Depression is Not a Zoloft Deficiency
Antidepressants are the third most widely used prescription drugs in America, behind pain, blood pressure and cholesterol medications. These drugs are also the most widely abused drugs in the nation, and often do not help individuals suffering from depression recover. In fact, there are many types of drugs that are supposed to be taken alongside antidepressants when the antidepressants don’t seem to work. That’s two unnecessary drugs that are being processed through the body each day.
It does not take much to know that abusing medications like these could cause some serious consequences on one’s health.
A “Chemical Imbalance”
Many doctors and medical professionals do not always look at the psychological and emotional aspects of disease, rather seeing the mere biological aspects. This results in countless medications being prescribed each year, when in fact all that needs to be done is to treat the underlying emotional cause.
We are told that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, when serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, and dopamine are being misdirected or have been thrown out of balance. While this is true for some people, what doctors don’t tell us is that life events, loneliness and other psychological factors cause this imbalance.
The brain is considered “plastic”, and can mold and change based on behaviors, feelings and what we are experiencing in our lives. It can grow or shrink in certain places. For example, when we learn something new, a part of our brain associated with that task grows in response, and continues to grow as we get better at it. The reverse happens when we stop doing something, and the brain starts to shrink in that area. When our nutrition suffers, our activity level goes down, we don’t socialize, our brains can actually input signals that tell us that something is wrong, messing with our brain’s chemical output (resulting in depressive feelings).
Therefore, it would make sense to treat the underlying sadness, loneliness, poor nutrition (yes, nutrition plays a large part in mood and behavior), lack of sunlight, exercise, etc., to help “treat” the chemical imbalance. This results in far less side effects, other than the feeling of being back in control of one’s life again.
The Right to Be Sad
Sometimes we have a right to be sad, lonely, afraid, mad — these feelings are natural, and are simply there to tell us that something is out of balance in our lives. We need to acknowledge these feelings, and not ignore them by trying to get rid of them with pills. At the same time, when these feelings start to overwhelm our thoughts and our lives (or when they become destructive), we must look at ways to address the real cause for these emotions.
Depression is NOT a Drug Deficiency
Happy little commercials will tell us we need these drugs to make us happy. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Studies have indicated time and time again that antidepressants work no better than placebo, and that even people who take antidepressants still have to take other “mood lifting” drugs to mask depressive symptoms.
When our brains and bodies become disconnected from happiness, health, love, it’s a sign that something in our life isn’t right. It’s not that we are deficient in a certain drug, but that we’re deficient in a certain nutrient. That can be nutritional nutrients from foods, or those other nutrients such as exercise, sunlight, friendship, love, laughter. We need these things every day, in my opinion (and in many researchers opinions) to stay physical, mentally and emotionally healthy.
Why are antidepressants suddenly on the rise? Are more people just magically becoming more depressed? I don’t think so. I think that it’s just much easier to prescribe a pill than look at the whole picture of the individual. A medical doctor or family physician is really only trained to look at situations based on the drug model approach. After all, they were taught to practice medicine, not to necessarily heal the body in all aspects.
The “whole picture” looks at many different concerns that contribute to depression. These main factors include:
- Traumatic Events
- Poor Nutrition
- Lack of Exercise
- Lack of Sunlight
- Lack of Social Stimulation
Traumatic events are common for those who are depressed, and a pill just cannot treat this. This is one of the problems we have with antidepressants, and why many people who are on them do not feel any different (except for experiencing the immediate and long-term side-effects).
Here are some natural techniques for beating depression, or at least finding the underlying cause of depressed mood and behavior:
- Nutrition plays a large role, as already mentioned, in the maintenance of mental and emotional health. One of the reasons why I believe depression could be increasing, or why it’s being prescribed more often, is that we have been drastically removed from our natural state of living and eating. Whole foods are the only foods that can provide you with proper nutrients for your brain to work properly, from the chemical balances with serotonin and dopamine, to your hormones and metabolism. We cannot function optimally if we put less than optimal foods into our bodies. Our brains cannot run properly on dead nutrients from processed foods.
- Exercise is also a powerful nutrient that almost behaves like a drug for alleviating depressive symptoms. Physical exercise, especially interval training, produce powerful endorphins in the brain. These flood the body, producing “feel good” hormones (runners often experience that “runner’s high” after a long, hard run). When exercise and nutrition are combined, it creates a powerful force in the way we feel.
- Sunlight and being around others also provides positive stimulation that can become very lacking when we are working long hours indoors, away from everyone. Make it a point to balance work with a little play every now and then to keep yourself emotionally, and physically, healthy.
Antidepressants Are No Better than Placebos
Numerous studies are starting to emerge that show that antidepressants, in clinical trials, fared no better than placebos. Participants taking sugar pills were told that they were taking antidepressants. The power of the mind is truly remarkable, as final analysis shows that sugar pills and antidepressants are often associated with the same depression alleviating effects.
Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to avoid the side effects of antidepressants (not to mention their high cost) and find alternative ways that really treat the underlying cause, and boost the mind and emotions? If the mind is so powerful to effect our mood, then it makes sense that things like meditation, hypnosis or EFT (emotional freedom technique) work so well in alleviating depressive symptoms.
Herbs and Supplements
I usually wouldn’t advise taking supplements or drugs for depression, unless it is a severe case of depression. This is mainly because I want individuals, myself included, to be healthy. That means NOT relying on crutches that merely mask the symptoms of an illness. In the case of depression, it would be events that are happening in your life.
That being said, for the occasional mood swing (during the winter when sunlight is rare), the herbs that I often use are lavender, chamomile, catnip and rosemary. Aromatic and mood boosting, I will often brew these into a tea and sip throughout the day. This summer, I am planning on starting an herb garden, along with my regular organic vegetable garden, growing other nutrient rich herbs like mint (in pots), lemon balm and parsley.
St. John’s Wort is a popular herb that many people take for depression – but again, I warn that this may just be a crutch. 5-HTP is also another popular supplement, but still does not address the underlying cause of depression (it also has side effects). We need to change our circumstances to change our brain and emotions, otherwise we still remain stuck. (As one of my Facebook followers noted, please speak to your doctor before considering any supplements.)
Sometimes We Need to Just Talk Things Out
Sometimes we just need to talk to someone about how we’re feelings, whether that is a therapist, a friend, a counsellor, a pastor. With any treatment plan, we should involve the psychological, as well as the physiological aspects of the disorder (or dis-ease). Taking a pill, without the proper psychological methods, does not treat the whole person.
The Healthy Advocate.
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