Polemics & Exchanges

On Helpful Prescriptions

B.K. Eakman (“Anything That Ails You,” Views, August) laments the use of psychotropic medications; as is so often the case, however, she is not the one who deals with the suffering patient.  Though the patient might have erroneously bought into the notion that she can and should be happy, this is irrelevant: The patient still suffers, and it is the doctor who is called upon to relieve that suffering.

The prescription pad is usually not what the physician turns to first.  What most often happens is that the patient has presented the doctor with symptoms; a thorough work-up has been done to exclude other disorders, and the diagnosis of depression, anxiety, a combination of both (or another psychiatric diagnosis) is ultimately made.  It is also true that many people just have tough lives: a woman divorced with two children, a poor education, and a husband who is a deadbeat; a woman who has just lost her job; a woman who has a son in Iraq and cannot sleep at night from worrying about his safety.  It is the physician who deals with these problems, and, believe me, to tell the patient just to suck it up is cruel and stupid—because most people cannot just suck it up.  So when that referral to a sleep clinic does not bring sleep, and when biofeedback and all those other New Age wonders fail, the patient must be...

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