medicating problems

The Problem with Medicating our Problems

Medicating Problems Psychiatric drugs have, for decades, benefitted the severely mentally ill and eased the suffering of millions. And psychopharmacology, the study of these drugs’ effects on the brain, has enabled numerous life-changing treatment options. Despite these advances in the field of psychiatry as a whole, the idea of medicating our problems has been proven ineffective. Psychiatric medications come in several forms, though among the most commonly prescribed are antidepressants, stimulants, and mood stabilizers. They are so regularly prescribed; in fact, that one of the questions most often asked of me by new patients is how long I need to talk to them before writing a prescription. They expect the same experience in my office that so many have had with other doctors in the past—they feel unsettled, they seek help, they get pills. And while prescriptions may offer temporary relief of symptoms, patients are not always aware that they also come with severe risks.   Patients need to know that psychiatric medications may cause: Alarming side effects, including sexual dysfunction Other medications to malfunction Dangerous health problems, such as difficulty breathing and diabetes Disturbing withdrawal symptoms, including seizers Decreasing efficacy As a medical doctor and therapist, I have seen first-hand the harmful effects of our dependence on medications for resolving emotional issues. Counter to current treatment trends, the use of medication alone increases the duration, and sometimes the intensity, of common emotional problems. Often, medication masks the symptoms, a course of treatment that would be deemed unacceptable in any other field of medicine. For example, few people would be satisfied to treat the headaches caused by a brain tumor with ibuprofen alone. Instead, we would seek to eradicate the problem at its source. The same should be no less accurate for our emotional health issues because, unlike acute mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and some bipolar disorders, common complaints such as anxiety and depression are often not based on biology. And yet, most patients seeking help for these conditions are being treated with biology-altering pharmaceuticals. The condition clearly does not warrant the intervention.   Effective Treatment The most effective course of treatment is what I have used with patients in my practice for nearly twenty years: psychodynamic therapy. To treat the real source of emotional problems, we must discover its source, a process to which therapy is expertly suited. With the right guide, a patient can be led …

dating advice for men, how to choose the right woman

Precision Dating Advice for Men

Dr. Dabney’s Guide to Precision Dating Advice for Men Choose the right woman from the start and what to do when you don’t. Men, hear me on this: Quit cheating yourselves of a great relationship before you even get started. I’ve seen hundreds of men make the same mistakes—choosing the wrong women and staying with them for too long and through too much. So trust me when I tell you that a small change in your approach today can save you thousands in divorce and therapy fees down the road. I call it, Precision Dating. Let me provide you with dating advice for men. Precision Dating comes down to making crucial and informed decisions at three points in your relationship. Skip any of these decisions, and you may find yourself deep in the muck with a woman who drains you of your time, your energy, and your money. The truth is that every troubled relationship has its warning signals from the very beginning—but men, being conditioned to be problem solvers and fixers—tend to ignore the warnings. And when you ignore the warnings, you do so at your peril. Phase one: Casual dating The first key to precision dating is to cast a wide net when dating. Contrary to the popular belief that men love to “play the field,” a significant portion of men settle down as quickly as possible. They find a woman, commit quickly, and spend the next few years of their life trying to make the relationship work. Men with this tendency pride themselves on being loyal. But what they’ve really done is invested everything in an untested and unproven concept— a decision they’d likely never make with business or financial investments. Instead, think of dating like shopping for a new car. Not only do you have to like the way it looks, but you have to trust its reliability (you wouldn’t ignore the rattle under the hood during a test drive), it has to fit your needs (you wouldn’t rely on a sports car for weekend ski trips), and it has to fit you, both physically and emotionally (tall men don’t buy Ford Fiestas and successful salesmen with large territories don’t buy gas-guzzling Hummers, no matter how much they like the other features). Dating is about experience. While I am in no way comparing a woman to purchase, the expectations you take with you while dating should …

