Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom
A record number of moms and dads are taking anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, but some experts believe we're just dealing with the everyday roller coaster of parenthood with a small blue pill. What's the answer?
Allan Horwitz does not like those gauzy, dreamlike TV commercials for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, the ones where people ride mountain bikes as the voice-over prattles on about dry mouth, constipation, and difficulty breathing.
He may be biased. Horwitz is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and author of The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sadness Into Depressive Disorder. This is the guy who tells me “the psychiatric community has reclassified normal human sadness as an abnormal experience.” In layman's terms, we're using meds to deal with the emotional roller coaster of parenthood.
“Let's say you have a colicky baby,” says Horwitz. “Colic means your baby is not sleeping, which means you're not sleeping. Now you have resulting symptoms from that—fatigue, irritability, feeling overwhelmed. And there's a good chance the colic will last well beyond two weeks, which is the standard criteria for measuring depression. By the experts' definition, you're depressed. But circumstances change. Things get better. We've become less tolerant of negative emotions. It's much easier to take a pill.”
So how can we make these distinctions? With anxiety, it's the difference between worrying about paying bills and an unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress. For depression, it's not about feeling overwhelmed on a bad day; it's persistent feelings of hopelessness. But Berman makes clear that it's not a parent's job to self-diagnose. “That's what therapists are for.”