When self-help writer Marianne Williamson appeared on the stage of the presidential debate last month, Twitter users enjoyed decoding their old comments on vibrations and "morphic" fields. Her appearance, however, also highlights much more serious comments on mental health.
Williamson criticized the widespread use of antidepressants in books, interviews, and social media articles. suggested they blame them for the suicides of some celebrities; marked treatment guidelines for postpartum depression as a way for drug companies to make more money; and called the distinction between normal sadness and clinical depression "artificial."
How far antidepressants should be prescribed and under what circumstances, is a real debate among psychiatrists. But Williamson has tended to argue broadly, suggesting that the drugs are overstretched and ruthlessly overused. Mental health experts say that comments such as these increase the stigma and reduce the likelihood of people seeking treatment, even if it is not intended.
In an interview with the New York Times this month, Williamson ̵
"I have no verdict – and neither do I think I've ever spoken to anyone taking antidepressants," she added in an SMS after the interview. "I am happy for anyone who finds the help they need for a disease, and my problem is not with anti-depressants, which clearly have many people and help them." My problem is only over-prescribing and the practices of pharmaceutical companies, though Drugs are marketed in a predatory manner. "
Before I granted the interview, Williamson asked me to read her book" Tears to Triumph. "Avoiding or suppressing emotional pain is often destructive, and this pain can be a" spiritual journey. " In the book, she describes depression and anxiety as the results of a society that rejects "love" and encourages readers to heal themselves by giving up their suffering to God and "rising above the system of thought that creates it."
She also says she has twice received diagnoses of clinical depression and writes:
"As deep as my suffering may be, I did not want to be stunned. I went through it. Like an expectant mother who wants to give birth naturally and refuses drugs during labor because she wants to experience a "natural birth," I wanted to be fully available to the depths of my grief. Why? Because I knew it had something to teach. I knew that my suffering would somehow lead to a brand new morning in my life – but only if I was ready to endure the deep, dark night before it. "
Williamson talked to The Times Hour for almost a while. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
– About clinical depression: "It's not always a scam"
Q: In your book, you criticize the distinction between "sadness" and "depression."
A: My point is that there is a spectrum of normal human despair, things happen in life, people become sad, this is not a sign of mental illness, people suffer personal loss, it is not a mental illness, people go through a breakup My point is that over the past few decades there has been a mediatization of normal human despair.
I have never considered bipolar, schizophrenic or obvious mental illnesses for which psychotherapeutics are known to have clear benefits and lifesaving effects. I'm not following in the footsteps of others, but the pharmaceuticalization of normal human despair leads to other people get on my trail. There are problems of normal human despair that were considered hundreds of years ago as a field of religion and spirituality. In many cases, the baton was passed on to psychotherapy and then, as it seemed overnight, passed to psychopharmacology.
The psyche has an immune system like the physical body. The body can endure an amazing amount of attacks and injuries and repair itself, and it's amazing how much the psyche can endure. But with drugs you do not mask the immune system. They work with the immune system.
Q: How do medications for physical complaints "interact" with the immune system as psychotropic drugs do not?
A: I'm not specifically saying what you just said. I'm just saying that the body's immune system is respected. If I have a bruise, it will just take some time for the bruise to heal. The fact that it takes a while for the bruise to heal does not mean that something is wrong.
Traditionally, people realized that grief was part of life. People say, "Your mother died, it's been a month, right?" What I have seen is the very unhealthy pressure on everyone to be happy all the time. The fact that you are sad today does not mean that something is wrong with you. Maybe it's just that something sad has happened.
Q: Your book states, "The medical profession has adopted depression and the words & # 39; sadness & # 39; and & # 39; depression & # 39; separated in an artificial way that serves no one the pharmaceutical industry. "Does that mean that there is no clinical depression?
A: I do not doubt that they exist, and I am sure that there are people for whom psychotherapeutics, including antidepressants, are very helpful. What I'm saying is that the term is used so loosely today that people I've seen, as I experience a normal spectrum of human despair, have been referred to as "clinical depression" as if to turn off the subject.
