Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences most people endure, right up there with a death in the family, job loss and extended unemployment, or a medical catastrophe such as cancer. When you add to the mix a child custody battle with a Personality Disordered Abuser as your adversary, you will likely experience years of false allegations, be kicked out of your home, see your kids and family suffer the abuse of parental alienation, experience frequent misconduct by the courts, see your reputation ruined by defamation, suffer job loss and chronic underemployment or unemployment, and many other damages. During such a hellish experience, it is only natural to be depressed, anxious, and suffer chronic sleep problems. The continual stress results in what may initially appear as psychological problems but which inevitably result in physiological damage to one’s health. MORE
Many suffering from this nightmare will seek medical help from their general practitioner or psychiatrist. At some level they know the stress-related symptoms they are experiencing are not “all in their heads” as some may claim. Sometimes medical practitioners do help, other times they begin another series of upsets to their patient’s health. That’s because the mainstream therapies used by many doctors often include too quickly prescribing common antidepressants and anxiolytic medications that have a plethora of adverse effects on health. Fortunately, there are alternatives that can often help without the need for these medications or can help to reduce the prescription medication dosages required and thereby help avert some of the worst of the side effects.
Psychotherapy Is Not A Cure
When you visit your doctor or psychiatrist and explain how you can’t sleep and are depressed and anxious from the horrors of the family law system, first of all you should realize that most of these medical practitioners don’t really understand you or your situation. Unless one has been through the nightmare of the family law courts or has seen the destruction they inflict upon a close family member or friend, it’s hard to have any real understanding of this miserable reality.
Some medical providers may brush off your request for medication, pointing out that your stress is temporary and will go away in a few months and advise you to see a psychologist or therapist. While good psychologists and therapists can certainly provide some help, what they can do is often not enough as the manifestations of the family law crisis often include physiological illness brought on by chronic stress.
Many psychotherapists simply aren’t much use in such difficult situations. First of all, for a chance of good results you must find one who has some experience with the family law system and forms of child abuse including parental alienation. If you pick a therapist who has never set foot in a family court room and seen how dysfunctional the system is, you are far less likely to get competent treatment or helpful advice.
Many psychotherapists have zero experience in family law battles. They may be experts at substance abuse, marital arguments, or helping people suffering job loss but know nothing about extreme divorce and child custody battles. Even those who do have some experience often lack a full appreciation of how abusive, arbitrary, and destructive the family law courts are to their victims and how it frequently takes nothing but an unproven false allegation to put a good parent who has broken no laws and abused nobody into a no-contact or expensive supervised visitation situation that is itself a form of emotional abuse.
Naive therapists may be operating under the mistaken impression that you can’t be kicked out of your home and have all your property and assets taken from you without a chance to present your side of the story or at least some evidence of wrongdoing. But in today’s family law courts, it is not unusual for that to happen. One lie is all it takes to ruin months or years of the lives of the falsely accused parent and his or her children. A second lie is often all it takes to amplify the damage tenfold. The general public fails to understand this, and so do most therapists.
A really excellent therapist for you should also be expertly familiar with personality disorders and sociopathic abuse patterns. Some therapists run away from personality disorder cases as fast as they can. They know how dangerous these people can be to them personally. Others are totally ignorant of how destructive personality disorders can be to the misfortunate ones who married and/or had children with a person suffering one of the DSM-IV Axis II Cluster B personality disorders including Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Antisocial personality disorders. Ideally, you want a therapist who knows a lot about personality disorders and is brave enough to help you face off with one of these people. “Brave” applies here because it is common for the Personality Disordered Abuser to seek to defame and even file complaints seeking to revoke the license of a therapist who dares to challenge their abusive behaviors or help their victims.
Unfortunately, finding a suitable therapist is often very difficult to do. For many people, joining a high conflict divorce or parental alienation support group or web discussion forum and asking for referrals from the people there may be one of the few realistic means they have to find a therapist who might be of some help.
If you are fortunate enough to find a good therapist familiar with family court abuse, you are likely to get some useful support and advice that may help you weather the long storm. But even when you have found a good therapist and are starting to build some rapport, the odds are strong that by then you will be suffering physiological symptoms of extreme stress that even an excellent therapist cannot resolve. Lots of talk therapy isn’t enough on its own to turn around severe depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders. Realizing this, you’ll probably go back to your doctor again looking for medical help.
