Many people become discouraged, or feel “down in the dumps” sometimes when life takes an unexpected, problematic turn. This is normal “situational” depression and usually rights itself when the problem is solved. Yet, sometimes, you may have depression that lingers longer due to certain life events like deaths of loved ones, divorce, and even the loss of a job or your home. At these times, you may have wondered about taking an antidepressant. As such, I’d like to talk to you about the most important things you should know about antidepressants.
5 Important Things You Should Know About Antidepressants
Statistics say that about 18.8 million Americans, 18 years or older, suffer from depression. It affects people of all ages, ethnicities or socioeconomic status, yet it is most commonly seen in women – about 12.4 million to 6.4 men.
Depression has become more widespread in the past few years when the economy has been bad, unemployment high, and many people have lost their homes. In fact, the World Health Organization and World Bank states that depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States today. With these statistics, it’s no wonder that the use of antidepressants is at an all time high.
If you’ve been depressed, your doctor may have even offered antidepressants to help you through it but you may be afraid to start them. While it’s true that antidepressants have gotten some “bad press” in the recent years, more often than not they can be very helpful. Here are some answers to the 5 most common questions people ask about antidepressants.
1. Will antidepressants change my personality? There’s always the risk that some medications (not just antidepressants) may adversely react with a particular person’s brain chemistry. They may cause angry or withdrawn emotional reactions. Yet, if you take antidepressants correctly, they should not cause adverse personality changes. Antidepressants may adversely affect your sex life – especially the ability to have an orgasm. Yet, depression itself can cause impotence and lack of sexual desire so an antidepressant may also improve these sexual issues as well.
2. Will antidepressants make me gain weight? Some types of antidepressants can cause increased appetite. Others cause decreased appetite. Yet, the only way you gain weight is by eating more food than you use for energy. Increasing your exercise, drinking more water, and snacking on low calorie foods can help prevent weight gain while taking an antidepressant. Your doctor can also switch you to another type of antidepressant without this side effect.
3. Are antidepressants covered on my insurance? If you have prescription drug coverage on your insurance, a prescription for antidepressants is no different than a prescription for any other illness. You may have a co-pay, the same as with other medications. If you don’t have insurance, many generic forms of antidepressants are available for less than $15.
4. Will I have to take antidepressants forever? Antidepressants are given as short-term (anywhere from 6 weeks to 6-9 months) assistance in serious depression. Four out of 10 people report improvement in their symptoms with the first antidepressant they try. Others may need to try 2-3 types of antidepressants before finding improvement – but almost everyone who takes them finds relief of their depression.
After the designated period of treatment time, hopefully, your depression will be under better control and you will be able to deal with the issues causing it without taking medication. Antidepressants cannot take your problems away, they can only allow you to function more effectively while learning to deal with/remedy the problems that are causing your depression. Counseling can also be very helpful as well.
5. Will antidepressants make me suicidal? This has been one of the most controversial issues surrounding the use of antidepressants. Suicides, and suicidal thoughts, in young people taking certain antidepressants have been documented. Yet, in people aged 25 to 64, a 2009 study published in the British Medical Journal reported that antidepressants posed no suicidal risk. And, importantly, in people aged 65 or older, antidepressants reduced the risk of suicide.
I hope the answers to these common questions have allayed any fear you may have of trying a prescribed antidepressant if your circumstances really warrant taking them. As I always like to try natural, non-prescription approaches to any “ill-health” situation, here are some other things you might find helpful in dealing with your depression.
What Else Can I Do Besides Antidepressants?
The following things can be done to help you through a bout of depression before you resort to antidepressants and even during taking them. They include:
1. Exercise. This is no.1 on the list for a very good reason. Exercise promotes the production of endorphins – feel happy brain chemicals – that can really help ease depression and anxiety. Try to do 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day – walking, swimming, and bicycling. Getting out of the house to exercise, in itself, can boost your mood tremendously.
2. Eat well. 4-6 ounces of low glycemic carbs at each meal can boost your serotonin “feel-good” brain chemicals. Refined sugar and alcohol can put your mood on a roller coaster ride of severe ups and downs. Choose fruits and vegetables instead. Stay well-hydrated with water.
Fighting depression is not easy. Antidepressants can be a successful method to help you through a crisis should you, and your doctor, decide that’s best.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Depression Facts and Statistics 2012, http://www.depressionperception.com/depression/depression-facts-and-statistics.html
Taking Antidepressants: Truth About Side Effects, http://www.webmd.com/depression/treating-depression-9/antidepressants?page=2
Image Credit: cchrint.org