I was watching a film on Netflix recently, Neurotypical and the subject of coping with anxiety came up. I therefore thought that this subject would be relevant for discussion as a common co-existing condition for people with autism is a greater propensity towards suffering from anxiety and depression.
I’ve heard of autistic children being considered for antidepressants and whilst this is obviously something which should concern every parent and anyone working with children. However, considering the fact that some people suffer from anxiety and depression to such an extent that it become physically debilitating, as well as the mental aspect, is medicating a bad thing?
I was born in the early 1970s and as such, mental health awareness was largely much maligned and the general attitude towards mental health problems was ostracising the person and often just being told to “put yourself together”. Which obviously cured everyone and made us a more tolerant and sympathetic society; or not.
Even in the 1980s, this attitude was still pervasive: – In my own case, a lot of the things which should have been autism indicators weren’t noticed. People were trained in recognising the condition outside of the very severe cases or where the symptoms were obvious. I showed many of the typical signs, when I look back on it and I’ll discuss further in another article. I also suffered from severe long term mental health issues, some of which were recognised at first in my early teens, none of which were treated until decades later. So, I was first diagnosed with depression in my teens and I suspect that my anxiety had been ongoing as long as I can recall. I have had severe panic attacks, arguably have PTSD, anxiety and depression. I suspect that my anxiety is the major issue and one that has been confirmed by at least one medical professional.
Had I received treatment for this decades ago, maybe the problems would have had less impact upon my life and that of those around me; depression and anxiety, after all, are destructive illnesses. I realised that I needed to return to medication in the late stages of living in Switzerland, a Country that I truly love, but during a very dark period, my marriage had collapsed, I was unable to find work and I knew that I was going to have to return to the U.K., having nowhere to live and so on. I realised at this point that I needed to seek help; this was to prevent harm to either myself or others. Medication doesn’t cure the problem, but it does help me to deal with world on a daily basis and to have regained some focus.
However, attitudes have not always changed. I was told by one GP that I didn’t need antidepressants and that I should exercise. My response to such ignorance was to inform her that I spent around 20 hours a week training but that I still suffered from anxiety and depression; sadly, her ignorance was echoed throughout the practice. I shortly found an alternative medical practice and I can state that they are generally excellent. Yes, I agree that exercise can help with depression and anxiety, but it is not an absolute cure or physicians would be prescribing gym memberships and exercise routines rather than costly pharmaceuticals.
So, in short do I believe that children, or adults for that matter with co-morbid anxiety and depression should be considered for medication? It’s my personal opinion that if there is help, why not make everyone’s lives easier. Anxiety and depression are hell on earth to live with, childhood suicide is on the increase. Why should people be so stigmatised about making the lives of those suffering easier.
As I’ve tasted before, I’m not an expert on autism, nor a physician or clinician, but in recent poll I took, 78% of people were in favour or medication to help reduce the effects of depression and, or anxiety.