by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 24, 2002
HELP FOR AGING AND AILING MINDS
SAN DIEGO -- One thing I learned from reading the psychological classic, "Listening to Prozac," years ago was that the physiological effects of stress and trauma are cumulative.
One may "cope" for years with varying situations common to the crazy, unpredictable nature of life, and then over time devolve to being incapable of dealing with the smallest stresses. This may well be because the neurotransmitters which modulate nearly everything from human motion to emotion are depleted as the aging process moves inexorably along.
We find ourselves after years of varying degrees of trauma and abuse, drained, fragile and without the resources younger people take for granted. Yet for many there is a stigma involved in taking anything like antidepressants.
I have seen so many positive changes in patients started on psychoactive drugs that it has made me a cheerleader for medications which lighten the burden of growing older. Many older people suffer from daily torment simply because their doctors and nurses aren't sensitive to their chronic but overwhelming emotional pain.
Sadness and melancholia is almost an expected part of aging.
But it need not be so. There are just too many good medicines out there to suffer from debilitating sadness. Somehow, our culture has adopted a default position that suffering has some kind of inherent merit, and that to exile it through chemical means is to take the easy (read "morally suspect") way out.
This position has been called "pharmacological stoicism," and I would go a step further and call it stupidity. Perhaps that is too harsh, so I will just call it ignorance. We know now that many depressive and psychological maladies are due to biochemical deficits.
The "mind-body connection" has become solid science and not just postcards from the edge.
Lack of serotonin can contribute to depression; lack of other neurotransmitters can severely impact motivation and drive. Medications which remedy these imbalances are the psychic equivalent of insulin or any other substance which the body once has supplied but for some reason has stopped supplying.
There need be no shame involved in restoring normal function to either the mind or the body.
We fix physical pain when we can but when it comes to emotional pain, we are apt to leave it untreated expecting the sufferer to "get a grip". We make things worse with perky little sayings like, "it's all in your head," or "stop feeling sorry for yourself etc."
When you take into consideration that the normal person in their later 70's and 80's is facing mountains of loss; loss of health, independence and loved ones, then the expectation that they will not need help managing overwhelming emotional states is not only unrealistic, it is cruel.
I sincerely hope it a cruelty that we see banished permanently.