When you have been diagnosed with a digestive disorder like IBS or IBD, you’re now usually told (or you know) that your emotions are a trigger for symptoms – not just food. You may even be wondering if the years of your body being in flight or fight state has been a major contributor to the digestive issues that you’re now facing.
The answer to this – in the medical world – is antidepressants.
I do completely understand what it’s like to feel trapped by your emotions and thoughts, wishing things were different but being unable to see how that could be possible. Being unable to move off the couch and feeling so down and teary constantly. Feeling so different from everyone else, isolated and like no one can help you.
Despite my knowing the side effects, I’ve considered using antidepressants several times in my life. I just wanted something, anything, to take the pain away.
However, antidepressants don’t address the cause of the depression/anxiety in the same way that other medication like Buscopan, Immodium or Nexium does not address the cause of the issue. The same way that supplements don’t address the cause of the issue.
All these things can help (when used correctly), but they treat the symptoms instead of looking to find out what’s really going on.
They are a tool – not the solution.
Ever started taking something and felt great but then all your symptoms came back? It’s because whatever is causing the problem hasn’t been addressed. It’s a bit like pouring oil into a broken engine.
Antidepressants also come with a whole new set of side effects like weight gain, nausea, digestive upsets, brain fog, memory loss, sleeplessness – they can even worsen depression, anxiety and suicidal behaviours. Not to mention causing dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms.
Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, wrote a fascinating article for the Sydney Morning Herald in which he revealed:
- Nearly 1 in 10 Australians take antidepressants, which is the second-highest rate of antidepressant use in the world
- Between 65 and 80 percent of people prescribed antidepressants become depressed again
- Grief and depression have the same symptoms – depression is a form of grief for your psychological needs not being met
Below is an extract from that article that I found particularly interesting:
In the early 2000s, South African psychiatrist Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and told him they didn’t need these new antidepressants, because they already had some that worked. He assumed they were talking about a herbal remedy.
He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old job – working in the rice paddies – was leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that that was making him want to just stop living.
So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. They bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depression, which had been profound, went away. “You see, doctor,” they told him, the cow was an “antidepressant”. To them, finding an antidepressant didn’t mean merely finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place.
I’ll repeat that last sentence – it meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place.
But this is probably not what you’ve been told! Perhaps you’ve heard something like ‘your stress/anxiety/depression is causing your IBS, take these SSRIs and that will fix it’.
Not only does this not address the problem, but it also discourages you from finding the source of the problem. It’s something to try and take away your symptoms instead of exploring them and discovering what they mean.
They mask the pain instead of healing it.
To find out what is causing psychological pain you must be brave and go there. It involves exploring your feelings and emotions to find out their origins, which isn’t always easy. It may bring up painful memories but if it does, it’s because they are ready to be processed and released.
Addressing and healing emotional pain is just as important as addressing and healing physical pain – in fact it is where it all starts.