Looking for a quick fix in life isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important to balance the aspirations to potentially save time and money against potential risks. Whether it’s a fad diet, get-rich-quick idea, or a mail-in college degree, it’s important to take the time to evaluate not just the validity of the product, but also the potential dangers. When it comes to mental health, for example, there seem to be “magic bullets” in the form of drugs, but do these drugs work? And are there potential risks?
There’s no ‘quick fix’ when it comes to mental health
Dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years, we can see a wide variety of techniques that have been used to help those suffering from mental illness. History provides us evidence of mysticism, witchcraft, blood letting, and many other approaches that are widely dismissed today. In more recent history we have witnessed the following three modalities commonly used in place of individual psychotherapy:
- Lobotomies. At one time it was accepted that severing the prefrontal part of the brain would lead to a reduction of unwanted mental distress. While this may have occurred for a small percentage of people, most were left catatonic and with dramatically changed personalities (and not for the better), while some even died. In retrospect, we now realize that there was tremendous risk with lobotomies, with very little upside, and the procedure has been stopped as a result.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A second equally controversial approach to addressing mental illness is electroconvulsive therapy, or “shock treatments.” This procedure, made famous in the movie One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, is designed to provide relief to patients by delivering an electrical current through the brain. While there’s still very little evidence this procedure is effective in minimizing mental illness, there are dangers to having ECT, including cognitive impairment, amnesia, and heart attacks.
- Drug therapy. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, inattentiveness, or just about any other mental health issue, there’s most certainly a drug for you today. Psychotropic medications are the #1 way people in America deal with mental health issues today, even though the efficacy and dangers of these medications are still in question. The allure of quickly popping a pill to make life stressors magically go away is very powerful, even when reality tells you that no pill has ever fixed a problem.
What REALLY works
If you’re interested in a risk-free approach to improving mental health and turned off by lobotomies, shock treatments, and drugs, there are other mental health options to consider. Counseling can be really helpful, and while it’s not a “quick fix,” it’s also risk-free when it comes to dangerous side effects. The reality is that the problems we experience in life often evolve over time, and the best way to improve conditions is to learn new life strategies and means for coping. The important point is to refrain from thinking that one appointment with a counselor will fix everything, as it usually takes a little time to sort through and figure out the things bogging you down in life.
Other safe and helpful ways to break out of a life slump include committing to an exercise routine, eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and joining new groups. By taking control of your life you will not only experience a decrease in stress, but might also serendipitously come in to new knowledge and answers to your problems.
While it can be incredibly tempting to take perceived “short cuts” in life, you may not want to employ this thinking when it comes to your mental health. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of life issues and problems can be resolved without controversial surgeries and/or risky pharmaceutical drugs, and positive results can be achieved by increased exercise, better diet and rest, and possibly working 1-1 with a mental health professional.