Your Brain, Your Attitude, and Psychotropic Drugs

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from South Florida Health, v. 2 (1), pp. 19, 24 I used to be like any other therapist on the subject of psychotropic medication. My rude awakening came one sunny Sunday as my son, then 14, was preparing to visit a friend. “Don’t forget your Ritalin,” I told him, “so you don’t drive your friend’s mother crazy.” “Nah,” he replied, “I’m in the mood to have fun today.” There was that familiar grin on his face. “That’s precisely why you need the meds,” I pointed out. Patiently, and still grinning, he answered, “I can take it if it means that much to you, but I‘ll override it anyway.” “I can take it if it means that much to you, but I’ll override it anyway.” What??? I drove the whole five miles to his friend’s house with my jaw on my knees. What exactly did he mean? As I thought about this over the following months and years, I began to understand why antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and other psychotropic drugs often stop working-or won’t work at all. The answer is a personal thing. In fact, it’s at the intersection of brain chemistry and the soul. Because emotions originate in a more primitive area of the brain than our rational process, they have been thought not to be too responsive to reason. Therefore, the standard treatment for emotions has up to now been psychotropic medication. However, the neurons firing for emotions, meaning-making, and social relationships all run through the same brain circuits; they interact. This means that emotions are tied to the meaning we place on experience which...
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