March 18th, 2015

I came across an interesting study this week that I want to share. Although, it has been out about a year, the information provided in it is quite interesting and still relevant. At the end of 2013, it was reported that more than six percent of adolescents were taking psychotropic medications. These medications are to help treat the symptoms of a mental disorder. Depression and ADHD are the most common mental health disorders among adolescents.

36012622_sI have often stated that these drugs are not a cure-all but rather aid in alleviating symptoms. Suppressing the symptoms provides a child the opportunity to develop better life-skills and strategies to deal with their disorder. The hope is that, with time and teaching, they will develop the ability to manage their disorder without medication.

Remember, a mental disorder is a group of signs or symptoms the psychotropic drugs treat. Many psychiatrists, myself included, see these signs and symptoms as only part of the overall problem. Much like a fever – signs and symptoms are an indicator of an underlying and not so obvious condition. I believe, as do many of my peers, that the underlying condition is as important to diagnose and treat, as are the signs and symptoms.

So what are underlying conditions? To believe in the concept of “underlying”, you must be open to another concept: the unconscious mind – the belief that we have thoughts and feelings of which we are unaware. Freud’s discovery of the unconscious mind entered mainstream psychiatry over a century ago. My clinical experience, as well as that of my thousands of colleagues who work every day in the curious world of underlying issues, makes it clear that signs and symptoms have their origins deeper in the personality.

What is their cause? In a nutshell, I believe that stresses in early life can lead to unresolved conflicts and anxiety. Many of us outgrow these difficulties as we mature. For others, the underlying tension leads to signs and symptoms that we call mental disorders. Which signs and symptoms we develop are based mostly on our genetic makeup. We can treat the symptoms very well with psychotropic medication, but it is almost always necessary to explore the underlying issues to free a person to develop to their full potential.

I believe that parents should not be afraid to give their adolescent medication when it is recommended by a medical professional. I almost never prescribe medication without a recommendation for psychotherapy, too. For many children and teenagers, the symptoms are so bad that therapy can’t even take place until the medication brings some relief.

After treating children and adolescents for more than 30 years, I can tell you first-hand that medication is most helpful to symptom relief. It will often give an adolescent enough of a reprieve from their symptoms to gain from other therapies. From talk therapy to special educational settings, these therapies can lead to a better quality of life for the adolescent and the family.

Click here to read the report.

When Kids Need Meds; Everything a Parent Needs to Know About Psychiatric Medication and Youngsters

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.