“Shrinking” and Shrinks: Psychiatric Medications

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Virginia was seeing a counselor who diagnosed her as having a major depressive illness. This type of condition most often responds well to medication, and the counselor recommended one of the new anti depressant medications. But Virginia steadfastly refused to even consider this route. “I never take drugs,” she asserted, “not even an aspirin if I have a headache.”


While many people still hold on to myths and misconceptions about mental illness, more and more are learning the facts about psychological conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety disorders. At the same time there is increasing awareness of psychiatric drugs, also called “psychotropic medications.” Psychotropic literally means “mind turning;” these compounds are used to turn a patient’s mind from a disturbed or troubled direction toward greater health and balance.

Despite their safety, effectiveness, and tolerability, many people still fear these drugs, mistakenly believing that they’re all addictive, or worse, turn people into drooling zombies! Such misconceptions may stem from reported side effects of the drugs, or from media images created by films or sensationalized news reports.

Matching the person to the right medication may take time. It’s necessary first to do a careful diagnosis to determine if the emotional disorder has its origin in a chemical imbalance in the patient, and then to find the right chemical agent to restore balance.

Chemical considerations aside, there are three general categories of patients with respect to the question of using these drugs. The first group are people who are essentially functioning well and have nothing more serious than some relationship problems or minor stress related concerns. These people are not candidates for drug therapy, nor should medication be prescribed for them.

The second group includes people with more moderate symptoms or problems. These folks may have some trouble functioning at work, at home, or in social situations. They may have various physical symptoms stemming from anxiety or depression. While they may not require medication and can be helped with psychosocial therapy alone, jump-starting the process with an appropriate chemical catalyst may be desirable.

The last group includes people who absolutely require psychotropics. These are people who suffer from serious symptoms ~ often biochemical in nature ~ that markedly disrupt all spheres of their lives. Without appropriate medication, these people simply cannot be helped.

• Properly prescribed psychotropic medications are safe, and play a necessary role in mental health treatment.

The main issues are these: Is the condition due to a chemical imbalance? If drugs are needed, what class of drug is called for? How can medications most safely and effectively be prescribed?


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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