Psychiatric Medicines Are Not Panaceas or Candy
After hearing that you’ve got a psychotherapist and are still suffering, even conservative doctors are going to whip out the prescription pad if they haven’t already. They are likely to quickly prescribe an antidepressant, an anxiolytic, and possibly a sleep medication from their list of favorites. Every doctor has favorite meds, ones they have used for years or new ones they want to try because they got a box full of samples or a fancy $100 surf ‘n turf dinner, golf outing, or a week long tropical vacation in the dead of winter from a big pharma rep pushing a lucrative new pill. So what you will be prescribed may often have little or nothing to do with what will actually work.
Few mainstream medical practitioners understand that to provide the best treatment for stress-related symptoms, they need to be running some tests to look for biochemical markers of what is going wrong inside the body. In this era of managed healthcare and big pharma controlling the approval of medicines and education of doctors, it is common to simply start trying medicines on stressed out patients as if they are flavors of candy. Unfortunately, that’s often neither safe nor effective medical practice unless the goal is profits for big pharma or holding down short-term costs for insurance companies and HMOs hoping that you’ll lose your insurance coverage so they are off the financial hook.
Many of the commonly used psychiatric medicines are potentially far more dangerous that eating a large bag of candy may be to a diabetic. And they are about as likely to “cure” depression or anxiety as that same bag full of candy would be to help a patient lose ten pounds of weight in a week.
Below are some observations about commonly used psychiatric medications that you’re likely to be prescribed if you visit your doctor for family law related health problems.
Anxiolytics are medications that are intended to oppose anxiety. Most of the common ones act upon the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter with a purpose of calming down the brain. Many of these medications work pretty well at first, until you get used to using them. Then they often require higher and higher dosages as a physiological dependency (basically an addiction) develops. As the dependency grows, you may see your anxiety go from having trouble sleeping to having panic attacks between doses.
The most widely used class of anxiolytics is benzodiazepines including Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Restoril (temazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and many others. Most of these drugs are approved for short term use, but frequently patients are told to keep taking them for months or years and this is where much of the problem with these medications originates.
These meds are usually not bad choices for most people if they are used for only a few days or up to a week or two or a month at the outside. Another reasonable usage pattern is infrequent use (ideally much less than once per week) during high stress situations such as panic attacks. Using them much beyond these limited scopes and the risks go up dramatically. This is why a well-informed doctor will be very careful about writing prescriptions for these medications for limited quantities as they should be keeping a tight watch on your usage of such drugs. But many doctors fail to do this, often due to ignorance but sometimes due to cost containment pressures trying to limit “unnecessary” appointments at which they expect you’ll just be asking for a refill.
When you find one of these medications does help you calm down as you probably will at first, the doctor is tempted to keep you on it. And the longer you are on it, the more you will depend upon it. Because the doctors writing the prescriptions for these meds are virtually never the same ones who are helping hundreds of thousands of addicted people get off of them, they often fail to appreciate the risks these medications present. When a patient is severely addicted to these meds, it is not unusual for the patient to go “doctor shopping” to find yet another doctor to write another prescription as even many of those who originally wrote the first several prescriptions will at some point question why you are needing several times the amount of medication.
Even if you don’t end up addicted to these medications, they are still likely to hurt you. Common side effects from this class of medications resemble those of alcohol as many of them function as depressants of the central nervous system and cause cognitive impairments, short-term memory problems, slurred speech, clumsiness, slow reflexes, drowsiness, and other sorts of troubles you’d expect to see after a few alcoholic drinks. Worsened depression and liver and kidney damage are among the more moderately severe side effects. In extreme cases, these drugs can kill you via triggering respiratory arrest (cessation of breathing) particularly when combined with painkillers that are also often prescribed to people with severe stress related pain symptoms.
Benzodiazepines also generally mess around with your sleep architecture by reducing the amount of deep sleep and/or REM sleep, leaving you with more light sleep that is not as restorative. So while they may help you fall asleep when you are anxious, the sleep you will get will probably not be as restful as what you need. The more you use them to fall asleep, the worse your insomnia is likely to become without them. Long-term use also tends to worsen depression. These are three more good reasons why benzodiazepines should not be used on a daily basis even if you do manage to avoid addiction.
To give you an idea how destructive benzodiazepines can be, Australia banned temazepam in 2004 due to widespread abuse, prescription forgery, and theft from pharmacies. Sweden has reportedly banned the drug due to similar experience. In the United Kingdom, BBC TV broadcast a documentary titled “Temazepam Wars” involving drug related abuse and crime in Paisley, Scotland. In the US and Canada, the problems have not been as severe but clearly there is potential for disaster for anybody using these kinds of medications for long.