business man asking for help

Saying “I Need Your Help” Does Not Make You a Failure

The Success Trap: When Help Feels Like Failure If you’re like most of my patients, people probably tell you that you ought to be proud of your success: money, job, car, house. Perhaps you’ve even earned an impressive title—CEO, President, Doctor. But what people don’t know is that, for you, there’s still something missing. A big something. Perhaps it’s stability in your relationships. Or you anger too quickly. Maybe you can’t even name it. What you do know is that, despite all your victories, life is still harrowing. For the highly successful, admitting “I need your help,” can feel like a failure. Even with the pain, it’s not easy to walk through my door, and patients come to me with all sorts of stories. Some have tried therapy without benefit. Friends or family have pushed others. Still, others come because they don’t know what else to do. Nearly universal, however, is their deep sense of failure. It doesn’t matter what car a patient drives to the office or what title they have on their business card, to be hurting, and sitting in my office feels as if they’ve failed in a significant way. Seeking help can feel like anything but a success. A book can help you understand how your engine works, but you trust only an expert mechanic to take it apart. Help and expertise are not the same things. The reality, however, is that help and expertise are not equivalent to investments of time or resources. A book can help you understand how your engine works, but you trust only an expert mechanic to take it apart. The same is true of emotional health. One of my patients is a surgeon who once said to me, “No one would be expected to perform an appendectomy on themselves, so why should I try to solve my emotional trauma on my own? That’s your expertise.” He’s exactly right. As a surgeon, my medical expertise is identifying the source of your pain, but instead of finding it in your physical body, the clues I search for are hidden deep within your unconscious. It’s careful, delicate work that takes commitment and time. The same you’d expect of your surgeon, your mechanic, the best negotiator on your sales team. In your area of expertise, whatever it may be, you likely know that just because you can’t achieve a goal on your own, doesn’t …

letting go of control

Case Study: Letting Go of Control

A Lesson in Letting Go of Control “Sometimes, you walk out of there, and you have been beaten up.” “J” used to consider Dr. Dabney—and therapists of every variety—the last resort.   Self-Described “Type-A” Personality A self-described “Type-A” personality, he was a person in pursuit of perfection. Mental instability was not acceptable. Period. Though, neither was the level of anxiety, he’d begun to experience regularly. “It was almost debilitating,” he recalls. “Eventually, it got to a point where I could barely function.” He decided that he had no choice but to seek help. “For a guy [with] my characteristics, it took nearly self-destruction.” But he didn’t find therapy to be the rapid cure he’d hoped for. When Dr. Dabney told him that he should expect to feel some level of relief within a few months, he said he was “flabbergasted.” He needed his life fixed—fast. There, too, was the doctor’s scrutiny. “ “I hated Dr. Dabney at first because everything she said was a criticism… She kept saying, “‘I’m not yelling at you, but I have to tell you these things.’” It took him years to accept her insights as observations, rather than personal attacks. “Literally,” he explains, “you have to crawl out of an emotional hole.” Deep down, he knew to keep going to keep working on letting go of control. Today, he sees the payoff. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without what I went through.” His experience left him with plenty of advice for those considering therapy. First, he tells people, forget your expectations about a timeline, control, all of it. He calls therapy a “journey more than a destination.” And, he wants others seeking help to know, “You’re not a freak.” Then he adds, “It’s tough to have a flashlight put on you for 45 minutes and not take it personally. But on the other hand, that’s what we pay her for—to uncover all this stuff.” Therapy is necessary for struggling in letting go of control. Are you struggling with letting go of control or anxiety? If so, we can help you! Schedule a call today or call 757-340-8800 for a free 15-minute consultation. For more topics, go to and

Good Advice or Hurtful Advice?

Is Your Advice Helpful or Hurtful? Ask Yourself These Four Questions: It’s a common scenario—one partner offers unsolicited advice to the other, only to find out that his or her partner doesn’t find it good advice at all. In fact, they find it critical and hurtful. Cue the resentment, unhappiness and discontent. If this sounds familiar, or even if you’re just curious about whether you’ve been guilty of offering unhelpful advice in the past, here are four questions to ask yourself before offering up any future guidance.   1. Were you specifically asked for your advice before giving it?   Until you’re asked for your opinion, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Unsolicited advice is rarely helpful and more often than not, it actually harms a relationship by driving an emotional wedge between partners. There are, of course, appropriate occasions to offer unsolicited advice, but they mainly occur between individuals in a hierarchical relationship like boss to employee or parent to child. In these relationships, one person is specifically responsible for guiding the success of the other. Not so, however, in a relationship of equals. When you give unsolicited advice to your partner, you are really telling that person, “I want you to [look/act/speak] this way.” That’s not love or respect; that’s control.   2. Is your advice honest?   Believe it or not, the topic of exercise comes up in couples counseling more often than you might expect. For example, one partner may offer unsolicited advice to the other about her exercise patterns, but disguise his advice as concern. He says, “I’m just worried for your health” or “I’m just concerned for you.” Truth test, folks: That’s not honest. Yes, the partner may be concerned for the other’s health, but his choice to comment on his partner’s behavior is not a demonstration of concern, it’s a demonstration of control. Again, it’s equivalent to saying, “I want you to do what I believe is best.” In contrast, it would be honest for him to say, “It makes me worry when you don’t exercise because I want us to live a long, healthy life together.” This way, he gets to be honest about his real concern without pointing blame at the other.   3. Are you an expert on the subject?   People like to be problem solvers. The straighter the line to a solution, the better. It’s a terrific …