We’re used to getting things almost instantly. Texting has replaced more time-consuming conversations, online shopping has replaced shopping in an actual store, and fast food has replaced home-cooking.
Unfortunately, convenience at our fingertips has turned us into a society geared towards a ‘quick fix’. ‘Quick fixes’ sound promising, but they really don’t last. Nor do they fix anything.
Relying on ‘quick fixes’ can cause you to focus on the problem, rather than enjoy the journey as you problem-solve. They can lead to confusion, as you jump from one ‘quick fix’ to another. They can cause you to become impatient and frustrated. They will rob you of an opportunity to grow, learn and develop as a person.
In a health context, ‘quick fixes’ don’t serve anyone well — particularly when it comes to mental health.
The desire for medication
According to the Black Dog Institute, 20 per cent of Australians aged 16-25 experience mental illness in any year, with almost half of Australians experiencing mental illness in their lifetimes. The most common ailments are depression, anxiety and substance use disorder.[i]
While typical treatments for these conditions, include psychological therapy, medication, and community support programs, there are a lot of lifestyle changes that sufferers can make to improve their outlook. Ideally, a combination of treatments work best. [ii]
Of course, human nature means we usually look for the easiest solution with the quickest results. We tend to look for the one thing that will fix our situation so we can get back to feeling better; back to feeling ‘normal’.
And the ‘quick-fix’ for mental health seems to be prescription medication.
Too reliant on medication
Of course, in some situations, medication is clearly necessary. But the temptation to use medication as the first port of call, seems to be one many patients can’t resist.
Despite psychological treatments often being the most helpful for people with anxiety disorders and depression, recent data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2015) shows Australian use of antidepressants has doubled since the turn of the millennium. The use of antidepressants in Australia is the second highest in the OECD, indicating a need to “assess the appropriateness of prescribing patterns”. [iii]
So why the dramatic increase in prescribed medication?
In a double blind peer review, published in Mental Health Practice in 2008,[iv] Fred Ruddick, a senior lecturer in mental health at the University of Cumbria argues:
“We live in a society where waiting for anything is frustrating and it is natural for people to want a quick fix. Drugs can do this. They can provide a change in mental functioning within a relatively short time. Those affected by mental ill health, and their families and friends, naturally want a rapid solution, and they are acclimatised in relation to physical health matters to getting swift resolution in the form of medicines from healthcare professionals.”
Comfort in the familiar?
Despite the efficacy of antidepressants under fire in recent years, Ruddick believes one reason why patients are so quick to turn to drugs is being comfortable with the familiar. In other words, our habit of expecting quick and immediate results.
Our habits are the path of least resistance, yet they don’t always serve us well. However, if you understand what habits are and how they work, you can make them work for you, instead of against you.
Habits: the key to long-term change
Put simply, habits are subconscious routines of behaviour repeated regularly. Most of our life is habitual (i.e. coffee to start the day, brushing your teeth before bed). They usually start out as conscious choices, but soon become automatic behaviours.
Many believe you need to break a habit. The truth is that you have to change your habits. Habits are almost involuntary responses, so it involves some hard work to change them — something many people are reluctant to commit to.
Yet if you are willing to put in the work, you can change your habits to ones that support your lifestyle goals. Studies show it can take anywhere from 15 days to 254 days to truly form a new habit,[v] so don’t be discouraged if it seems to take a while to create a ‘new normal’.
Don’t be fooled. ‘Quick fixes’ don’t work. At best, they leave you frustrated. At their worst, they can leave you with more problems than you started with.
If you experience mental health issues, speak to your doctor about a holistic approach to treatment. Most importantly, be willing to do the work involved so you can develop a more realistic outlook, rather than simply relying on medication that will mask your symptoms.
Blog Article by Nerissa Bentley
[i] Black Dog Institute, Facts and figures about mental health and mood disorders, updated October 2012, accessed 12 April 2016 http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Factsandfiguresaboutmentalhealthandmooddisorders.pdf
[iii] OECD, Health at a Glance 2015: How does Australia compare? 4 November 2015, accessed 13 April 2016 https://www.oecd.org/australia/Health-at-a-Glance-2015-Key-Findings-AUSTRALIA.pdf
[iv] Fred Ruddick, The quest for a quick fix, Mental Health Practice, December 2008, Vol12. No. 4, accessed 11 April 2016 http://journals.rcni.com/doi/abs/10.7748/mhp2008.12.12.4.29.c6860?journalCode=mhp
[ii] SANE Australia, Treatments for mental illness, accessed 13 April 2016 https://www.sane.org/mental-health-and-illness/facts-and-guides/treatments-for-mental-illness
[v] Society for Personality and Social Psychology, NEWS RELEASE: How we form habits, change existing ones, 7 August 2014, accessed 13 April 2016, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-08/sfpa-hwf080714.php