people, some form of counseling is sufficient; no need for drugs. If the disorder is at a severe level, starting off with drug therapy could be helpful. Once emotions and behavior have stabilized, explore alternative forms of therapy. For example:
    • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is particularly effective for Anxiety disorders, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Phobias, and Eating Disorders.
    • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) has shown very promising results for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    • Hypnotherapy has been widely used for treating anxiety, stress, insomnia, and addictions (smoking, eating).
    • Life Coaching deals with a multitude of personal, business, and career issues, including assertiveness training, improving self-confidence, career changes, conflict management, interpersonal skills, leadership training, as well as overall health and well-being.
    • Positive Psychology is good for increasing overall happiness, improving sense of well-being and resilience; depression, stress management etc.
  • Don't be afraid to get a second opinion. If you walk into your doctor's office with a mental health complaint and walk out in less than 30 minutes with a prescription in your hand, it should raise a giant red flag. Don't settle for one professional's opinion when it comes to your mental health. If your GP believes you have the symptoms of a mental disorder, either ask him or her to recommend a mental health professional, or find one on your own. Here are a few things you may want to consider before choosing a therapist:
    • Ensure that the therapist's licensing requirements are up to date. One useful place to look for licensed therapists is Psychology Today's Therapist Directory (http://www.psychologytoday.com/) or GoodTherapy.org (http://www.goodtherapy.org/).
    • Before starting therapy, you should ask your potential therapist questions relevant to the treatment: How many sessions will I need? What's the cost? What happens if I decide to abandon the treatment program? Also, ask your therapist about his/her areas of expertise and what his/her qualifications are. Taking the time to ask all these questions can prove to be extremely helpful in finding the right therapist and can prevent you from entering into a situation you are not comfortable with. Check out additional tips on finding a therapist at http://www.goodtherapy.org/.
    • Ensure that your therapist's moral values are similar to yours. A therapist's role is to guide you in the choices that you make. If your therapist's views are too different, the advice that she or he offers may not resonate with you. Therapy, however, is an adversarial process and you shouldn't start looking for a new therapist just because your current therapist challenges your views and attitudes. That's part of his/her job. What is important is the outcome of your sessions. If your therapist is successful in making you think about the choices you make and their outcomes, then you have probably found a therapist that will satisfy your needs.
  • If you opt for medication, know exactly what you are getting into. As Dr. Jerabek notes, "All psychiatric drugs have a systemic effect: they will affect a lot of things, not just one chemical in the brain. Whatever you put into your system, chances are that it will have a widespread affect on other systems as well - cardiovascular, muscular, respiratory, and digestive/metabolic, just to name a few. - These may be labeled side effects but are in fact just unintended direct effects. Sometimes the side effects are subtle, perhaps even unnoticeable; sometimes people develop a full-blown problem, and your doctor may not always be able to make the connection. As a result, you get another prescription for a problem that was triggered by another drug."

    For example, most common side effects of antidepressants can include weight gain and nausea, insomnia, anxiety, tremors, dizziness, sweating, fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, digestive problems and decreased sex drive. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a class of antidepressants, can result in hepatitis, heart attack, stroke or seizures. Antidepressants can also result in personality changes, apathy, emotional bluntness or indifference. In some individuals, antidepressant medication has actually been counterproductive, increasing rather than decreasing depression, and along with it, increasing risk of suicide or violent behavior. And then there is the withdrawal problem - if you stop the medication abruptly, you will likely experience both somatic and psychological withdrawal symptoms, so you need to be gradually weaned off. When it comes to treating childhood disorders, like ADHD, non-profit organization PAR (Parents Against Ritalin) encourages families to explore alternatives to drugs, including dietary changes. Other experts encourage exercise, proper sleep habits, and even meditation.

"Don't walk into a doctor's office and simply say 'I (or my child) have such-and-such a problem ... what can you prescribe to fix it'?" concludes Dr. Jerabek. "We want to make it clear that we're not completely condemning drugs - they can be very helpful in some cases. What we're advising is knowledge. Don't opt for a quick fix when it comes to your mental health. Learn about the proposed medication, its common as well as rare side effects, see what other patients who are taking it have to say about their experience, and consider the withdrawal syndrome. Keep in mind that some information you find on the internet may be biased or untrue, but researching the drug, you will be able to make an informed discussion with your doctor, and be an active partner in your quest for a good mental health."

A large collection of mental health assessments is available at: http://testyourself.psychtests.com/category/7.

A completely free overall mental health assessment can be taken at: http://testyourself.psychtests.com/testid/3041.

About Psychtests AIM Inc.

PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts. The company's research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D., President
Psychtests AIM Inc.