Millions of prescriptions for antidepressants are written every year. In fact, antidepressants are one of the most prescribed medications in the United States. However, antidepressants may not work. Many studies have further suggested that antidepressant medication is only slightly more effective than placebo effect. Robert Whitaker, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, states that using antidepressant drugs results in long-term relapses. Antidepressant medication may do more harm than good. A person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes is up to three times higher for people taking medication. A Canadian study showed that women taking antidepressants while pregnant were 50% more likely to have a baby with low birth weight. Shier babies were also 40% more likely to have birth defects.
Even though many believe that depression is caused by an inherited chemical imbalance, there is no proof that this is the case. In fact, the 2003 study that suggested that a genetic serotonin imbalance caused depression was refuted six years later after an analysis of 14,000 patients. The reality is that depression is often an inflammatory diseased caused by stresses within the body. New research suggests that depression does not need to be a chronic problem.
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A branch of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology examines the relationship between emotions and health. An article published in the Australian Medical Student Journal notes that the idea of behavior being linked to disease was examined as far back as 129-199 AD. In the 1930s, experiments on the immune systems of animals proved this theory. Proponents of psychoneuroimmunology believe that depression is being treated incorrectly.
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Many psychologists are now beginning to look beyond medication for the treatment of depression. Because a stressful environment can have a major impact on mental and physical health, many professionals are now looking at ways to help people adapt to their environments. Some doctors are advocating that patients improve their nutrition by avoiding sugar and grains. Both of these ingredients cause inflammation that is associated with depression. Sugar also suppressed a hormone known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This hormone aids in the health of brain neurons and the levels of this hormone are quite low in individuals diagnosed with depression. Omega-3 fats found in fish oil also help brain function, so people suffering from depression may benefit from taking this supplement. Additionally, vitamin D levels are low in people with depression. Supplements help to replenish vitamin D, and sunshine also helps. Deficiencies in B12 are also common in people with depression, so a vitamin B supplement may help. Common foods that aid in proper mental health is as follows:
- Chia seeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Gluten-free oats
- Leafy greens
- Probiotic-rich foods
Exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor and aids in mental health as well. Professionals who believe in the tenets of psychoneuroimmunology strongly advocate for changes in diet and coping mechanisms over the use of antidepressant medication. It is important to eliminate all other possible causes for depression before taking an antidepressant.
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Dr. Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist. In this video, Dr. Brogan explains why she believes antidepressants are ineffective and laments the years that she spent prescribing them. Dr. Brogan describes that many people taking antidepressant medication actually become dependent on the medication and explains how hard she works to get her patients off of them. She also describes the success she has had in treating the body holistically through diet. She states that the problem with psychology today is that medical professionals see the body as a collection of separate parts rather than as an entire entity. Dr. Brogan even mentions that she believes that medication is very rarely necessary. She sites that short FDA approval times do not take long-term use of antidepressant medication into consideration, and even confirms that the misuse of pharmaceuticals is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. She believes that lifestyle changes are the best defense against depression, and urges people to stop “walking around in survival mode.”