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Take Control Over Your Own Happiness 

By Dr. Ben Lerner

The challenges of surviving on this wonderful Earth of ours can be numerous and often overwhelming. When this condition becomes chronic, and the coping gets more and more challenging, it's common to seek the help of a physician.

When faced with hopelessness and despair, nothing could be more appealing than a quick diagnosis, soon followed by an even quicker chemical solution. Millions of anxious, chronically unhappy people have found sanctuary in anti-depressant medications. So much so, to even suggest to someone who believes his or her life was "saved" by anti-depressants -- Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin or Prozac -- that these drugs are dangerous or there are potent alternatives available is to take your life in your own hands.

This is completely understandable for someone who feels past miseries have been finally pacified due to the miracles of modern medicine and what has been labeled a "chemical imbalance." No one wants their life preserver questioned when it's keeping them afloat in rough waters.

Roughly 28 million Americans -- one out of every 10 -- have taken Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil or a similar antidepressant. Very few of these patients are aware of the dangers these drugs cause as a result of the brain's reaction to artificially boosting serotonin levels. These side effects can include:

  • Neurological disorders, such as disfiguring facial and whole-body tics that can indicate brain damage.

  • Sexual dysfunction in up to 60 percent of patients.

  • Debilitating withdrawal symptoms, including visual hallucinations, electric shock-like sensations in the brain, dizziness, nausea and anxiety.

  • A decreasing degree of effectiveness in about 35 percent of long-term users.

Additionally, more and more investigating is being done to shed more light on the direct link between these drugs and suicide and violence, particularly among children.

Beyond My Control

Like all drugs, the use of antidepressants by some people is justified. Yet, as famed psychoanalyst Elio Frattaroli explains, "What biological psychiatry says is that, 'If my neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) made me do it, then everything I don't like about myself has a solution that lies outside myself."

This may be the most dangerous kind of thinking that exists in our culture today. When you're labeled as someone with chemical imbalance, you're perceived to be damaged goods with no hope of ever being normal. Because your personality and character are "permanently flawed," mind-altering drugs are your only way out. What's worse, it sends a message opposing the most noble of human efforts: Overcoming your problems by the strength of the human will which always seeks higher ground and an improved mental and spiritual outlook on life.

In the last decade, awareness campaigns and the over-prescribing of these medications have taken the number of scripts written for antidepressants from 30 million to 40 million to more than 20 billion. Harvard psychiatrist Stephen Bergman says, "When you line up all of the forces that act in psychiatry today, it's pretty scary. It is not in the patients' best interest."

In the past, no doctor would treat the kind of common anxiety and depression we see today with medication. Counseling from a mental health profession or clergy was the first and only option. According to psychiatrist Peter Kramer who wrote the bestseller "Listening to Prozac," since the advent of Prozac and Prozac-like drugs, "The bar has been lowered for what constitutes and emotional disorder that needs drugs and it has been raised for what constitutes successful treatment. Where the measure of successful treatment was once alleviation of debilitating pain, today patients want to be, as Kramer phrases it, to feel 'better than well.'"

Antidepressants are another case of medical science using a simple quick-fix solution to cover the symptoms of a complex problem. A healthy nervous system, exercise, sound nutrition and supplementation geared towards these concerns works the vast majority of the time and at the very least, should certainly be the a primary consideration over the use of drugs with this kind of track record.

Incidentally, studies have shown counseling is as at least effective than antidepressants, if not more, but it doesn't pack the "quick fix" for which doctors and patients are looking.

Managing Stress Management

The term, "stress management," really implies an outside-in, mechanistic mindset. In other words, this concept of managing stress is exactly the same as managing or treating symptoms and illness. This outside-in, mechanistic, disease model says when unwanted health or disease rears its ugly head, you treat it with pills, vitamins, weight loss, surgery, magic potions, leeches or whatever is the current "flavor of the month." Similarly, when the stress comes, you treat it with positive thinking or Prozac.

Real wellness is never disease treatment. Rather, it means building health and correcting "dis-ease" as the best way to overcome and prevent disease. With stress management, real wellness doesn't look to fight stress but to build and manage peace so as to overcome or prevent it. Peace is built and managed through:

A healthy body

New perceptions and stronger relationships made possible through getting control of time management Peace is not something you find when your latest crisis is over. In a stressful life, what usually follows stress is the next stress. On the other hand, when you manage your life better, stress or peace is more likely to be followed by even more peace.

Creating peace and strong relationships does not begin by changing everyone and every circumstance surrounding you. Changing locations, jobs or spouses is typically not the answer. While the grass always seems greener (more peaceful) in someone else's yard, occupation or relationship, once you get over there, over there becomes over here again.

As the adage says, "Wherever you go, there you are." Peace of mind and better associations start (and end) with you. If you change, the atmosphere changes.

To recognize that it's you who must take responsibility for transforming your life should not be depressing. Although it's easy to blame outside influences for your anxiety and stress, that philosophy is self-defeating because your core belief is that there's nothing you can do. You're handing power over to the things going on around you instead of what's going on inside of you, where the real power is!

The fact that you are responsible for your mind, your relationships, and your emotions is good news. The easiest thing in the world to change is you. People can be tough to change, and family, jobs and situations may even be impossible to change.

But you can change right here, right now. It all starts with changing or reprogramming some of your outlook on life.

Dr. Ben Lerner, along with Dr. Greg Loman, owns Teach The World About Chiropractic, a Chiropractic training company. They have helped build the largest spinal correction clinics in the history of Chiropractic.

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