Q: In the podcast "Under the Skin" starring Russell Brand in November you said, "I have lived through periods of time that today would be termed clinical depression by all means, but even that is one Scam. "
A: I am sorry to have said that. That was a safe comment, because it is not always a scam.
I've met hundreds of people who went through hell trying to get rid of antidepressants that should never have been prescribed. I have worked with people who have been through normal human crises since 1983. And in many cases, I have seen the devastating effects of over-prescribing.
That's not to say that some people are not serious – and by the way, I've certainly had experiences in which I said, "I think you should see a psychiatrist." I can tell you the difference. One is, "I'm crying because my friend left," and one is someone who can not even look up. I understand the difference, and when someone shows certain symptoms, I'll be the first to say, "I think you should see a psychiatrist."
Q: You said earlier that there is no blood test for clinical depression, which seems to mean that the distinction is arbitrary and you can not see the difference clearly.
A: First, let's talk about the times when someone says they are clinically depressed, their gynecologist. People throw this term around today. And even when people say, "Oh, there's brain chemistry" – yes, I understand it's brain chemistry. But we also saw changes in brain chemistry through yoga, meditation, and prayer. I do not understand where to make fun of a smart question, what's going on here.
– About antidepressants: "We are a depressive society"
At this point, we turned to Williamson's commentaries on antidepressants and suicide, one she made on the day the designer Kate Spade killed herself "How many public figures taking antidepressants need to hang up before the FDA does anything, Big Pharma does what it knows, and the average person stops falling for it?"
There was no public evidence that Spade had taken antidepressants.
The Food and Drug Administration has for years stated that certain types of antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in people under the age of 24. The warning instructs physicians to weigh this aside with the potential benefits of the medication and to closely monitor patients, but also says that studies in people over 24 years of age do not show a similar risk and that untreated depression itself is a risk factor for suicide.
She stayed with her comment. Williamson paused for a few seconds before answering, "Yes. What is not true in this statement? Because what I'm saying is that the FDA knows that. Big Pharma knows that. Intelligent people know that. "
Q: When I read," How many public figures need to hang on to antidepressants before F D A does anything " , the message is, "Antidepressants are incredibly dangerous and should not be taken."
A: I am sorry that you get this from the tweet. My feeling is not that people read this tweet and think that they are incredibly dangerous. But if anything that I say makes people slow down and talk more seriously, especially when it comes to teenagers, I'm glad I helped to initiate the conversation.
If you are mentally ill, you can see your statements and understand them as if you should not visit a psychiatrist.
A: I do not think anyone who hears me reading aloud – I'm so careful.
Q: However, the people who read your tweets are not all the same people who attend your lectures.
A: But then – the vast majority of people – that's my opinion. We are a depressive society. There are things that are deeply wrong in this society and that depress people. The problem is that in too many cases, someone goes to therapy and the therapist says, "What happens in your life when you are so depressed?" We need more talk about why whole strata of society are depressed. We have to talk about the role of economic injustice, chronic economic tensions and fears.
We can not even use the word without the suggestion, "You are talking about a serious mental illness." There is depression that does not exist mental illness. So you say, I'm not worried that people who are seriously mentally ill will see this tweet and understand it as if they should not – it worries me, all the people who are not are seriously mentally ill, who speak of antidepressants as if it were not a very serious decision.
Q: Can not you be worried about both?
A: Yes, absolutely. Then the question is: Should not I have done this tweet?
Q: If an argument is more nuanced than it can fit into a tweet and you try to put it in one, that nuance is lost. But people still read it.
A: I think that's a legitimate challenge for me. In my career, I feel very cautious. And I hear you saying that I should be more careful with Twitter. God knows, in the last few weeks you'd better believe that I looked at tweets and regretted them.
I can see now that Twitter is not the best place to weigh such a serious topic. Yes, I think you are right.